It’s not – it’s just plain ole water!
This waterfall, known as horsetail fall, flows over the sheer granite face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. Horsetail is the longest free-falling falls in the park, with a drop of 1,500 feet before it hits granite and spills another 500. The falls however are most famous for the phenomenon shown in this photo. At sunset in mid-February as a result of celestial configuration and cooperative winter weather, the water cascading from the high open cliff face is saturated with a golden glow, resembling fire!
This was first recorded by outdoor photographer Galen Rowell in 1973 and since, luckily for those who have never witnessed it; many photographers have now captured this amazing spectacle, on camera and on film.
Photographing this beautiful sight requires the application of astronomy, physics and geometry as hopefuls consider the azimuth degrees and minutes of the earth's orbit relative to the sun to determine the optimal day to experience it. They are looking for the lowest angle of light that will paint Horsetail the colours of an iridescent sunset as rays reflect off granite behind the water. It materializes in varying degrees of intensity for the same two weeks every year.
Amazing – Nature is awesome.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Durham