Under a Full Moon

From Cook’s Meadow in Yosemite National Park.

Nikon D810, Zeiss Distagon T* 25mm at f/4, ISO 800, 20s.

For those of you who may be interested in visiting Yosemite to capture one of the many waterfalls cascading over the granite cliffs, the ideal time of year is mid to late April.  During that time frame, the snow melt off the mountain tops is at full force, instigating the high rate of flow over the waterfall.

I would recommend planning the trip while the moon is full.  Obviously, photographing during dusk and/or dawn will always be an exceptional time of day to shoot Yosemite.  But, under the moon the shiny granite mountainsides illuminate into a gentle and almost surreal glow.  Additionally, the park is jam-packed with visitors during the daytime.  At night (the above image was taken just before midnight), the park is essentially empty.  This will allow you to freely move around making your setup easy, with no distractions, and no one unwittingly getting in the way of your composition.

To capture a waterfall at night under a bright moon, these are the basic camera settings you should use: In aperture priority and on a tripod, set your aperture to f/2.8 or f/4, ISO 800, and the shutter speed to 20 seconds (no filter).  This should give you the ideal balance of a proper exposure, with a quick enough shutter speed to avoid blurring the stars.

Happy Shooting!


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