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In Search for Horsetail Falls on Ansel Adams Birthday

On 20, Feb 2013 | 7 Comments | In Education, Photo Tips | By Pasquale Murena


El Capitain in fog


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"

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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