Sunset over Yosemite Valley with Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, and Horsetail Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunset over Yosemite Valley with Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, and Horsetail Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

When I posted this photograph of Horsetail Fall and the sunset over Yosemite Valley a couple of weeks ago, many people asked about purchasing prints. Well I’m happy to announce that The Ansel Adams Gallery has decided to offer this image at a discounted price as part of their “Unique Offer” series. For a limited time you can get signed, numbered, matted, limited-edition prints of this photograph at 25% off the normal price, in three different sizes: 13×20, 16×24, and 20×30. My 13×20 prints normally sell for $325, but during this sale they are only $244. The retail price for my 16×24 prints is usually $475, but for a limited time they’re only $356. And while my 20×30 prints are normally priced at $750, during this sale they’re $562.

The sale lasts one week, ending at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 19th. Visit the Ansel Adams Gallery website to purchase a print or get more details.

Here’s a condensed version of the story behind this photograph. You can read the full story in this post.

Sunset over Yosemite Valley (shown above)

I had been to this spot perhaps a dozen times over the years during Horsetail Fall season (that week or so in February when this slim waterfall is backlit by the setting sun), hoping for some interesting clouds and a moment when the sun would break through and light the waterfall. But each time the hoped-for combination of light and clouds failed to materialize. The odds seemed low on this afternoon as well, as there were thick clouds to the west, but there was a small chance the sun could break through and create the kind of light I was looking for.

When I reached my location I saw plenty of clouds, but also spotted a thin strip of clear sky near the horizon, so there was some hope. At one point the underside of the clouds started to glow, and it looked like sunlight might crawl under those clouds and break through. But then the clouds thickened, and the glow dimmed.

About five minutes later, however, the strip of blue sky near the horizon grew larger. Then a beam of sunlight broke underneath the clouds and lit the very bottom of Horsetail Fall – only to fade, blocked by more clouds. After a few more minutes the beam returned, reached a little higher… and faded again.

But the clouds seemed to be breaking up a bit. A little while later sunbeams began fanning up from behind a cloud. Then, for the third time, a beam of light broke underneath the clouds and hit the bottom of Horsetail. This time the light kept moving upward until the whole waterfall was lit.

At this point it became difficult to believe what I was seeing. Was this really happening? Seriously? It looked like a scene from a dream. I’ve always thought Albert Bierstadt’s Yosemite paintings were unrealistic, but maybe not – maybe he really did see those things. After all, here was a Bierstadt painting before my eyes.

It was perhaps the most amazing light show I’ve ever seen. Our planet is always beautiful – always. But sometimes nature outdoes itself.

Related Posts: A Surreal Sunset

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.