ATASCADERO — For a few days each year in February, when the sun is at just the right angle and there’s a break in the seasonal rains, Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Falls lights up with the colors of the sunset in an event known as “the firefall.”
Local photographer Rick Evans recently traveled to Yosemite with friends and was able to capture the event with his camera, but he says it was a complete fluke.
“I didn’t pay enough attention to when this event happens and it’s only for a couple of weeks in February,” Evans said. “We just happened to be there.”
Evans said he stopped at one of the park’s gift shops to pick up a hat pin to add to his collection and the clerk, noticing his “Trust Me, I’m a Photographer” sweatshirt, asked if he was there to shoot the firefall.
The question sparked Evans’ memory of a story his cousin had sent him about the event the year prior and he set off to find the location of the natural spectacle.
Evans and company set up at a spot a little more than a mile away from Horsetail Falls and patiently waited for sunset along with a large crowd of other photographers from all over the country who were also excited to capture the phenomena.
As sunset approached, a silence fell over the crowd and all you could hear was the snap of camera shutters, Evans said.
“It was close to 5:30 and you could start to see it go pink, just get a little bit of that pink color,” he said. “A little pinkish color, a little orange and people started to say ‘ohh and ahh.’”
As quickly as it came, the colors faded back to gray and several of the photographers started to pack up their gear and leave. Evans remembers joking that the sun might come back out from behind a cloud and light it up again, which is exactly what happened.
“And it lit up better the second time than it did the first time,” he said. “It turned a darker, peachy, orange color. It looks like lava, that’s what everybody says, it looks like lava coming down. Even in the cracks of parts of the rocks, you’d swear it’s lava coming out of there. It wasn’t as bright as some of the photos that I’ve seen, but we were in awe.”
Evans, ever the perfectionist, said that he was slightly disappointed in his photo due to the falls being very slightly out of focus, but he’s still glad he was there to capture the natural beauty of the event.
“I even said before, even if this thing doesn’t work, we were still here and it was kind of neat to be a part of it,” he said. “It was pretty cool. I look at my photos and I go ‘OK, it wasn’t the best photo,’ but I’ll have it printed up, I liked it. You kind of come away with a good feeling.”
Evans said that he’s planning to head back to Yosemite next year to try and capture a photo that’s more to his liking.
“It’s kind of hit-or-miss though,” he said. “All it takes is one cloud and you’re messed up for the whole day.”