Trip Report
Chasing the Yosemite Moonbows
Wednesday November 28, 2018 3:31pm
This trip report does not relate to climbing in any way, yet is about a rare event that happens in a place many rock climbers find special. For those, who have not heard of the Moonbows in Yosemite, I highly advise to google it and come check it out for yourself in 2019! Not doing myself a favor by advertising the event and possibly making it more crowded, but hell, I have gotten sh#t for advertising walls with climbing potential. I am of belief there will be enough space for a few more people and it could be very excited to witness something a little less rare than the Horsetail Firefalls, yet as worthy.

It was a random stormy April day and I was deep in the rabbit hole of internet when I came across something that I became curious about. It was a photo of Lower Yosemite Falls with a colorful rainbow spanning in the foreground, above the booming waterfall were stars - it was a night shot! How could a rainbow be out at night? After some more investigation, turned out several other Yosemite waterfalls have been photographed in a similar fashion, but several things have to line up for these shots to be possible:
1) The waterfall has to be out in full force (duh) and create enough mist to reflect the light of the moon.
2) The weather has to be clear to allow the moonshine to reach the waterfall.
3) The moon has to be full or nearly full in order to light up the waterfall with enough force.
4) It has to hit it at a particular angle to create the rainbow and can only happen during certain months of the year and during certain hours on different days.

Well, when is the next window to view the event, I thought, and found a well written schedule -


It was fully raining in Visalia and there would be no chance in hell of seeing it today and the forecast for tomorrow did not look promising. I googled the event some more and found out about different angles that could work for the shot, as well as the settings some of the other photographers use for it.

The weather did not improve much in Yosemite, as the webcam showed dark cloudy sky, yet NOAA allowed for glimmer of hope with "partially cloudy" prediction for the evening. I was not sure what to do, as the drive to Yosemite would be three hours one way and I had to work the next morning. The moonbow is a night event, so I would be arriving home very late in the night and getting only a few hours of sleep. For some odd reason, I decided to take slim chance and go for it.

After a long drive, I noticed the sky was cloudy, yet there were a few patches of blue. When I went to set up, I was one of the few people there an hour prior and set my tripod in an amazing spot below and infront of a bridge, however a few minutes later one of the photographers present told me I would be ruining the shot for the 50 or so people that will show up later. I didn't even think there would be anyone else there because of the forecast, but set up in a spot more accommodating for the crowds. The dude was right. In less than an hour it was hard to find a spot to stand! The Moon was covered with clouds for most of the night and the conditions weren't perfect due to a passing storm. However, many photographers that came out were rewarded with short windows of moonshine that allowed a few decent snaps. The Moonbow itself did not come out as strong as it could have with better conditions, but I am hoping to be there the following year. Not only to photograph the Lower Yosemite Falls from different angles, during hopefully a better weather window, yet the Upper Yosemite Falls from different aspects. There are so many ways to be creative photographing the moonbows, that one could come out for 50+ showings and still think of new creative ways to compose a future shot.

My photos were shot with a Sony A6000, a mirrorless camera. Now that I upgraded to a Nikin D750, I am hoping for better conditions and a better capture of this phenomenal beauty in the future. If you google this event, you can see many other ways and photos edited by professionals that are much more stunning. I personally was very happy with my first attempt and staying the duration of the evening, even though I got only 3 hours before waking up for work. #coffee_official #sleep_when_youre_dead

Hope some of you will come out and see it for yourself!

My favorite composition, shot from behind the bridge. Favorite, because it is original and shows the event as a whole, including the rainbow, the waterfall and all the people on the bridge. The exposure was good too, with the water getting enough light to show beautiful colors. The stars came out as pinpoint features. One thing that is good about the clouds, is that they prevent the sky from being boring. Now to get the sky with some clouds on the North side of the valley, with enough space to show off the stars, but totally clear on the South side in order to get stronger moonshine...mmmhmmmm some day! :)

A few other angles that came out OK, When it comes to photography or art in general, there is no right or wrong and some may think one of these is better than the one above, or complete shit! Which one do you guys think is better? Welcome to leave your opinion.

I do want to improve my astrophotography in general. These two shots of El Cap and Middle/Lower Cathedral were taken in early November and the milky way is not as strong as it is during summer months. Yet I love the lights from the climbers on El Cap and the fall colors illuminated by the passing car. El cap was illuminated by the rising moon, in its early stages, which probably had an effect on the milky way too. This was a totally unplanned shot and I took it day prior to climbing the Nose in a day, so pretty happy about being there on that day. More practice and a better camera/lens combination will hopefully help in the future. This was a stitch of three photos taken with Sony A6000, Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens, set for 15 second exposure, f2.8 at 6400iso

"Tongue in your butt, like it or not!"

See those two blushing?! I do!

  Trip Report Views: 1,601
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is an annoying gym climber from Visalia, CA.

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mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Nov 28, 2018 - 03:40pm PT
Bitchen efforts, stunning shots.

Thanks and looking forwards to more, Galen Jr.

Have you googled Tony Rowell?

Trad climber
  Nov 28, 2018 - 04:00pm PT

Thanks man! Your photos are awesome.


The Granite State.
  Nov 28, 2018 - 04:10pm PT
Vitialy, you’re killing it man!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Nov 28, 2018 - 04:12pm PT
No, I have not googled him or heard of him, but I did now. Galen's son, I guess? See he has a moonbow image in his portfolio too.
Nice shot!
photo by T. Rowell
photo by T. Rowell
Credit: Vitaliy M.

the Fet

  Nov 28, 2018 - 04:25pm PT
Sweet shots.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Nov 28, 2018 - 04:51pm PT
Dude, line up a trip to climb Via Aqua at night and get shots like this but with moonlight (this is afternoon light):

p.s. Thanks for sharing the beautiful images you capture.

back east
  Nov 28, 2018 - 05:06pm PT


  Nov 28, 2018 - 06:36pm PT
Can you see it with the naked eye?
Jebus H Bomz

Sacramento, CA
  Nov 29, 2018 - 03:22am PT
These shots are good for my BP.

back east
  Nov 29, 2018 - 04:13am PT

Can you see it with the naked eye?

Of course!

Just click your heels 3 times and say "There's no place like home."



Mountain climber
  Nov 29, 2018 - 06:07am PT
Vitaly, is sky blue at night?

I thought that it was black.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
  Nov 29, 2018 - 07:05am PT

Venus casts a shadow in the right conditions, so why not moonbows. Cool shots.

How close were you to the deer?
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Nov 29, 2018 - 08:22am PT
Can you see it with the naked eye?

Not as well as it is seen on photos, especially after editing them.

Trad climber
  Nov 29, 2018 - 04:42pm PT
Nice photos

Members of the super secret "Yosemite Bridge and Railing Society" chased moonbows during the early 1980's. Usually best during the full moon, they are also best viewed in slightly altered states.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Nov 29, 2018 - 07:22pm PT
Great photos

I caught a moonbow during a lightning storm out in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. It was actually a combination of a moonbow and lightning bow. It was an instamatic camera, really poor quality photo.

Moonbow, a rainbow from moonlight, taken in the gypsum karst desert in...
Moonbow, a rainbow from moonlight, taken in the gypsum karst desert in UFO country, near Roswell, New Mexico
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
San Francisco, California
  Nov 30, 2018 - 10:59am PT
Such a cool phenomena; I've never even heard of it before. I caught a really sweet morning halo over the bay a month ago; crappy Apple phone doesn't do it justice by a long shot:
Credit: sharperblue
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 2, 2018 - 08:46am PT
I love the third photo down,
You are a good photographer and person V,
Thanks for sharing!

Mountain climber
San Francisco, CA
  Dec 12, 2018 - 08:39am PT
Stellar shots! Love the one with the leaves. Great pic from via aqua, too.

Social climber
  Dec 25, 2018 - 11:20am PT
not rare as it happens when ever there is a full moon and lots of mist and now there are hundreds of photographers everywhere

Sport climber
  Dec 25, 2018 - 12:23pm PT

Cool and beautiful. Tfpu!
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