Firefall!!

During my adolescent years growing up in Pasadena, CA, we used to make trips to Yosemite National Park, camping in both the valley and the high country. I remember well, while camping in the valley we would shuffle out in the dark to the middle of a meadow to watch the Firefall. It used to be called the parks most famous spectacle where each evening during the summer months, a huge bonfire was built high above the valley at the edge of Glacier Point. At 9pm the glowing coals were pushed over the edge creating a luminous glittering waterfall of fire tumbling some 3200 feet. Here is a picture I gleaned off the internet —

In 1968 due to a variety of reasons, the Firefall was discontinued. However, today, there is an even more wonderous and totally natural Firefall. Each year for a week or two in February the setting sun beams up the valley and illuminates Horsetail Falls, and when conditions are perfect, it glows orange and red for a brief time. It’s hit and miss because the sky must be relatively clear, and there has to be enough flowing water in the falls. Due to the drought in California there has been no Firefall the last five years.

I happened to be in Yosemite Valley for an art opening, so was anxious to see it if conditions permitted. It was quite a crowd…hundreds of photographers and nature enthusiasts were out. The park service accommodates everyone by blocking off one lane of the road for about a mile of parking. I got lucky and there was an empty parking spot right by the best viewing area.

Of course, I have seen many pictures of it over the years, and always thought the photos had to be enhanced or touched up. Not so…I wasn’t disappointed. The falls were just glowing a bright orange for about 10 minutes. It was like someone hung a giant glow stick over the edge of the cliff. Below are photos taken with my iPhone which are not touched up or enhanced in any way.

Bucket List — Check!!


Stay tuned as I am working on a short video of my quick visit to the valley, along with video of the Firefall, plein air painting, lots of running water, and other wonders.


Just starting to glow.
Just starting to glow.

Really getting going!
Really getting going!
Going strong
Going strong
Almost over
Almost over

Flooded!

All of you have by now heard about the flooding in my hometown of San Jose around Coyote Creek, the largest watershed in Silicon Valley. During my year long quest to paint “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” I did 18 paintings in the Coyote watershed, and 5 of Coyote Creek itself. That was also during one of the worst droughts California experienced in years. Now Coyote Creek is above flood stage.

Today, during a break between storms, the creek has subsided a bit, so I did a mini-tour of some of the locations I painted from San Jose down to Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill. Below are pictures before, now, plus the painting I did at the time. I also included a couple videos and a link to the original weblog at the time of the original painting.


Christmas Day – Coyote Creek in Hellyer Park
The original blog post — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/eleven-christmas-day/

 
Then:

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park

 
Now:
This is a picture from the bridge, the creek is up to the top of the banks…way over my head from where I originally painted…

Coyote Creek at flood stage
Coyote Creek at flood stage

 
Now:
A short video from the bridge…

 
The original painting:

Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel


Thompson Creek
The weblog entry is here — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/two-three-woz-way/

 
Then:

Along the banks of Thompson Creek

 
Now:
Thompson Creek was much fuller, but not overflowing.

Thompson Creek
Thompson Creek

 
The original painting:

Thompson Creek 8×10 oil on board


Evergreen – Fowler Creek confluence
The original blog post about man’s first controlled flight — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/sixteen-the-evergreen/

 
Then:
You can’t see much of the creek as it was just a trickle–

My easel towards the end of the painting.
My easel towards the end of the painting.

 
Now:
Not flooding, but lots of flow–

 
The original painting:

The Evergreen, 8x10,oil on panel
The Evergreen, 8×10,oil on panel


El Toro – Coyote Creek Below Anderson Dam
I wasn’t able to get to the original painting location as it was roped off and guarded by park officials. I was able to get fairly close, though.
The original blog post — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/thirtysix-el-toro/

 
Then:

 
Now:
Water from the spillway is flowing into the Coyote Creek channel

Water from the spillway flowing into the Coyote Creek channel
Water from the spillway flowing into the Coyote Creek channel

 
Now:
A short video just downstream from the original painting location…

 
The original painting:

El Toro, 8x10, oil on board
El Toro, 8×10, oil on board

 
 
For those concerned, I live in the Coyote Creek watershed, but up in the hills enough to avoid flooding!

A Lower Tuolumne

The Tuolumne, 24x12, oil on canvas
The Tuolumne, 24×12, oil on canvas

 
I am revisiting the Tuolumne River in the eighth of my ‘Vertical Water’ series. I previously painted it in the second work of this series you can read about here.

This scene, is just a few hundred yards from the other painting, but even later in the year, and right by the Hwy 120 bridge in Tuolumne Meadows. One of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada, dome studded Tuolumne Meadows is a sub-alpine section of the Tuolumne River in the high country of Yosemite National Park. It is a mecca for outdoorsmen, fishermen, campers, hikers, rock climbers, and people who just want to enjoy the outdoors. It is also a center for those who want to horseback or backpack the high Sierra Nevada Mountain range, often called “The Range of Light”

 


Here are a few pictures of the painting developing. Click on a thumbnail to see the full picture…


 
 
Well, how about some selfies in the studio!

Leaving Milford Sound

Leaving Milford  24x12 oil on gallery wrap canvas
Leaving Milford 24×12 oil on gallery wrap canvas

 
Milford Sound, a fiord in Southwest New Zealand, has been called by some the eighth wonder of the World. The spectacular area of Fiordland National Park is unparralleled in the world. The remarkable glacial carved natural environment features spectacular tumbling waterfalls, glistening stunning fiords, ice-carved valleys with rivers, ancient rainforests, shimmering lakes, soaring walls of granite, and snow-capped peaks. The Maori native culture called this area “Te Wahipounamu”, or “place of the greenstone”, and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I visited Milford Sound on a cruise ship in February 2013. We had been sailing in and out of the fiords of Fiordland National Park all day, including Doubtful and Dusky Sound, but Milford was the icing on the cake. For those who have visited Yosemite Valley, it was akin to sailing a cruise ship right into the valley. With spectacular glacier carved sheer rock faces of almost 4000 feet on either side which lead to mountain peaks of almost 5000 feet high! It had been a fairly cloudy and gloomy day, but the cloud cover was high enough to see the mountain peaks all around. Occasionally, a spot of sun would hit, as depicted in the painting.

 


One of my favorite spots on a cruise ship is on the promenade deck right at the stern above the wake of the ship. Here you can hear the churning of the propellers in the water as it splashes and bubbles producing wonderful colors of aqua, greens, grays, and blues.

 
Here’s a few pictures of the painting in development. Click on each photo to see the complete larger version —


 
Here’s a few pictures from the day, plus a few of Princess cruise ships in Milford Sound from the internet. Click on each photo to see the complete larger version —


 

Some of the photos above I used as studies to make the painting which is a composite of several pictures. Probably one of the more unusual paintings I have done, I have often thought about doing some cruise ship wake and other studio paintings from the decks. I have plenty of material to work from and done occasional plein air pieces from the deck of the ships, as we are avid cruisers…perhaps a new series?