If you head to Yosemite National Park this time of year and stop by Horsetail Fall at just the right time, you might see something spectacular: As the sun sinks low in the sky, the waterfall glows with streaks of gold and yellow — and it looks just like molten lava.
Photographers like Michael Frye flock to the park every February to try to capture the phenomenon.
“It’s this narrow ribbon of water falling from this high cliff, the eastern buttress of [the El Capitan rock formation],” he says. “Just that narrow little ribbon of water is lit and everything else around it is dark. And with the right light, that water can turn orange or even red.”
According to Frye, what makes Horsetail Fall so unique is its topography: The waterfall is perched high on an open cliff where it can catch light from the sunset — but not just any sunset.
“It’s this brief window of light around the third week of February where the sun sets at just the right angle to light Horsetail Fall just as it’s sinking,” Frye says.