Three Sunsets in Yosemite

Valley View before the sunset

I am not the definitive photographer of Yosemite, however, I do have a strong opinion that because of the orientation of the valley, sunsets are better than sunrises, here.  In my opinion there are four places to do sunset and I have done them all.  The most popular and most obvious is Tunnel View which is my least favorite.  Two I love because they are on the valley floor and pretty easy to get to are Valley View and the Sentinel Bridge.  Finally, if you have the time and plan for it, Glacier Point is breathtaking.  Here is what you might see.

The basic idea from Sentinel Bridge

Mary and I went to Yosemite for Fall color and were a little late, but it was beautiful nonetheless.  One huge difference in the Fall is that the waterfalls are dry or barley running and the Merced river is also low and slow.  You can use this to your advantage to make reflection shots.  You can do this in the morning with El Capitan, but my favorite is sunset at the Sentinel Bridge.

There is a pretty big parking lot near the bridge, but this is a very high traffic area for cars and pedestrians.  I usually get here at least an hour before sunset to stake my position.  There is also time to make friends and drink some wine.

After the sun goes down…Wait.  It takes about another 15-20 minutes for the red-orange glow to light up half dome.

I did tell you it might be crowded . See my blob post on “combat photography.”

A much quieter location for sunset is Valley View.  It has a very small parking lot, but also some street parking.  In the Fall, the river is low and slow, so there is plenty of foreground interest.


There is plenty of room to spread out and make different compositions.

Finally, Mary and I made the hour drive up to Glacier Point.  We planned to be there an hour early, and we were already too late.  The parking lot is huge with three levels and two levels were already full.  An entire photography workshop of 15 people had already staked out the front and there were at least 100 people milling about.


Mary and I found a nice high spot and had no problems making our compositions.  We spent about two hours all told, setting up and waiting for the best light.  We had a spectacular night.  One of the best sunsets we have ever experienced.



The sky was changing color and clouds were moving so every minute the view changed.  The long drive back down into the valley was a celebration and relief after such a wonderful sunset.

Here is one of our popular blog posts about Yosemite in the spring and how to photograph waterfalls and rainbows A Weekend in Yosemite.

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