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.



The Signal Room: 360 Panoramas of an Underground Art Space on Yerba Buena Island

A 360 panorama of The Signal Room on San Francisco's Yerba Buena Island

A 360 panorama of The Signal Room on San Francisco's Yerba Buena Island

Back in February I heard that a group of artists was throwing underground events in The Signal Room -- an old naval signal tower on top of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Island. A friend knew the way in, and we spent an evening watching the sunset and taking photos. I've never met Eugene Ashton-Gonzalez, who was the ringleader behind these efforts. I really appreciate the magical transformation of this unique space with amazing views. Being able to turn around and see both spans of the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, and the Golden Gate off in the distance was fantastic.

I shot some 360 panoramas to remember how the place looked. The San Francisco Chronicle did a short documentary video on the space that's worth watching. There are no longer events taking place at The Signal Room. The tower now has security, and is slated for demolition this summer.

Update: The Signal Room was knocked down in early July.

Technical Details: Each of the 3 panoramas is composed of 6 shots around and 1 shot down using a Nikon D750 with a Samyang 12mm fisheye lens on a Nodal Ninja R1 panoramic head. A 5 shot bracket was taken at each camera position. The resulting images were processed in Lightroom, blended in Photomatix Pro, stitched in PTGui Pro, and output using krpano. Enjoy the panoramas!


The Racers Line: FR-S and BRZ in Almost Every Color

A 360 panorama of The Racers Line featuring almost all of the colors of the FR-S and BRZ.

A 360 panorama of The Racers Line featuring almost all of the colors of the FR-S and BRZ.

The Racers Line is an performance auto parts and installation shop in Concord, California. Owned and operated by top notch mechanic Neal Wiebmer, The Racers Line specializes in the FR-S/BRZ/GT-86 platform, but also works on other performance cars including BMW, Porsche, and Lotus.

Neal has put in a lot of track days in a Scion FR-S, and really knows the FT-86 platform inside and out. Whether you're looking to add more power with a Jackson Racing or Edelbrock supercharger, or want to get your suspension dialed in for an HPDE session, Neal is the man.

The best part about having work done at The Racers Line is that you can make an appointment and hang out while the work gets done on your car. I always learn something, and leave with new ideas for future upgrades.

Neal wanted some new photos for The Racers Line website, Facebook, and Instagram. He asked a group of customers with different colored FR-S and BRZ to show up, and I took some photos. Thanks to Neal for herding the 86s, and to Paul for the great behind the scenes photos.


Mendocino Trip and July 4th Parade

During a weekend trip up the coast, I gave my new Fuji X70 a workout by shooting the Mendocino July 4th parade. We also stopped at Fort Ross, scoped out a funky bar in Elk, hiked along the coast and in the woods, got a great tip about a Bart Prince house, went to a health food store in an old church, had dinner at the Ravens, and tried some amazing beers in Fort Bragg.


Night Photography: Nevada's Drive-Through Electronic Bombing Range

In a remote area of the Nevada desert is a Navy training range. Scattered amongst the remaining ruins of former ranches are tanks, trucks, cars and other simulated radar targets. Unlike the other closed training ranges in Nevada, this area is open to the public. No live bombs are dropped here during training, it's 100% electronic target practice. Driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere under a full moon and coming across a series of tanks in a field is a surreal experience. So is shooting all night and then using a tank as a windbreak at our campsite. Finding all of the vehicles and ruins in this area has been a fun night photography treasure hunt. After many hours looking at satellite views and two multiple day trips to the area, there's still a lot to explore.


Night photography: Post-apocalyptic fake villages built for military training

The full moon was bright enough to drive the Jeep down a dirt road with the lights out. It didn't matter, because there was nobody around for miles and miles. 

In a remote section of the Nevada desert, we found a series of simulated small villages for military training. Built in clusters, some of the structures featured courtyards with difficult access points and sight lines. One series of buildings had fake brick repairs, burn marks, and patched concrete. A simulated gas station featured pumps with printed gauges.

The metal containers and gates were creaking and banging in the wind. Moonlit clouds streaked by in an endless multi-layered Rorschach test. Perhaps we were near the pinnacle of paralleling the post-apocalyptic.


Tim Baskerville Interview: Photo Tours of Western Ireland

Burrishoole Friary, Newport, County Mayo, Ireland

Tim Baskerville is the founder of The Nocturnes, and has been teaching photography for 25 years. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a variety of night photography workshops with Tim, and highly recommend him as an instructor. 
Tim will be leading a Photo Tour of Western Ireland this year from October 10-20, 2016. Photographing Ireland, both day and night, is the subject of our interview below.

Joe: How long have you been leading photography trips to Ireland?

Tim: This will be my ninth or tenth journey to Ireland - mostly to my home base of Westport, in County Mayo - tho' I've travelled all over Ireland, on occasion. Amazing changes in the "Celtic Tiger" over the last decade or two - and yet, many things, especially in the West, remain much the same. Truly a magical place, where the landscape and history are deeply intertwined. The past is never far away, in Ireland.

Joe: I understand that you have a special connection with Ireland, and were granted dual citizenship a couple of years ago?

Tim: Ireland is a very special place for me - the home of my ancestors. My maternal grandfather was born in Ireland. Through a process known as Foreign Birth Registration, I applied for and was granted Irish Citizenship in 2014, and I now travel with an Irish Passport. 

Timescape, Newport House, County Mayo, Ireland

Joe: Do you currently have family in Ireland? When did you first visit?

Tim: I have cousins in Northern County Mayo. I’ve traveled many times to the area, starting in the 1980s - first as a participant in Workshops offered by Ron Rosenstock, the very photographer whose Hillcrest House we will be staying at during our fall 2016 workshop.

Joe: You and Ron Rosenstock have been friends a long time, right? Tell me more about his Hillcrest House.

Tim: Ron is an East Coast photographer who purchased Hillcrest House to host photography groups visiting Ireland. Ron and I go back almost 30 years - to workshops I took with him in the 1980s! Hillcrest House is a former bed & breakfast, registered with the Irish Tourist Board. Ron purchased Hillcrest House exclusively to accommodate photo groups, and its homelike quality adds to the relaxed atmosphere of the trip. 

My favorite feature of the house is the view from the sun-room and library (as well as a few of the bedrooms). You have a view of Croagh Patrick, which is Ireland's sacred mountain that’s named for St. Patrick, and the surrounding hills of Westport.

Joe: I really appreciate the style of travel where I’m integrated with the locals instead of staying in a generic hotel. Hillcrest House sounds fantastic. How is the food?

Tim: Hillcrest's wonderful cook Emmajane is a bit of a foodie, and fixes breakfast every morning. She also cooks a delicious hot dinner each evening. We'll have lunch at local restaurants and pubs along the way, or perhaps stop for a picnic.

The Aughagower Three, County Mayo, Ireland

Joe: Sounds fun. Are the Irish generally receptive to small photography tour groups?

Tim: The Irish are very friendly, welcoming people, and our group always enjoys visits to local artists’ studios, galleries, concerts, and the like. My thought on this “integration with the locals” is “to tour like you live there!”

Joe: Perfect. And there’s the pubs. I’m guessing you’ll spend a bit of time there.

Tim: Of course, the pubs! They serve as very efficient, local community centers, known to all. The fact that we enlist local musicians as guides/drivers, guarantees our group front row seats at traditional Irish music sessions. There is a great video on YouTube of Olcan Masterson on flute, and Cormac (Connie) Cullen on guitar. Two of the best Musicians/Drivers/Tour Guides in all of Ireland.

Joe: The scenery, music, food, and pubs all sound wonderful. How much formal photography instruction do you do on this trip?

Tim: This Photo Tour appeals to a broad base of photographers. I've come to the conclusion that the trip is not so much about teaching, tho' I'm certainly there to help in any way I can. These trips are more about experiencing the Irish countryside, history, people, and culture, with a group of like-minded photographers.

BVM sighting on the N59, County Mayo, Ireland

Joe: That sounds like a good approach. Focus on the landscape and culture first, and get help with your photos if you need it.

Tim: Yeah, this is a Photo Tour, rather than a Workshop, where my role is more like a tour guide, or interpreter, in a way. And of course, our Irish Guide/Driver is a great asset on the trip. It is really a cultural tour, which just happens to include a LOT of photography. We’ll even do some night photography, for those brave souls who are so inclined!

Joe: What are the logistics of getting to Western Ireland?

Tim: You would fly in to Shannon Airport, which is LOTS better than Dublin – a very civilized, nice pace. There, our Irish guide and I will meet up with the group, load everyone and their gear into our rather large 'Coach' that seats 12! We’ll go for a nice ride thru the countryside of the West of Ireland and up into Westport, County Mayo. We may even take a few "unscheduled f-stops", and have some photographic opportunities on the way!. The first day is largely a decompression day to get over jetlag, adjust to the new pace, note the exquisite light, etc. From then on, we're off and running!

Ballintubber Abbey, door, County Mayo, Ireland

Joe: Are there photos online from previous workshops?

Tim: Sure, for a taste of what awaits you, visually:

•    Work done on a previous trips, The Nocturnes in Ireland 2013 – 2014.
•    Participant Mike Quinn's testimonial and images from an earlier trip.
•    Some additional thoughts on Ireland.

Moher Lough, County Mayo, Ireland, Study 1

Joe: Where do interested photographers get more information about the Ireland tour? Who should they contact about signing up?

Tim: For detailed information about The Light of Ireland – October 10- 20, 2016 - visit Strabo Tours.

Joe: I understand you have a special print offer for early sign ups.

Tim: As an incentive, and a glimpse into the kind of imagery that awaits you in Ireland, we have a print offer. A free 10" x 15" Crystal Archive color print of Moher Lough, County Mayo, Study I (shown above). The print will be signed and window-matted to 16x20, and is a $300 value. Just submit your deposit before June 1, 2016.