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Horsetail Falls Natural Firefall

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 2 March 2008 in Landscape & Rural.

Hello to all of you visitng my blog. I have been debating for some time now whether to take the plunge and join the world of bloggers or sit contentedly on the sidelines. After much searching for a suitable online company, I settled with I felt their interface and templates complemented my site and made the photoblogging procedure very intuitive.

I have waited 5 years to see this incredible light on Yosemite's Horsetail Falls, so it was only fitting that this be my first post. I plan on blogging two to three times a week based on my workload. As many of you know, I am a sports and landscape photographer and I plan on posting images created in both arenas.

This image was captured while standing on a boulder in the middle of the Merced River with a couple of workshop participants and my good friend and fellow photographer Nick Lust. Posted sunset time was 5:40pm and the light had actually disappeared from the falls at 5:23pm. For over 17 minutes no light struck the falls. Many photographers had packed and left but we were willing to wait until 15 minutes past sunset (5:55pm). Incredibly the magical light began to appear 30 seconds after sunset and I recorded this image at 5:44pm after shooting many verticals. A minute later, the light flickered out and was not to be seen again.

For the past couple of years I have done extensive image searches for Horsetail Falls which is a sesonal falls off the eastern face of El Capitan and fed entirely by snowmelt. This image is special in that it takes a warm spell to get the snow melting (temperatures had been hovering in the 60's), plenty of snow to feed the falls (January had been a heavy snow month) and most importantly, a clear path to the horizon as the sun sets 1,000's of miles away over the Pacific Ocean. The red light is the last visible rays of the sun bending over the horizon and precisely striking the falls. Until seeing this with my own eyes, I always questioned the validity of the images displaying this vibrant red light. Now that I have witnessed it myself, I can concur that the light is really this color and no special Photoshop tricks were used.

Photographers come from all parts of the globe to photograph this unique scene but sadly few actually get to witness it. Nine days after I recorded this image another good friend and fellow photographer, Mike Hall, actually had light up to 6 minutes past posted sunset. He said the light turned golden but not red! What makes it turn red remains a mystery to me. If any of you have a scientific explanation, please send a post.

For now, please enjoy!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 4/5 seconds F/11.0 ISO 100 180 mm

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