Yosemite Firefall - Horesetail Fall

Yosemite Firefall - Horesetail Fall

Yosemite Firefall National Park Horsetail Fall Winter February

Written and Photographed by William Thompson


Late February

I set out on Thursday Feb 21st, 2019 to capture the Fire Fall in Yosemite. If you’re not familiar… it’s a natural phenomena that only happens in late February when the light from the sunset hits the water from Horsetail Falls just right to make it appear that the water is on fire (pending other perfect conditions).

But How

This is a rare phenomenon that only happens for a few days out of the year in late February and only if the conditions are perfect. It must be a clear day and the waterfall must be flowing from snowmelt. There must have been enough snowfall that winter to accomodate the accumulation of snowpack towards the summit. The conditions also need to be warm enough that day to create enough snowmelt for the waterfall to flow. Needless to say, witnessing this event has been on the bucket list for quite some time and this year I finally had my shot!

The Hike and Setup

I arrived at Yosemite with a few fellow photographers around 12pm after driving through the ice and snow covered roads leading into the park. We grabbed the first available parking spot since we knew parking would be limited due to the overwhelming crowds that the Fire Falls attract each year.

We hiked directly from our parking spot to the location we had scouted. It had been snowing pretty heavy that week so we rented snow shoes to help make the hike out to the location easier. It was a great call, they were amazing to have!!

Yosemite El Capitan National Park Winter February Sunset

We arrived at the spot after about an hour of hiking through waist deep snow only to find about 8 other people already set up at the location. We selected this spot because of the perspective of the falls and the large clearing through the trees.

Gear and Settings

By the time sunset came around we were surrounded by about 50-60 other photographers. I was able to hold onto enough space for my tripod with my Canon 6D and 70-200mm f/2.8.

My favorite images were shot at about 90mm -110mm. I shot mostly at F13 with iso at 100 and a shutter speed 1/10 of a second.

I was really happy with my final images and it was totally worth dredging through the snow for the shots!

Yosemite Firefall National Park Horsetail Fall Winter February

Thank you to our Focal Community member William Thompson (@GoodThompson).

If you enjoyed this, check out Focal Collective’s other content on the Focal Points section of our blog. Feel free to look through our Artist Interview Series as well!

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