It’s here—almost. The window of best light on Horsetail Fall will begin around February 12th and continue until approximately February 22nd this year. The big questions is how much water will be in the fall.
Horsetail Fall is fed by snow melting from a small area on top of El Capitan. While there was plenty of snow up there in December, we’ve had only one small storm since January 2nd, and much of that early-winter snowpack has disappeared. Horsetail has a decent flow right now, indicating that there’s still some snow on top of El Cap, and I think there will be enough to last through the window of best light—but it might be a close call. If the snowpack holds up, and the warm, dry weather continues, it could be a banner year for Horsetail Fall photographs, with many clear sunsets.
For more details about photographing Horsetail Fall, see this article on my web site, or previous blog posts here and here. And check out the time-lapse video of Horsetail that Steve Bumgardner just posted.
Meanwhile, Yosemite Falls is still going strong, with exceptionally high flow for February, and excellent early-morning light. That light starts to shift soon—by the end of the month it’s not nearly as good. But for the next week or so the sun will strike the upper fall early, creating golden light on the water, and the chance to see rainbows from the eastern end of Cook’s Meadow.
Just to make things more interesting, there will be a full moon the night of February 17th, right in the middle of the Horsetail window. In Yosemite Valley the best opportunities for moonrise photos occur one to three days before the actual full moon date. I recommend using The Photographer’s Ephemeris to figure out the the specifics, but it looks like the moon might be visible near Half Dome at sunset on the 15th from the eastern end of the valley (Cook’s Meadow and the Ahwahnee Meadow). The evening of the 16th you might be able to see a moonrise from Tunnel View. So if you’re in Yosemite one of those days you’ll have to choose between trying to photograph Horsetail Fall or the moonrise.
If you get any good photographs of Horsetail, a moonrise, or anything else in the park, I'd love to see them, so please feel free to post links in the comments. Good luck!