Yosemite's annual 'firefall' dazzles watchers

The phenomenon happens when sunlight hits the falls at a certain angle, refracting the light on the water

The firefall phenomenon at Horsetail Falls in Yosemite, California. AFP
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What appeared to be a flood of fire poured over Yosemite's Horsetail Falls on Wednesday evening, as the sunset created an optical illusion called a “firefall”.

The annual event at the national park in California occurs only once a year for a few weeks and draws tourist crowds.

“When the sun drops at the exact right angle, it reflects upon El Capitan,” Yosemite National Park public affairs officer Scott Gediman told AFP.

“It's a combination of the Sun reflecting on the water, clear skies and water flowing. If all of that comes together, it's magical.”

California's signature blue skies put in an appearance on Wednesday, meaning visitors to Yosemite — who were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time — got their chance to see the firefall.

“The pictures I've seen are just gorgeous,” said amateur photographer Terry Cantrell, who had travelled from Fresno. “Everybody wants to have their own, so this is what I'm trying to do.”

The long wait and the freezing temperatures were all worth it for Whitney Clark, another keen photographer, from San Francisco.

“Based on how the Sun sets up against the mountain or the rock, it creates a really good fire effect for photographers and you can get a beautiful picture of it,” she said.

Updated: February 16, 2023, 10:56 AM