• I placed the falls into the space between these trees for a little extra visibility. The height of this box corresponds to the 1612 ft. drop.
  • Slightly over 3,000 ft tall!
  • The water is only 3-4 ft. deep here so I tried to show the rich color of the river bottom.
  • The thin log bridge I crossed is just to the left of here in 8ft. of water.
  • There were clouds swirling here a few minutes earlier and it does look good in a previous photo I made, but I waited for better light to strike the rock face.
  • There were climbers here setting up for a night's sleep 2500 vertical feet above the valley floor!
  • In the full-sized version, there is some nice light up here.
  • There was a bear right here, but there was no way it could get to me! They are rather tame anyway, but you never know.

Ribbon Falls - Yosemite National Park, California

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Yosemite's 1612 ft. Ribbon Falls flows mainly in the spring and early summer. This may seem like a peaceful scene, but it was one of my most dangerous photo attempts to date. No HDR!

Free wallpaper for over 100 of my images in 6 different screen sizes is now available!

See the 1200 pixel version!
www.flickr.com/photos/patrick-smith-photography/403913020...

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Settings etc.:
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Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 17-40L @ 24
0.4-second exposure @F18
2 hours before sunset when the light is still on the cliff face.
LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9 + 0.75
Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring
No polarizer. I wanted reflections in the water
ISO 50
RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One
TIFF file processed with Photoshop

At 1612ft, Ribbon Falls is the tallest unobstructed free-falling waterfall in the United States and one of the tallest falls overall in Yosemite Valley. But people usually miss it. Angel Falls in Venezuela has a taller single fall of 2600 ft. (97 waterfalls are taller in total drop, but it is the 13th tallest single unobstructed fall in the world according to this world waterfall database:
www.world-waterfalls.com/database.php?s=N&t=H&ord...

Yes, this was a hazardous place to be. But I always look for alternative views where I can. This is not the Valley View lookout, but rather upstream from there. First, there had been a recent spring rain and the ground was muddy and the grass would sink in unexpected places as you walk. Once I got to the river, I realized that the place with the best view (right here) was a pile of logs that were swept downstream and had accumulated into a rather unstable pile in an eddy formed by the river. The only problem was that in order to get to this pile of logs, I had to walk across a few narrow logs marginally caught in about 8ft. of cold rapidly running water to the left of where I put my tripod for this shot.

So, with my camera in my backpack, I got two long straight branches about 12 feet long and managed to cross the logs supporting myself with my two branches. Once I was on the log pile, I had to wait for quite a while for good light to fall across El Capitan. It was nervewracking because every so often, the pile of logs would shift a bit, but it was worth it!

The only extra bit of composing I had to do besides getting close to the river foreground to dramatize the roaring river, was to center Ribbon Falls in between two trees for a more open view of it!

The map shows exactly where this is. It is a 1-mile hike from the nearest road.

See my Flickr profile for a link to my newly designed website.
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Patrick Campagnone, and 312 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. B℮n 54 months ago | reply

    Love the water glow...loevly exposure Patrick!

    GRTZ,BEN

  2. Julien Ratel ( Júllí Jónsson ) 54 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Fave Moi France (P1/ F3), Portrait Contest results!!!, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    wow, a really nice point of view here Patrick!!
    wel done!

  3. Shelbster3 54 months ago | reply

    Could you tell me how to make the water look so smooth. I just love that affect. thanks :-)

  4. SolarScot. 54 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called ClanFlickr, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    sometimes when i see so many comments i feel a wee bit intimidated that me with my wee point and shoot can comment on an obvious work of Art but then again why not,i like this thats reason enough,im going to visit this place in the Spring

  5. Eduardo Z. 54 months ago | reply

    Excellent work and photostream!!!!

  6. Sydney... 54 months ago | reply

    Saw you on flikr explore, just gorgeous Van Gogh Brush strokes in the water combined with beautiful symmetry. Great tech section, thank you.

  7. Thomas Sittler 54 months ago | reply

    OMG, you took such risks for that one!

  8. solasulmare 54 months ago | reply

    bellissimo scatto... complimenti!!!

  9. Juan Carlos Chairez 53 months ago | reply

    This is a Sublime capture!
    & A Invitation
    You are invited to add your picture to www.flickr.com/groups/sublimegroup/
    We hope to find you there soon!

  10. Umesh Krishnaswamy 52 months ago | reply

    Great shot and guts to make that shot! The resulting perspective from the middle of the stream is fantastic.

  11. AdamsVenture 50 months ago | reply

    your exposures and composition are just amazing!

  12. Levels Nature 41 months ago | reply


    I saw this in the 200+ Faves group and Faved it.

  13. ShawnGrenningerPhoto 40 months ago | reply


    I saw this in the 200+ Faves group and Faved it.

  14. Ganymede2009 - 40 months ago | reply


    I saw this in the 200+ Faves group and Faved it.

  15. Emotioned.com 39 months ago | reply

    We are working on a monthly travel and adventure sport competition, all winning entries will be published in an online magazine. Judge panel will selected from Flickr.

    There are 3 parts of the competition, 2 parts are currently under development:

    A Flick group called : www.flickr.com/groups/emotioned/

  16. slidejob4 [deleted] 31 months ago | reply

    excellent shot...beautiful view

  17. LamVanThe 30 months ago | reply

    It's great, I love, thank you Nhe!
    Lê Văn Thâm

  18. - Dave Morrow - 27 months ago | reply

    I really like the comments you add to your pictures. Fun to read!

  19. photoyos 24 months ago | reply

    Patrick great collection of Yosemite images, I may have to invest in a 10 stop filter either that or start stacking ND's more often. The results are quite nice during day images. Great stuff.

  20. aduanetribute 2 months ago | reply

    las fotos estan espectaculares

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