Home to some of the world’s most jaw-dropping scenery, there are thousands of beautiful sights to capture on film in Yosemite National Park. A true photographer’s paradise, just wait until you have the chance to capture a sunset at Tunnel View, or, if you’re very lucky, a shot of a natural “firefall.” But don’t leave your common sense behind by doing something like posing on the edge of a massive granite drop-off, next to wildlife or in or near a waterfall, as there are plenty of fantastic photo-ops in Yosemite that don’t risk life and limb, including these.
Tunnel view is just what it sounds like, offering views of Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome. One of the most photographed scenes in the world, for many, it’s their very first memory of the park. It’s best shot in the late afternoon through sunset. But you’ll want to stick around a bit afterwards to shoot the beautiful color and light that happen over the next half hour.
Horsetail Falls ‘Firefall’
Photographers come from all corners of the globe in February each year to capture Horsetail Falls as it bursts into a fiery glow, appearing as if fire is spilling down the cliff. For this to occur, conditions must be just right, requiring a precise combination of sunlight and snowmelt. The sun must set at a certain angle in order to illuminate the waterfall and make it look like a fluid fire. If it’s too cold, the waterfall will be frozen, so it won’t flow. Some photographers come annually for years and only catch it once or twice. But if everything does come together, most likely around the second week of February, you’ll have about 10 minutes to watch and capture the natural “firefall’ for an experience you’ll never forget.
One of the most famous granite domes on Earth, Half Dome is even used in the logo for The North Face and has been pictured in postcards, brochures, posters and countless other items for years. One of the best spots to shoot it, and the easiest to access, is from the Sentinel Bridge, particularly when it’s reflected in the calm waters of the Merced River.
As you watch the cascading water of Yosemite Falls, it often feels a bit surreal, having made cameos in numerous films and even used in theme parks designed to emulate nature. The best place to capture it is from the bridge at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, though the walk to the bridge itself will bring plenty of outstanding photo-ops too.
Cathedral Beach is a fabulous spot for views of El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, especially ideal 30 to 60 minutes after a sunrise. If you’re here in the fall, it’s even better with the colorful foliage of the trees lining the shoreline.