If you are currently in Northern California, head over to Yosemite National Park right now! For only a few weeks a year the sun aligns perfectly with the granite walls and sidelights Horsetail Falls. The pink, reds, and orange of the setting sun makes it look like lava is running down the 1000 foot high granite cliffs of the valley.
This was always a highlight for me when we used to live in San Francisco. Every February (right around Valentine’s Day) we would venture into the wilderness of Yosemite to hopefully get a glimpse of this incredible waterfall. BUT, there is no guarantee that you will see it! This phenomenon is very much weather dependent — it can’t be too cloudy, otherwise the sun can’t cut through the valley and light Horsetail Falls.
Here are the details that you need to know: First, get there WAAAAAAYYYYYYY before sunset. Take some wine and a picnic and enjoy the late afternoon by arriving at least three hours before sunset. Back in the day (8 years ago) when I first started shooting Horsetail Falls, there were only a handful of photographers and spectators, but over the years the crowds have gotten larger. There is VERY limited parking in this area and you can’t ride the Valley bus to the best stops. Second, go to the El Capitan picnic area and walk a few hundred yards east to find the openings through the trees. You can also check out the area on the Southside of the river, parking east of the Cathedral Beach picnic area. Third, make sure you bring the right equipment. Tripods, shutter releases, and a good telephoto lens are a must.
Have fun, good luck, and be ready to make friends with all of your fellow photographers! And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the rest that the Valley has to offer.