Field Trip: Moonbows at Yosemite Falls

Led by:  Sue Craft & Bill Sutton - April 15 to 18, 2011

Moonbows, also known as lunar rainbows, are a phenomenon that only occur about three or four times a year, and are only visible for about one to two hours each time they occur.  Moonbows usually only occur during the months of April, May and June and are dependent upon having bright moonlight, the moon must have risen above the south rim of the Yosemite Valley, sufficient mist and spray from the snowmelt runoff, clear skies, dark skies (with the sun more than 9° below the horizon), and the moon at a direction toward the base of the falls at or near a “rainbow angle” of 42°.  When the conditions are right, what appears as a “white”, “grey” or “silvery” streak to the human eye will reveal a photograph with the full spectrum of the rainbow’s colors.

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For 2011, one of the optimum opportunities for capturing a moonbow will be on Sunday, April 17th starting at approximately 9:30 PM until approximately 11:50 PM.  So please come and join us for this unique photographic experience.  We will be traveling to Yosemite on Friday, April 15th, and will meet for an early dinner (at a time and location to be announced), to plan our weekend events and then go out to take some night shots in one of the meadows in the valley.  On Saturday and Sunday we will spend the day photographing the splendor of Yosemite, as well as scouting out the location to take our moonbow pictures.  Monday, April 18th we will travel home.

For moonbow pictures, you will need a camera that is capable of taking exposures ranging from approximately 15 seconds to approximately one minute, a wide angle lens (in the range of 15mm to 35mm), so that you can capture the stars in the sky along with the moonbow, a tripod, cable release, some sort of rain cover for your camera such as the OP/TECH RAINSLEEVE approximately $6 for a pack of 2 (this is important because of the spray and mist where we will be shooting, you need to protect your camera), a flashlight and a soft cloth to clean the mist off of your lens.  In addition to the equipment listed above, you may want to take a telephoto lens, close-up lens, polarizing and ND filters, reflectors, flash, etc. for the photographs that you will take on Saturday and Sunday.

This trip will take place on the weekend before Easter which usually finds the hotels and motels inside the park filling up fast therefore it is recommended that you make your reservations early for this event.  You can make “in park reservations” at  (As a side note, to get the best hotel rates you should call the hotels directly and ask them for their “best rate” which is sometimes lower than their posted rates.)  The closest hotel to where we will be taking the moonbow pictures is the Lodge at the Falls in Yosemite where some of us will be staying.  There are also hotels outside the park in the towns of Mariposa, Fish Camp, Oakhurst, etc., that will fall within a 15 to 45 minute drive from the park.  Hotels in these areas can be found by doing an online search for “Hotels near Yosemite”.

To see moonbow pictures, follow this link:

[NOTE:  Please be aware that there is no guarantee that we will be able to get moonbow pictures due to cloud cover, a low volume snow pack, a low volume waterfall due to a colder than normal spring, or other unseen forces of nature]

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