Horsetail Fall February 12, 2017

Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It was quite a weekend for me with two back to back trips to Yosemite National Park.   We begin on Saturday Feb. 11th; my friend Dali, and I headed out early for the park traveling route SR120 which was open when we left the Bay Area but, when we got near the gate to the park there was an electronic sign saying there was no access to the valley from that entrance due to a rock slide.  The Ranger told us there was an alternate route into the valley but it was a 2.5 hours journey from there to the valley. Unfortunately, that would have put us in the valley after 5pm and we needed to be in place, camera set up, and ready to start photographing  by 5pm or hours sooner knowing what the crowds can be like at this time of year.  So, disappointed we turned around and headed back home.  That was 8 hours on the road and nothing to show for it.  It’s not the first time!

Not totally defeated, and ever the optimists we knew we still had Sunday! We met earlier Sunday morning the 12th, and drove the slightly longer southern route to access the valley. The southern route is lower in altitude and usually open all year, but even this year with all the rain there were rock slides, and it was closed for a day the week before, and on “call ahead” status for days after before we left!   Fortunately, Sunday morning the road condition site said Open so, we forged ahead ever hopeful.  With a stop for lunch, and gas we made it into the valley without any delays, and hiked to our spot in plenty of time to set up and photograph what we had planned.

What would entice us and hundreds of other people to spend 16+ hours driving back and forth to Yosemite National Park in two day you may be wondering? If my post’s title didn’t give it away… Horsetail Fall!  🙂

In mid February for about two weeks (give or take a day or two) if the conditions are just right the sun will shine on the waterfall and light it up orange-red. It’s amazing it looks like lava flowing down the cliff face.

What are the perfect conditions to see this? There has to be water flowing. This waterfall is fed by rainfall, and snow melt, and there has to be sun to light up the waterfall.

In February having sun isn’t a given. I’ve been skunked in years past waiting and hoping the sun would peek out from the gray clouds to light up the fall only to be totally skunked. No light what-so-ever hitting the cliff face or waterfall.  It was still fun waiting and anticipating the event with hundreds of other photographers, and vowing to be back next year to try again. I did show up the following year, after year, after year.

Having water hasn’t been a given these last 6 years either. Being in California with the drought there were years it was just a trickle. This year with all the drought busting rain, and snow up in the mountains we knew there would be more than a trickle of water flowing but, we had to have sun too.  Thankfully, we had perfect conditions Sunday. Water flowing and Sun!

Here is an image from the peak of the phenomenon.  This is very nearly straight from my camera. I ran  this frame through Adobe Camera Raw for Lens and Camera Corrections, and I did correct the sky.  To capture the true color of the fall my camera washed out the sky. I added the blue back in the sky, and removed my dust spots, and I opened up the shadows a little bit.   Overall very few post development adjustments were added to this image.   This image was shot at 120mm.

Horsetail Fall February 12, 2017

I thought I’d try making a Timelapse from the stills I made.  It’s crude, and a bit jumpy as I zoomed in and out a few times to get a closer look, and I change the angle of my camera once during the shoot in the beginning.

Timelapse made with 145 still images.

If I’m going to do more Timelapse videos I’ll have be more disciplined about my set up and shooting.  I hope you enjoy it despite my shortcomings as a videographer.

This is the 7th year I’ve been photographing this phenomenon. So, was it worth the 16 hours on the road? OH YES! I’d do again. “)

Nikon Df| Nikkor 80-200mm| Delkin Digital Film| PS CC 2017

More to come…



74 thoughts on “Horsetail Fall February 12, 2017

  1. Thanks for sharing your amazing photographs of the falls. I’ve been there, but in summer, and with no water flowing – and didn’t even know about the sunlight and the gorgeous colors. So much I don’t know!

    And I’m not a photographer by any means. Very, very nice.

        1. When I was kid we camped every week-end, and every vacation we backpacked in the high country. Yosemite, Kings Canyon and the forests in between were my parents favorite places to go up until I was about 14. They bought 30 acres in the Gold Country so, we spent all week-ends and vacations there after that.
          Because of them I love the mountains, and forests. I’m so thankful for those gifts, and the memories.
          I bet your children have some good memories from those trips too.

          1. 30 acres sounds like heaven – I bet you have great memories of all those places.

            Not enough – there was always something going on: Scout camp, trips to Mexico to visit the relatives, science competitions, I don’t know where all the time went. But yes: good memories.

            Mine are of going to Acapulco to my grandfather’s and grandmother’s house. I’m sure it was relatively cheap – but we felt so rich, and had such fun. I wish I’d taken my kids more there, too.

            You can always do more. And you can relax about it, too. We did some family camping, once on Assateague Island where we saw a brand new foal (we may have watched it come into the world – that part is now fuzzy), and my youngest daughter learned to ride the two-wheeler on the boardwalk.

            One trip we did Seattle, Vancouver, and camping on the Olympic peninsula.

            I can’t believe there are people who’ve never camped, and people who’ve never left the country.

            1. Once my children got into competitive sports and played year round our camping trips pretty much stopped.
              We still traveled with them, but we stayed in hotels.

              I’m a bit of a wanderer. I blame my parents. 🙂 Traveling is so much fun, and you learn so much. I’ve been to a few places in Mexico, but never Acapulco. I’ve visited other countries as well in Europe, and in the Caribbean. I’ve been really blessed and fortunate to have been able to do as much as I have. It’s not as much as I’d like. My bucket list is LONG! 🙂 But, I can’t complain.

              Like you I find it surprising that some people don’t travel or camp.

            2. I think once we’re settled into a retirement community for life, and are not responsible for housing problems, we’ll do more traveling. Being responsible for a house or yard – they are ALWAYS needing something – sucks up more energy than you realize.

              And as you get older, you are both tireder and uninterested. My house will make a nice nest for a young couple with 3 kids and a bit of a love for butterflies and hummingbirds.

            3. We’re looking for a Continuing Care Retirement Community, with medical facilities on site, the ability to move to Assisted Living, and Nursing Home again on site, when and if we can’t live independently.

              There are some wonderful CCRCs – now we just have to find the right one for us, clean up and sell this house, and move on to the final frontier.

              I really do expect it will make it possible for me to enjoy life’s little pleasures far more, and for husband to have a community – we’re kind of isolated right now, and while that’s fine for a writer with limited energy right now, it is not a good permanent solution, and really hard on the kids if they have to intervene: we want to make our own decisions, and not leave them messes.

              Too many people don’t protect their children – and the poor kids are stuck with a big package, just when they have their own families to worry about, because Mom and Dad didn’t plan.

              This little excursion of mine into the medical side of life has only reinforced that this is not the way to do this.

            4. Then we would have to move again – or go back to the same state of depending on our kids.

              I’ve always known they wouldn’t live nearby. I saw my husband’s dad attempt to take care of his wife at home, and what that put him and their daughter through.

              I watched my SIL have to deal with so much – all of which should have been and could have been avoided. Instead of visiting her parents at a nice place – and enjoying lunch or activities or taking them out or vacations with them – she works her tail off doing housework when she goes. to me, there’s no quality of life there for either his surviving dad or his sister.

              I have to get out of the same circumstances: I’ve been helplessly seeing this happen for 15 years. And it turns out they DID have the money – looked into a CCRC – and never did the final step. My MIL could have been properly taken care of…

              I have to make the proper move before I can’t make my own decisions, or husband can’t, and before this house gets neglected.

              We would be among the youngest at a CCRC – most people make the decision and move in around 80 – but the handwriting has been on the wall ever since I lost my physics career and life to CFS in 1989. We had kids at home up to this year – I’ve been pushing for husband not to have to do everything for years.

              For us, it’s time.

            5. I know moving is a pain! But I’m not yet 60 and He-Man is in his early 60’s. We’re still very active, and want to have room for both our children, and our Grandson to come home to visit. We’re figuring we’ll move one final time. We definitely don’t want to leave a mess for the kids to clean up.

            6. No, we’re not. Our Baby Girl and #1 Grandson moved back in when her relationship fell apart. 😦 We were happy to have them come though terribly sad that the relationship fell apart.
              I quit working to be full time Grandma to #1 Grandson and help Baby Girl with child care. I’ve been home-schooling him since birth.

              It’s only a matter of time before she’s able to move out and be on her own. She’s rebounding and I am so proud of her for being able to deal with the hit she and Little Man had to deal with. I’m so thankful we were are in a position to help her when and how she needed us.

              I was born to raise kids. It’s what I do.
              When I don’t have them I’m wandering, or hibernating. Kids keep me active!
              I’m praying Big Baby Boy and The Dark Haired Beauty have two kids…for me more than them! 🙂
              My Baby Girl has one and with all my heart and soul I pray this is all she has. I can’t go through another pregnancy and childbirth with her. Really she shouldn’t have put her body through the first one. He’s a miracle! I’m so thankful that they both lived through childbirth. 30 yrs ago he would have lived, but she wouldn’t have. That thought still chills my soul!

              Living in a country not as advanced medically as our’s today I know she wouldn’t have lived. He may not have either. I’m so grateful to have been born here in the USA and to have had ancestors strong and brave enough to leave oppressive regimes to make the move in the 1500’s to get here!

              So you are right we’re not quite ready, but we’re thinking if we find the right place we could buy it and rent it out for a year or two.
              We’re not moving too fast because of her and #1 Grandson. 🙂

            7. Sounds like you’re in the right place, and your kids and granchildren are blessed, in spite of the stuff Life has thrown at all of you.

              I love my kids passionately. I homeschooled them, by accident, when my career as a scientist was destroyed by illness, but I am a scientist always. That’s what I was born to be during my working years.

              Novelist is my second career – and I am equally passionate about it, because I was a voracious reader, and always planned to write.

              The kids have had their rough start – youngest daughter’s life was blighted by a strange circadian rhythm disorder, Non-24 (if curious, look up my okapi posts), which took her moving back home for almost two years for me to figure out – and then to get her help. She’s two courses short of her degree – we are praying, once she gets settled, that she will eventually finish that degree.

              The older two are doing well – after major twists in their lives – but both ARE through school and working in their chosen CS fields.

              None will come home again, and all have learned to be very careful with relationships.

              Yes, without modern medical care life would be so different – I wouldn’t be here, middle child might not be, husband wouldn’t. I’m grateful for what they CAN do, very angry about the complete lack of a solution for CFS – cause, symptom alleviation, treatment, cure are basically missing, and have been for over 40 years. We’re invisible, and every week it seems 10 new groups somewhere claim to have THE cure for CFS – and fizzle.

              Nothing I can do about it – except write the novel with the CFS main character, and hope to get under people’s skin as Black Beauty, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Madame Butterfly, and so many other great works of fiction have done: humanizing something ‘society’ wants to ignore. The readers I get hooked have been wonderful.

  2. Wow! The falls really lit up this year. Your perseverance paid off!!! Your photo is beautiful :-). The falls are stunning and overall the colours and contrast are lovely. Thanks for making the timelapse too. It captures the event well. Very cool to see the waterfall change as the sun moves. Amazing! Were there two shooting stars or two airplanes?

  3. This image is so wonderful and it does look like lava! In fact, when I saw it on Instagram I was going to look it up to see if it was since I was not familiar with the phenomenon. What a sight! 🙂

  4. WOW..that is totally dazzling Deborah!..I saw some photographs of this on the national news and assumed that you would go and get a few pictures. Congrats. I respect your photographic devotion and diligent work.

  5. You posted about this before but not as brilliant nor beautifully captured, Deborah! When a Columbus Ohio newscaster mentioned in a brief National news item about the cliff, I thought immediately of you. 🙂
    Thanks for driving so far and taking this time lapse series, as well as the final effect photo, too. Have a great weekend! hugs xo

  6. Stunning, Deborah! Never a dull moment in Yosemite! This is where I learned watercolor painting, in the free art classes mid mornings. A few more takes of the Time lapse videos and you’ll be a pro at it:)

    1. Thank you so much Robert!

      Yes, we were all in. We wanted to make an image with more water than we’ve had in years. 🙂

      Hope all is well with you! I’ve been meaning to email you! I’ll do that this week.

  7. We have a running series of news feeds and we sites on a monitor in the office kitchen. Several times, when I walked in, there were photos of this phenomenon. I remembered your previous post on this and I was wondering if you had gone again this year. What w great image, Deborah. I’m so glad you made the effort (twice!) and shared with us. I like the timelapse too. I thought about doing that for my sunset photos, but I hadn’t taken them from the same spot and it just didn’t work. You do have to plan.

  8. I started seeing photos of Horsetail Falls and it’s phenomenon on the media and thought of you and really really hoped you trekked out again this year for some captures. WOW WOW WOW! Breathtaking, Deborah! I am so glad you made it out there again this year, what a wonderful portfolio to have of this stunning marvel for so many years. 🙂

  9. It’s beautiful Deborah! I bet you were thrilled to finally have the right conditions. I know it made that second long trip on Sunday worth it. What an ordeal! I really enjoyed the time lapse too, and how that moment suddenly happened, Just gorgeous!

  10. Wow! I’ve not been to Yosemite since I was a child, but my mom grew up in central California and her family took camping vacations there, before you had to book a lifetime in advance. Thanks for your persistence, Deborah, and for sharing this phenomenon.


    1. Thank you for looking, reading and commenting on my image and experience Janet!

      I grew camping and hiking there also before you had to make reservations far in advance. Although now I prefer to sleep in the Lodge or nearby hotel. 🙂

    1. Wow! The waterfall’s on fire! Brilliant capture, Deborah, well done and must be a great feeling having the waterfall and weather Gods on your side at last 🙂

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