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Upper Yosemite Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Falls consists of three separate falls dropping a total of 2,425 feet. The Upper Falls alone drops 1,430 feet. This is my favorite location to view the falls. It is close enough to feel the spray and hear the roar of the water and you can frame the falls with the iconic Half Dome in the background. It is also a painful hike up from the valley floor. I consider that a good thing as it reduces the number of people – especially when I want to photograph the falls at night.
Under the right conditions you can photograph the falls with a lunar rainbow stretching across the scene. This requires having enough water in the falls the create the needed spray, usually from April through June. You also need the moon to be in the correct location in a clear sky: high enough to clear the cliffs and light the falls while also directly behind you. I wanted to capture the scene with the stars from the Milky Way filling the sky in the background. This meant that I needed the moon to be less than 50% full and that I needed to get the shot soon after sunset before the stars moved too far to the south. I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris to find a likely evening and I made the drive out to Yosemite.
This is a single image captured at night by the light of the moon. The high ISO allowed me to get enough light in a 20 second exposure to see both the moonbow and the stars. I chose to keep the image somewhat dark in processing to maintain the evening mood.