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…



Horsetail Fall 2016

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

More to come…



Horsetail Fall 2013

Horsetail Fall 2013, originally uploaded by dmzajac2004-.

Via Flickr:
Copyright © 2013 Deborah M Zajac. All Rights Reserved

This is the 4th yr I’ve gone up to Yosemite trying to capture the natural light show that happens when conditions are just right. For a week or so in February and October during sunset the sun lines up with the fall, and if there is water running down the fall the sunlight will turn the water red like lava or fire.

This year we had more snow on El Capitan than last year, and the day was sunny, but it was cold up there, and it’s been rather dry with no rain for awhile so there wasn’t as much water as we hoped for.
We did get some lovely color and the wind kicked up a little so we were treated to the mist lighting up at the top of the fall.

Every year it has looked different, and I’m hoping one year the fall will be spewing tons of water, and the sun is shining brightly.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 80-200mm| Tripod

Horsetail Fall II

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

I was fortunate enough to have the time free to be able to return to Yosemite for another chance of seeing Horsetail Fall light up on Thurs. Feb. 23, 2012.

This event though possible each year isn’t guaranteed. All the elements and conditions must come together to see it.

On Thurs. the sky was blue and clear. I hoped it stayed that way right up until sunset.

This trip was an encore to the trip here February 18, 2010 to see Horsetail Fall light up. I’m in several Photography related Meet-up groups and I went up with several photographers from one of these groups.

14 photographers from a Bay Area Meet-up made it this year. I rose at 12:01AM on Thurs the 23rd then dressed, ate a light snack, got my gear in the car and left at 2:30AM to meet 2 companions 30 minutes away. From there we were to car-pool to Livermore an hour away to meet several more photographers. Then we car-a-vanned to Yosemite.  We arrived at our first shooting location in the park before 8 A.M.

There we started photographing in the cold 32 degree morning at Swinging Bridge. We weren’t alone. Down on the river we ran into Michael Frye and 3 of his students who also decided to get an early jump on the day.

From here we went to several well-known and wonderful spots in the park where we spied a Coyote catching a vole, and  the view from Tunnel View never disappoints. Some of my companions saw and photographed a Bobcat! I’m sorry I missed that. I was in a car ahead of them and missed it completely.

Mid afternoon we made our way over to our ” secret spot” to photograph we hoped the sun hitting Horsetail Fall.

We didn’t expect anyone to be in this spot. It’s not well-known. We arrived to find it as expected empty. We fanned out and set up our cameras, tripods, trail stools, and some stretched out on the soft pine needles and took a nap.

About an hour later a lone man slowly walked by nodded and kept walking. 20 minutes later he came back with his camera and tripod.

20 minutes later out of the trees came Michael Frye and his 3 students. His face was full of surprise to find such a large group there already.

A little later another lone man emerged from the trees with his camera and tripod. There were about 20 people there by then.

Right on time the light on the cliff face began to change and the show was on. All joking and talking stopped as we jumped into action and soon all you heard was the soft beeps of camera AF motors, and shutters clicking. Once in a while I heard Michael giving his students a direction or making a comment. Then right before the color reached its peak a couple came walking up and sat down to watch the last few minutes of the phenomenon.

At the peak there was a spray of mist or perhaps evaporation that could be seen fanning out from the cliff face that added a wonderful glow to the show.

As you see there’s very little snow up there. We were really lucky this year to see this.

Because the sky was clear the whole mountain had a glow so I framed more of El Capitan to capture it. In less than 10 minutes it faded completely so it was time to pack up.

Isn’t it wonderful how something can look so different from day-to-day. My  photograph taken on Tues. Feb. 21, 2012 is here.

It was a day filled with laughter, adventure, good people to hang out with, and at the end of the day Mother Nature’s light show was the Pièce de résistance.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 80-200@ 105mm| f16| 0.4 sec| ISO 160| Manual Mode| Tripod w/timer| Circular Polarizer