Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.
Each February there is a possibility for a fantastic natural light show in Yosemite National Park at a waterfall called Horsetail Fall. The conditions have to be just right to see this phenomenon. There must be a clear sky with sun shining, and there must be water flowing in the fall. If these conditions exist during a two week window in February the setting sun shines its rays directly on Horsetail Fall lighting up the water so it looks like lava flowing down the cliff face. With so little rain and only a few snow storms this year there hasn’t been much to melt or water flowing in Horsetail fall. As we got closer to the date this phenomenon is possible it seemed doubtful that there would be much of a show this year. Fortunately late in Jan. and early February we had a couple of snow storms in the Sierras making it likely there would be something worth driving up to see if we had a sunny day with little to no clouds during the window of opportunity.
Yesterday the clouds showed clearing, it was fairly warm, and it was predicted to be the Peak day for the sun to light up the fall in the 2 week window, so myself and two friends went to Yosemite to see if it would happen. Last year I went but the clouds moved in right before the sun set and blocked the sun so it was a non event. I went two times last year and it didn’t happen either time I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case this year. The last time I witnessed the phenomenon was in February 2010.
Driving into the valley we saw signs of melting snow all along the roads, and the sky had some clouds, but the sun was lighting up the mountains and cliff faces so we had high hopes we’d see it this year. Arriving at our chosen spot we set up our tripods and cameras then waited for sunset and hoped the sky stayed clear. We were thrilled to find very few people already there. We were expecting a large crowd of photographers. The large crowd never materialized. There were about 50 photographers and spectators in all. A really small crowd compared to previous years I’ve been there for this event. There was one family whose teenage girls found a fallen tree to sit on, and throw rocks into the Merced River and be…girls giggling and talking “girl stuff” just above and behind me. After 30 minutes or so I overheard one young girl say, ” You mean we drove all this way just to sit and watch a rock!” I can’t tell you how hard it was for me not to die laughing! I bet she thought we were nuts!
There was just a thin stream of water flowing, but when the last rays of daylight hit the fall it began…slowly the water began to glow gold then gradually it got redder and redder peaking in just 5 minutes then it began to fade. It was over in less than 10 minutes. Like Christmas and Fourth of July fireworks you don’t want it to end, but end it does and all too quickly!
The weather is getting warmer so there may be more water running by the week-end. I am planning to go again. Can it be prettier and more magical than this? …we’ll see.
Nikon D700| Nikkor 80-200mm@ 145mm| f8| 1.0 sec| ISO 200| Tripod|