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Rainbow from the Moonlight - Yosemite Falls Moonbow

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Neatly packaged with a multi-colored bow and all and presented to you, a

portrait of a Yosemite Falls under the magical light of a full moon. To

see this is truly one of the most wondrous sights Yosemite National Park has

to offer. You stand in the sheer darkness of towering cliffs of Glacier

Point as moonlight illuminates the north face of Yosemite Valley like some

spectacular motion picture show. A massive cascade of water pours over the

cliffs above the grassy meadows and thunders to the rocks below and in the

process turns to a fine mist. Illuminated by the pale moonlight the mist

separates each of the colors of light in to a soft pale rainbow known

affectionately by park visitors as a "moonbow". Each full moon

photographers and tourist stay up in to the wee hours of the morning and line

up along the meadow across from Yosemite Chapel to witness and capture the

glowing, constantly shimmering and ever changing show of rainbow light that

forms at the base of the falls on any brightly moonlight night. Of course

a full moon is best and the effect is easily seen to the naked eye. Late

at night, sound travels much better and you can really hear the roar,

thunder and slap of the mighty Yosemite Falls as the water pounds against

the solid granite rocks.


The image you see here is the result of a long exposure and not what your

eye will see. The actual effect is much more subtle. I set the camera to

an ISO of 200 in part to minimize noise. I could have set it to 400 or

possibly even 800 ISO and still had a low amount of noise but the longer

exposure time of a lower ISO allowed me to capture as much of the

continually moving rainbow as it danced in the winds caused by the steep

cliffs of Yosemite Valley. Finding the best exposure time took a bit of

trial and error but with a few shots established an exposure of between 50

and 60 seconds would do the trick nicely. Unfortunately this meant there

would be an ever so slight blurring of the stars just above Yosemite Falls

and that I would have to wait an additional 60 seconds before I could take

another shot. When I arrived there were a number of photographers

shooting the falls and I thought perhaps I had missed the show as many of

the photographers packed up and left. But the longer I shot, the larger

and clearer the rainbow became . This shot was taken at the largest and

brightest point during my shoot. I figure that the best time to visit is

when the full moon is lowest in the sky and directly opposite the falls

which made it about 1:00 AM to 2:00 AM or so. The lower the moon (to the

south) the bigger the rainbow effect. The canyon where the mist forms is

best viewed from the meadow across the street from Yosemite Chapel.

However the moonbow can be seen at various times from a number of places

within the park.




© Darvin Atkeson

LiquidMoonlight Photography

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Taken on June 27, 2010