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Lunar Rainbow over Yosemite Falls

For a few days every year, during a full moon and when the skies are clear, if the water level at Yosemite Falls is high enough to create a sufficient amount of mist, visitors can enjoy a phenomenon known as a Lunar Rainbow, or a Moonbow. This occurs after the sun has set and only when the full moon is at a specific place in the sky to illuminate these colors for a very short window of time.

I visited there this past June 14th to photograph this phenomenon. The conditions appeared to be perfect. The recent winter left more snow than any in the past decade or so and with a heat wave on the horizon, I suspected water levels would be ideal. The weather forecast even indicated clear skies so I grabbed a last minute cancellation at Wawona Campground and headed up.

The best vantage points were lined with spectators and photographers eager to see if the rainbow would be visible in the dark with the naked eye. On that night it would be. Even colors could be identified in the strength of the moonlight on the side of the canyon walls.

My image was captured on 6/14/11 at 10:43pm and required a long exposure of 6 minutes to record the vivacity of colors in the lush vegetation on the canyon walls.

The tips I used for creating this image were provided by a well-known photographer Michael Frye. On his blog, he explains the process and gear required for capturing images of Lunar Rainbows including a link to a site displaying the dates this phenomenon occurs. Big thanks to Michael for his great article!

Lunar Rainbow over Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park

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