Saturday, February 20

Two Snaps

The Horsetail "Fire" Fall is a phenomena, an annual event with mixed results and a "happening" In Yosemite National Park. Nature "schedules" it every year for late in February. People show up in El Capitan Meadow or just across the Merced and wait for the late afternoon golden glow. People have been known to backpack up the south wall of the valley to get a fresh perspective.

Driving to Yosemite, everyone hopes that the waterfall will be robust, fed by ample snow pack, and that the western horizon will be clear. If it all goes as calculated visitors get to see a magic trick with the sunlit glowing waterfall backed by the shadowed wall. If not, well come back tomorrow. Or next year.

The event is well-publicized. In a good year, it gets a lot of attention from local, regional and national press and, of course, bloggers galore. That brings out the crowds. In a promising year, it's a party most evenings. Normal people bring a picnic, maybe a bottle of wine and cheese to go with the show. They might bring lawn chairs - at least a blanket. They show up anywhere between 3:30 pm and 5:00 pm and socialize.

Well-advised photographers bring their longest lenses and something to rest them on. Serious photographers bring really big glass and hefty tripods and backup gear. They stake out their favorite locations starting around 1:00 pm. Then they socialize and kibitz.

This year I was, as usual, in the former category and enjoyed lovely walks from shuttle stop 7 to my locations in time to chit-chat and perch in the shadow of  taller, larger, sometimes camouflaged set-ups. (Camo? Yes, I think they look for birds and other wildlife when they are not shooting waterfalls.)

Friday was promising but fizzled as the sun slipped into a cloud bank. Saturday was very good, though. There were cheers and applause amongst the clicks and buzz of shutters. And there were sighs of relief. 

Back at the lodge people will be passing around the camera or maybe a tablet or phone with the bast shots. Then they'll start planning for the next big event and maybe even book a week in Yosemite National Park for next year's firefall. 

Wednesday, February 17

Yosemite Snow, Full Moon and Fiery Horsetail Falls

I am heading to Yosemite on Thursday. Well, on Thursday, I’ll overnight in Fresno or maybe Oakhurst so I can drive into Yosemite Valley on Friday morning fresh and alert. I’ll have two nights in a heated tent cabin in Camp Curry (sadly soon to bear some forgettable name). For Sunday night and any after that, I’ll move to the Upper Pines campground. 
I've been talking about late February in Yosemite for about two years now.  I went last year and got these photos, but there was no snow and little water. Horsetail Falls, the focal point for this outing, was barely a trickle so there was no fiery-falls-at-sunset shot.  This year conditions seem to be ripe.  Michael Frye tells us that now it just depends on the atmosphere - we need clear skies on the western horizon to allow the setting sun to work its magic. The forecast is promising.

Last year we had this sliver of a moon.  This year the full moon occurs on Monday morning, so shooting the moon on Friday and Saturday could offer an alternative to Hosrsetail Falls if the crowds are too much.
I hope to visit this site off the Northside Drive, too. I hope I can find it again! I can do a better job with the composition and it should look completely different in the snow.  It makes me think of Ray McSavaney and his Walking Trees in winter and again in spring

Frankly, I hope I get some great shots early so I can consider whether to linger in the tent or drive home early. A little true winter can go a long way with me. Sometimes I feel like the camping part will be a piece of cake because I am well-prepared (thanks to Steve Anderson and the Meanderthals for the chilly San Gabriel walks and thanks to Vaughn and Allan for the winter camps in Mojave National Preserve), but then I think of the wee-hours bathroom run. Brrrr! I have to remember the reward paid in Yosemite stars!