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Category Archives: Yosemite National Park

Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Upper Yosemite Fall by Moonlight

Nikon D700| Nikkor 24-70mm| Hoodman Digital Film\PS CC 2017

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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

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Copyright 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I shared with those of you who read this blog regularly that I was heading up to Yosemite National Park on Friday to photograph something other than birds. That something was Horsetail Fall.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you’ve probably read about my past experiences trying to photograph it. The last few years during a major drought has been even more of a challenge.

This waterfall is fed by rainfall, and snow melt. Twice a year IF the conditions are just right magic happens. There are two conditions that must be present to make that magic. They are water flowing down Horsetail Fall, and Direct Sunlight.  If one of these two elements is missing there’s no show.  This phenomenon lasts about a week for the best lighting of the fall, but you can see it for about 2 weeks.  It happens in February, and again in October. October is a real rarity though because by then there usually isn’t any water flowing.

On Friday it looked iffy by the time we arrived in the park. Clouds began rolling in during the afternoon but, Golden hour looked great, and kept my hope alive that there was still a chance that the Sun would light it up and color it red.  We were already beginning to see a bit of orange minutes before it would be turning brilliant red!

Horsetail Fall February 19 2016

Copyright © 2016 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Do you see all those clouds behind the mountain? BTW-That’s El Capitan at the top left of the Horsetail Fall for those of you unfamiliar with Yosemite’s mountains.  I took this image at 5:26PM and at 5:30PM just when the color should have been turning a brilliant red like lava flowing down the mountain…the lights went out. Just as if someone had blown out a candle. POOOOF! All the light was gone. The sun had sunk into a low cloud bank and hundreds of us moaned in unison.

Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of people who come to see this phenomenon each year.  We drove home defeated once again by Mother Nature and the low Cloud Bank.

Last year I was skunked entirely. There was water, but no sun at all. The clouds rolled in and foiled all hope the one day I had to go up to try to get the shot.

2014 I gave it a miss completely. There wasn’t much water at all flowing the week the sun lined up and the day  I could have gone there was no sun.

My friends and I looked at the weather, and cloud report for Sunday the 21st and thought it was worth trying again.

I spoke with the family about it, and they said it was perfectly okay if I left before Big Baby Boy and A. They had come up for the week-end to hang-out with us and #1 Grandson, and were leaving on Sunday.  I gave lots of hugs and kisses to the family and left to meet my friends to try again for that shot at Horsetail Fall.

On the way up the clouds started rolling in. I hoped they stayed high and no thick cloud bank in the west blocked up the Sun again!

We got to the Secret Spot only to find nearly 50 people!! My secret spot since 2010 is no longer such a Secret Spot! Many people are looking to get away from the maddening crowd on Southside, and Northside Drive.  So, my two friends and I set up our rigs and hoped.

We got color but not brilliant color like we got in  2012, and 2013 ,but at least we didn’t get completely skunked like last year.

Horsetail Fall 2016

I’m so grateful for an understanding family! Without their love and support I wouldn’t

have been able to spend 16 hours on the road trying to get “the shot”.  I love you, and thank God for you everyday. ♥

It wasn’t the shot I was hoping for, but it was fun trying, and if you don’t try you don’t get the shot!

I’ll be trying again next year for the shot I have in my head…if the conditions are right.

Nikon Df| Nikkor 28-105mm @ 105mm| Delking Devices Digital Film| PS CC 2016

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Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac-ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I am doing another Project 52 this year. I thought about doing one or more genres which I love to photograph, but in the end thought I’d do something different this year; Doors.  I thoroughly enjoyed Dan’s doors over at

No Facilities blog this past year brought to us by Norm over at:

https://miscellaneousmusingsofamiddleagedmind.wordpress.com

I like doors and windows and I hope to come up with 52 or more doors that are interesting.

My first door for the year are the doors of Yosemite Valley Chapel. I love this Chapel. It’s so pretty in all seasons.

P52 1 of 52 Yosemite Chapel Doors

I went to Yosemite on January 1st to shoot the valley in it’s new Winter Coat of snow with 2 dear friends. This was our “not-so annual” trip. We try every year to start the year with a photography trip, but it hasn’t been consistent since we all have families, a life, and other interests. This year 3 of our little group were able to make the trip to Yosemite. Our 4th we will forgive for missing…one day! He was in the Galapagos Islands photographing all the sights, and some wildlife. I confess I’m a little jealous! Okay, back to the subject at hand. The Chapel.

I had the pleasure of attending a friends wedding here in the early 80’s. It was lovely!

Yosemite Chapel

My favorite time to photograph this chapel in the winter when there is snow.  It has the distinguished honor of being the oldest building in public use in Yosemite Valley. It was built in 1879 under the auspices of the Yosemite Union Chapel Association. Their stated purpose was:
“To erect an undenominational house of worship in the Yosemite Valley”. ~Yosemite Valley Chapel.org

“Mr. Charles Geddes, a leading architect of San Francisco, made and presented the plans. Mr. E. Thomson, also of San Francisco, erected the building at a cost of between three and four thousand dollars. It will seat an audience of about two hundred and fifty. Mr. H. D. Bacon of Oakland donated the bell. When its first notes rang out on the evening of dedication, it was the first sound of “the church-going bell” ever heard in Yosemite.” [“In the Heart of the Sierras” by James M. Hutchings (1888)]

My interior images must be on film because I can’t find them in my digital archives. I’ll have to stop by the chapel on my next visit to photograph it again in digital since it’s been a long time since I was last inside. Who knows when I’ll find the negatives, or scan them since they’re boxed up in the garage, and I’m moving ever so slowly through the boxes in the garage.

For more information about the Chapel please visit http://www.yosemitevalleychapel.org/history.htm

This post is part of Norm’s Thursday’s Doors click over to see all the doors posted this week, and add your own if inspired to. Norm gives you until Saturday noon to post!

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Copyright ©2016 Deborah M. Zajac.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I spent New Year’s Day in Yosemite National Park with 2 good friends. It’s a tradition of ours to get together for the New Year and photograph something good. There’s snow in Yosemite so we went there for the day.

Yosemite is magical in the Winter.

I made this image standing on Sentinel Bridge looking at Half Dome and the Merced River.

MM2 39 of 52 Half Dome Jan 1

This image is part of Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness2.

Nikon Df| Nikkor 20mm| Hoodman STEEL Ultra High Speed Digital Film| PS CC2015, LR CC 2015, & On1 Photo 10

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Copyright ©2015 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Last Saturday a friend and I went up to Yosemite to photograph the Night Sky because the Moon was rising in the wee hours of the night we’d have several hours of dark sky to photograph the Milky Way.
This is just one view of the sky that I made.

I love how many more stars one is able to see up here in comparison to the city I live in; where far fewer stars are seen due to light pollution.

I adore city life and all it’s conveniences, but I need the country and high mountains for the serenity, beauty, and dark skies. I hope we as a people in this country can appreciate the stars enough to save some land/parks for dark skies because seeing so many stars is amazing, wondrous, and so inspiring that a special kind of person has the drive and adventurous spirit to travel among them no matter what the risk! If I had the math skills required for space travel I’d be there in a nano second!

Nikon Df| Nikkor AF-S 17-35mm| Tripod| Cable Release…before I broke it-SIGH!| Hoodman STEEL Ultra High Speed Digital Film| Developed in Photoshop CS6

Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It was a gorgeous sunny day in Yosemite. In February! The little bit of snow we had up here last week from the 3 day storm has all melted.

Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge

The meadows are brown, and dry since there has been very little rain, and next to no snow this year, but

I gotta tell ya…no matter what time of year it is or the conditions, this view never gets old!

Nikon Df| AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm| Hoodman STEEL Ultra High Speed Digital Film| Tripod| BW 6 stop ND filter| 2 images focus stacked and blended in Adobe Photoshop CS6

More to come…

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