"Horsetail Firefalls by Moonlig"

Many photographers know about Horsetail Falls in Yosemite and that every February it lights up into a "Fire Falls." In fact, I photographed this exact event in February of this year and it was spectacular. Many photographers, however, do not know that the same phenomenon occurs via moonlight on some rare occasions!

This effect only occurs once or twice every couple of years. The day I took this photo was the best lighting of the falls. The next day, Sunday, had less intensity light and occurred closer to sunset which resulted in washed out stars. This event will occur only once next year, however, it will occur during sunrise and the stars will not be visible.

On Saturday, Feb 16th 2011 I woke up at 3am and headed over to the Picnic Grounds at Yosemite National Park. When I arrived the moon was really lighting up the falls but the angle wasn't quite right to turn the falls red. After a couple minutes of setting up and figuring out my camera settings all of a sudden the photos started turning orange! It lasted for about 10 minutes before the falls were completely dark.

To the human eye the Falls appeared white but to the camera it appeared red and on fire! This is due to the anatomy of our eye: the human eye has 2 photo-receptors: rods and cones. Cones are really good at detail and color but require a lot of light. They don't work so well in low light (night). Rods on the other hand, are really good at low light but they can't detect color. So at night, in this scene, our eye only saw the brightness of the falls but the camera sensor saw the beautiful color! - Apr 16, 2011

Submitted by Aaron Meyers on Apr 22, 2011