Yosemite Falls and Star Trails

By July 12, 2011January 30th, 2022Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Stock Photos of Yosemite National Park.

I’ve updated my collection of Yosemite photos, including the one below which I made at 2am a few evenings before the last new moon. One of the spring lunar rainbows that form in upper and lower Yosemite Falls — which are a lot of fun to see but which attract considerable crowd of people and cars that remain throughout the night — took place on the full moon a few weeks prior. I was not able to get up to the Valley for the lunar rainbow event, so instead took my daughter on a Sierra roadtrip a few weeks later to hike the Mist Trail as we try to do each spring. She elected to stay with Grandma at Bass Lake while I went into Yosemite Valley for some night and sunrise photography. On this night, with a nearly new moon, I did not encounter a single person in Cook’s Meadow between 11pm and 4am. The light that the crescent moon shed onto the upper waterfall was quite thin, but I was still able to make a clean image by using a 40-minute time exposure which rendered the stars as arcs in the night sky. Polaris, the “North Star”, is the bright star that lies nearly at the center of those arcs at upper right. My main interest interest in photographing in the valley was in making a few very high resolution reflection panoramas of the flooding Merced River, for potential printing 10′ wide or more. In several places I waded into the Merced to find perfectly still water and the composition I was looking for, since my 6′ tripod allows me to work waist deep or more if needed. The water was not as cold as I expected so I did not even bother with waders. Boy how I love Yosemite in early summer, so green with cool shadows and crisp water contrasting the warm dry air and blue skies! After a sunrise and morning of landscape photography I (mostly) put away the camera, spending the remainder of the trip hiking a couple favorite trails with Sarah and making iPhone panoramas with her. She really likes the immediacy of iPhone photography and enjoys seeing how in-phone panoramas turn out just moments after making them. I can’t blame her as the results are often surprisingly good. Anyway, back to my stock photography: if you like the image below, be sure to see more Yosemite National Park photos. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images. Thanks for looking!

Yosemite Falls and star trails, night sky time exposure of Yosemite Falls waterfall in full spring flow, with star trails arcing through the night sky, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls and star trails, night sky time exposure of Yosemite Falls waterfall in full spring flow, with star trails arcing through the night sky.
Image ID: 26853
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

The above image is a single image, not a composition. There is no masking or blending used, just a judicious choice of exposure along with curves, saturation and white balance in Lightroom. What looks sort of like a halo just above the cliffs is actually the faintest hint of sunrise I believe, since I ended this exposure just as astronomical twilight was beginning in order to obtain a true blue sky (rather than natural black sky, or a blue sky created by manipulating the colors of the sky). The Photographer’s Ephemeris app on the iPhone is a great help in determining such times, if you like apps.

About Phil Colla

I am a natural history photographer. I enjoy making compelling images in the ocean, on land, and in the air. I have maintained the Natural History Photography blog since 2005 and my searchable Natural History Photography Library since 1997. Here are some tear sheets and behind the scenes views. Thanks for looking!