Last year Willie, Will, and I got our first great moonbow photo while on top of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. Thanks to some professors in Texas just about anyone can find out when the moon bows in Yosemite will occur. Trying to avoid the hoards of crowds at the Sentinal Bridge parking lot we decided to try to find a more unique moonbow and something different from last year. Willie and I had seen a number of timescape videos, most notably Steve Bumgardner's official video for the Yosemite Conservancy, in which moonbows were photographed at Cascade Falls. We knew we had to try this!
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get to the proper location to shoot a moonbow at Cascade Falls. You need to get high enough and east enough to get around a jut in the rocks (you can see it here, where the water flows over, blocking the top of the falls) to get the proper angle to see the top of the falls, which has a really nice "S" curve to it. I used Google Earth and a number of other peoples images to get a vague idea of what we had to do. We found out that Steve traveled up from the bottom (along highway CA-140) but I thought you might be able to drop in from the top. When I arrived at Yosemite on Saturday I quickly ruled out the top-down approach. I hopped in the car, drove down to the bottom, and started on up. After an hour of completely sweating, super steep climbing, and searching high and low, I gave up on finding "the perfect spot". It was just too dangerous and without proper climbing gear I couldn't see any way to get to the spot that Steve took his photo.
Dropping down a bit we found a nice area that gave a beautiful view of the main falls. In the afternoon weather the area was dry and pretty easy to get to. When Willie, Will, and I returned at night we were in for a shock -- the winds had picked up and were spraying mist all over the spot! Not wanting to be drenched for 2 hours we moved back to a safe distance where we go stay both dry and warm. There was a super moon this evening (the largest moon of the year) and we had hoped that its brightness would put on a great moonbow show, but we didn't know when exactly it would start. Every so often I would head back out to the falls to double check on the moonbow. Finally around 9:10pm we saw a faint bow and raced back to get our gear. It was super slippery on the rocks to our spots and we took extra caution not to slip and die. By now it felt like it was raining and we knew we had to be quick to get our shots.
Proper planning was key to this. I brought along a rain-shield for my camera to keep my camera dry and attached the hood to the lens helped reduce a small amount of water hitting the lens. I also brought along 5 micro-fiber cloths because I knew I'd be wiping the lens dry quite often and they would get wet fast. I had just enough time to wipe the lens clean and then take a shot before the lens was completely covered. I went through 3 micro-fiber cloths in the 35 minutes that we were out there. Once we finally returned to dry land we realized how *completely* soaked we all were. It wasn't until the sun came up the next day that I was able to fully dry all my equipment!
This years moon bows were much more faint than last years. We could just make out a silvery bow with our eyes, compared to last years full blast of color. Additionally, it wasn't until I looked at the LCD later that I realized we caught a small hint of a DOUBLE MOONBOW!
Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S:
42mm, f/4, 30 sec, ISO 640