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Film and Photo Tips

In Search for Horsetail Falls on Ansel Adams Birthday


Yesterday I arrived in Yosemite National Park and my hopes of photographing Horsetail Falls, more publicly known as Fire Falls was evaporated with a day full of rain and snow. I didn’t get to photograph Horsetail Falls that day but I did have a chance to write a blog about photographing in Overcast Weather and had a great chocolate cookie from Yosemite Lodge cafeteria. Today I decided to go out and try to photograph Horsetail Falls because the weather looked promising and it was the great Ansel Adams birthday. What does that mean? Nothing, but I thought the photography Gods would be looking over Yosemite that day.

The sun was settings at 5:42 and Horsetail would light on “fire” between 5-30 minutes before sunset. I decided to give you the highlights of that evening by the minutes they were happening, here are my notes.

3:15 Picked a less popular spot with a great view of Horsetail Falls off of El Capitain on the Southside Drive between Cathedral Beach and Sentinel Beach picnic sites. Clouds covered Horsetail Falls.

3:35 All the gear was set up, 3 cameras and a video camera, two brothers named Steve and Nick came over and gave me some tips on where Horsetail Falls was hiding behind the clouds. Thanks again guys!

3:40 Timelapse video of three brothers was going on my Nikon D800.

4:00 Still cloudy and the clouds have over taken Cathedral Rocks to the left of El Capitain.

4:30 Signs were getting worse, a raindrop fell on my head or were they teardrops?

4:45 Second of the three cameras are set up for timelapse, what else is there for me to do? I also played three games of solitaire and learned to sew a blanket stitch, very handy.

5:00 Signs of other photographers, 3 more pointers to the sky showed up and joined the cold air. A break in the clouds happened and we could all see Horsetail. We were an excited group.

5:20 5 more photographers showed up and they brought more clouds and colder weather. I swear I heard a fellow photographer growl at them.

5:25 We are hoping for a break in the clouds, it is the time for Horsetail to start catching fire.

5:30 Not a single break in the clouds, photographers were on the floor throwing a tantrum.

5:42 The sun was just about gone and the clouds still covered Horsetail. I past out tissues to all the other weeping photographers.

5:50 Only 2 other photographers, Edward and Lauren from Texas, stuck around. We were hoping for a miracle, a reversal of time and a parting of clouds.

5:55 Admitting defeat we all packed up and headed back to our cars.

Despite not seeing Horsetail Falls today everyone had a great time watching the clouds together and telling stories of their adventures in Yosemite today. Some of us have been here a few days and others it was their first. I have three more days to get a snap shot of Yosemite’s greatest wonder Horsetail Falls on “fire.”

I will be back to this spot tomorrow, at the lodge a fellow photographer on the Northside drive went to the more popular spot Rowell’s View near El Capitain’s picnic area. Over 60 photographers were there and it is a weekday. We are all anxious for this “event!”


This is how Horsetail Falls looked at the moment it should have been on "fire"


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  1. Al

    Ansel Adams was a genius and I wish I owned an original of his work.

  2. Lydia

    Happy Birthday Ansel…

  3. Ted

    Doh! Dang mother nature. LOL

  4. Gary B

    Ansel Adams was the best, I have a set of postcards from Yosemite of his work.

  5. Katie K

    My least favorite waterfall in Yosemite, I don’t know why everyone is excited about the sun hitting a waterfall.

  6. Armando

    I already have my camp site ready for next year, fingers crossed we have good rain this year.

    • Good luck buddy! We haven’t had any luck yet but maybe next year we will see you out there.

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