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WATCH: The 'Firefall' Offers A Grand Glimpse Of A Glow In Flow

Feb 17, 2017
Originally published on February 17, 2017 2:09 pm

It's been a long week. Take a moment — or even a minute! — to watch something beautiful.

Around the third week of February each year, Horsetail Fall lights up Yosemite National Park with a spectacle of orange and red. The phenomenon, which has taken on the decidedly majestic nickname "firefall," is an optical trick of the sunset when a host of conditions are just right.

If the waterfall is flowing with snowmelt, if Earth is aligned with the sun just so — as it is this time of year — and if the skies are clear enough to let that sunlight through, the fall appears to flare with the fiery glow of lava.

It kindles into life for just about 10 minutes a day.

The tiny window doesn't dissuade the swarm of zoom lens-toting photographers from descending on the spot each year — photographers such as Michael Frye, who spoke with NPR's Audie Cornish about the sight in 2012.

"It's this narrow ribbon of water falling from this high cliff, the eastern buttress of [the El Capitan rock formation]," he says. "Just that narrow little ribbon of water is lit and everything else around it is dark. And with the right light, that water can turn orange or even red."

Thankfully, Frye and his fellow photographers — and videographers — have taken the trouble to send back dispatches of these glowing minutes.

After all, how but for them could we retrieve this end-of-week reprieve of our own? Short of flying to the firefall ourselves, of course. Maybe next year.

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