The winter of 2016-2017 was a big one in the Sierra. Which meant that come spring, copious amounts of snowmelt began rushing down from the high country into the valleys below. Knowing this snowmelt meant spectacular waterfalls, I ventured to Yosemite National Park for some photography.
Though I knew there would be a lot of water, when I arrived in the park I was absolutely floored by what I saw. There was water everywhere: the meadows were all flooded, and there were ephemeral falls I’d never seen before. The big waterfalls in the park sounded like dragons roaring, and the spray they produced was like a fire hose.
I wanted to photograph a different view of Yosemite’s magnificent waterfalls, so one afternoon I took an arduous, off-trail route to a unique vantage point almost directly under Upper Yosemite Falls. Standing that close to the waterfall was invigorating (and a little deafening), and I felt my emotions swelling in its powerful presence.
I craned my neck up to look at the top of the falls and noticed that when the wind was absent, coalescing comets of water would form. Those comets would then plummet 1400 feet from the top of the falls to dash with savage fury on the rocks below. I was mesmerized by the shapes in the water. They provided a totally new perspective on this iconic waterfall and I knew they could be a fascinating focal point for a photograph.
To achieve the look I wanted, I used my telephoto lens to isolate the comets of plummeting water. Then I dialed in a fast shutter speed. Tripping shot after shot with my camera, I chased each set of comets as they fell. The shape of the water was constantly changing and the perfect image continued to elude me. However, I relished the challenge and wasn’t ready to give up. Giving it one more attempt, I caught this final set of comets as they plummeted to the rocks below and I knew I had the image I was looking for.