The rare phenomenon behind this fiery waterfall at Yosemite National Park

It looks like a stream of golden lava, quietly running down the east face of the El Capitan walls in California’s Yosemite National Park.

This is one of the national park’s most elegant and spectacular natural phenomenons. Known as the “firefall” of Yosemite, it occurs when the sun shines on Yosemite’s seasonal Horsetail Fall, allowing the waterfall to reflect the golden rays of the sun. That makes it all the more impressive that California-based astrophotographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo captured this stunning photo in the dead of night.

Photographing the “firefall” during the day is already challenging. Even with perfect weather conditions—clear skies, perfectly positioned sun—the phenomenon might only occur during a 10-minute window around sunset for just a few days in February. Andreo, by contrast, managed to get the shot when the “firefall” appeared as a result of moonlight.

“Moonset that night was between 4:30am and 5am, so I headed to Yosemite around 9:30pm,” he writes in an article published on PetaPixel. “Fortunately, the weather gods were smiling down on me: the skies were clear when I arrived, and the big, bright Moon was up high. I looked at it, thinking ‘Are you going to put on a show tonight?'”

As the photos show, the waterfall did indeed.

(Rogelio Bernal Andreo)
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