El Capitan and Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan and Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite

I rose early yesterday morning to go up to Yosemite Valley, thinking the storm might clear just after sunrise. But showers persisted, and the sun didn’t break through until almost ten o’clock. By the time I finished photographing it was almost noon, so I decided to stay in the valley until sunset.

In the afternoon typical after-storm condensation clouds formed around the rim of the valley. Thinking those clouds might add something to a photograph of Horsetail Fall, and allow me to capture something a little different from my other images of this waterfall, I headed for a spot with a good overall view of El Cap and Horsetail.

It turned into a really beautiful sunset. At first I could see clouds banked up to the west of Cathedral Rocks, and worried that they might block the light. But those clouds gradually dissipated, while a picturesque cloud on top of El Cap lingered until sunset. That cloud constantly changed shape, but basically remained in place for almost an hour. As the sun sank the light turned gold, then orange. The wind played with Horsetail, making this tiny fall look exceptionally large. Mist rose upward next to the fall several times.

I kept changing lenses to capture both wider and tighter views, but reviewing the images later I really liked the wider compositions, with that cloud above El Cap. The photograph shown here has all the elements I was looking for: El Capitan, sunset color, the beautifully-shaped cloud, and wind-blown Horsetail Fall. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I’ve seen Horsetail put on its light show many times, but never get tired of it, and last night was an exceptional performance. I bet there were a lot of happy photographers in Yosemite yesterday!

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Horsetail Fall Forecast; Horsetail Fall Update

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.