PHOTOGRAPHY BY LUKE LOCKWOOD
Winter may not be peak season at Yosemite National Park, but during the second half of February, thousands of people flock to the valley hoping to catch one of the most elusive sights in nature. When the conditions are perfect, the light from the setting sun can hit Horsetail Fall and make the water cascading 1,575 feet down El Capitan look like lava. This optical illusion has come to be known as the Firefall, a reference to a long-banned spectacle in which an innkeeper would toss burning debris from a nightly bonfire off of Glacier Point. The phenomenon draws shutterbugs from all over the world, although the shot is challenging, due largely to ever-changing weather conditions. Even on an ideal day, the sun hits the falls just right for only five or 10 minutes—so have your lenses ready.