Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Stalking Horsetail Falls

Although I’ve been going to Yosemite regularly since I was perhaps five years old (and I’m not going to say how long ago that was… ;-) I’ve never managed to see the February marvel of Horsetail Fall at sunset. Horsetail is a seasonal waterfall near the east end of the face of El Capitan. During early to mid February (and, according to some a bit earlier and later in the year as well) the light from the sun hits the waterfall just before sunset, creating an amazing light show for those who are a bit east of El Capitan where they can view the backlit waterfall. Galen Rowell made the sight famous with one of his photographs taken several decades ago, and it has since become of of the “must do” photographs in the Valley.

Partly inspired by Edie Howe’s information at The Little Red Tent web site, I made plans to get up there last weekend. The conditions were, indeed, right this time. Several things have to fall into place for this to work. There must have been good snowfall on the area just above the Valley. There must have a been a period of warmer weather that has melted some of the snow in order to get the creek feeding the fall running. The weather must be such that the sun can hit the wall at sunset – either clear weather or else clouds that permit the sunlight to shine through right at sunset.

I went to the Valley on Friday and got myself a campsite in the early afternoon, after which I spent a couple of hours scoping out shooting locations. I found several along Southside Drive on the opposite side of the Valley from the fall. However, the closest location is at the El Capitan picnic area on Northside Drive. Unfortunately (or maybe not so unfortunately…) Northside Drive has been closed by a combination of construction work and some rockfall farther east in the Valley. I finally decided to try for the picnic area. Since this requires a bit of a walk across the Valley, some time in the currently snowed-in picnic area, and a dark walk back across to Northside drive, I dressed warmly and got an early start.

In the end I was rewarded with some quite good photograph opportunities and I made a lot of exposures. However, I decided to go back and give it another try the next night – and that is when I got the image posted below.

Horsetail Fall, Sunset. Yosemite National Park, California. February 16, 2008. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.


February 18, 2008 - Posted by | Photography, Yosemite

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