When I first saw Yosemite valley eight years ago, I thought it was the most impressive, power-packed 20 square miles of land in the whole national park system. Since then, I've seen some other pretty amazing parks-- Yellowstone, Denali, the Grand Canyon. But still nothing compares to Yosemite Valley. Above, is the tallest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls.
I had wanted to come to Yosemite in mid-February for two reasons-- first, to try and photograph the valley in winter (didn't happen), and second, to catch a once-a-year phenomenon called a "Firefall" off the edge of El Capitan.
As the sun sets on El Capitan in mid-February, it's positioned in such a way to shed light onto a small waterfall. I had read a magazine article about it a few months ago and recalled the author saying you'd find the spot by looking for a small parking lot jammed with cars that seem to be there for no good reason (no visual landmarks nearby). Well, he was precisely correct. I got there about a 1/2 hour before sunset, and had to park at another small lot a few yards up the road because the little lot was already full with photographers' cars! At the height of activity, there were probably 30 or so photographers all shooting this. With our tripods and telephoto lenses, we must have looked like we were the press pool for the Super Bowl! But it was lots of fun to chat, and all "ooo and ahh" together as the mist lit up off the waterfall.
Initially, the fall looked like a nice normal waterfall and sunset:
But as the sun continued to set, the light became a more narrow vertical strip along the face of the mountain, until it only illuminated the waterfall and the mist itself. One of the most amazing things I'd ever seen. Quite spectacular!