Every year, hundreds of photographers flock to Yosemite Valley in February to photograph Horsetail Falls. The angle of the setting sun illuminates Horsetail Falls so that the falls look like they are flowing lava. Horsetail Falls is a seasonal event during which the snow melts on a warm winter day off of the east side of El Capitan and creates the falls. The falls only last until early spring or until the snow is gone. This is what makes photographing the falls so difficult.
First, there has to be snow, second, there has to be a warm enough day to melt the snow to create the falls, third, the light has to be at the right angle, fourth, it has to be a clear night for the setting sun to hit the falls. One little cloud could ruin everything. So for all this to occur, it's about a 10 day span near the middle to the end of February. Take out the days that have unfavorable conditions, and you are looking at 5-7 days a year that this phenomenon can be photographed. Professionals and amateurs alike flock to a small turnout about 1.7 miles west of Yosemite Lodge. Click here for a map. Get there early because there is limited parking, and limited places to set up your tripod. I was there about hour and a half before sunset to get my spot. I used my tripod mounted 70-200, but I also seen some 100-400mm and 200-400mm zooms being used. This post picture was taken at 160mm f8 .3 sec exposure. I used a polarizer to take reflections off the rocks and add a punch to the orange glow of the falls.
Yosemite is an exciting place to be in February. I ran into many pro photographers and even was in the company of Gary Hart and one of his workshops. Everyone is really friendly and just excited to witness all that is Yosemite.
If you are traveling to Yosemite in the winter months make sure you have snow chains for your vehicle. Flying into Fresno is the way to go, rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and buy your snow chains on your way into the park. Some roads are only open seasonally so look here for current road conditions. I recommend staying in Yosemite Lodge just for convenience purposes, but I will cover that it a later post.
Yosemite is my favorite place to photograph and visit. There is no other place like it in the world and should be on everyone's must see list. Get there if you can, you won't regret it!