In Memory of Steve Harper: An hour at Steve's Rock, Olmsted Point, Yosemite

Steve’s Rock, Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1981

Steve’s Rock, Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1981

The reason I have been honored by my students naming this magnificent boulder "Steve's Rock" is because they knew how many times I photographed it, and how many times near the end of the exposure of eighteen or more minutes, an airplane would fly across the sky making a strange white line across the whole image, totally ruining the composition - and I would have to start all over again! Overhead is a major flight path towards some airport.
 
This HUGE boulder is sitting just above Tioga Pass at 8,500' Elevation overlooking Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley. It was stranded along with the great boulders around Olmsted Point during the Ice Age. -- Steve Harper

 

In memory of Steve Harper, Olmsted Point, Yosemite, 2016 -- by Joe Reifer

In memory of Steve Harper, Olmsted Point, Yosemite, 2016 -- by Joe Reifer

To honor the memory of night photography teacher Steve Harper, I drove to Yosemite for the full moon this month. As I headed up Highway 395 to 120, a huge glowing orb was rising above Mono Lake. I parked at Olmsted Point, and took in the view down the valley to Half Dome. Then I hiked up the hill to take some pictures.

I didn't end up shooting Steve's rock until late into the night. I imagined how his famous image from 1981 looked. I remembered that the camera was at a low angle with the rock on the horizon line and positioned between the trees. I crawled around in front of the rock with my camera, and it felt like a photographer's version of a Buddhist prostration.

I wanted to bring my own sense of composition to the photo, because that's what great teachers like Steve inspire you to do. After some experimenting, I ended up with the camera closer to eye height, and opened the shutter. I laid down on the ground for a while to look at the stars, and listened to Can's Ege Bamyasi.

An hour later, my late night meditation on Steve's rock completed, I drove back down the hill to Lee Vining to get some sleep.

 

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