Yosemite and me

Double Rainbow, Yosemite Valley

Double Rainbow, Yosemite Valley
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
1/5 second
ISO 100
38 mm

My relationship with Yosemite doesn’t have a beginning or end. Rather, it’s a collection of asynchronous memories that are still forming. In fact, some of my Yosemite experience actually predates my memory. The earliest memories, like following bobbing flashlights to Camp Curry to watch the Firefall spring from Glacier Point, or warm evenings in lawn chairs at the garbage dump, waiting for the bears to come to dinner, are part of the glue that bonds my family.

My father was a serious amateur photographer who shared his own relationship with Yosemite. One of my most vivid Yosemite memories is (foolishly) standing atop Sentinel Dome in an electrical storm, extending an umbrella to shield his camera while he tried to photograph lightning.

Gary Hart Photography: My first workshop

Lecturing my first workshop group on the virtues of tripod use

As I grew older, I started creating my own memories. While exploring Yosemite’s backcountry I reclined beside gem-like lakes cradled in granite basins, sipped from streams that started the day as snow, and slept beneath an infinite canopy of stars—all to a continuous soundtrack of wind and water.

Given this history, it’s no surprise that I became a nature photographer, using my camera to try to convey the essence of this magic world. In the last 35 years my camera and I have returned more times than I can count, sometimes leaving home in the morning and returning that night, eight hours of driving for a six hour fix. Other trips span multiple days, each one starting before sunrise and lasting through sunset, and sometimes well into the night. But despite the fact this is my livelihood, it’s never work.

About ten years ago I started guiding photographers through Yosemite. Now I get to live vicariously through others’ excitement as they experience firsthand the beauty they’ve previously seen only in pictures. Many of these people return many times themselves, sometimes in other workshops, sometimes on their own. Either way, I’m proud to be a catalyst for their nascent relationship with this special place, and know that they’ll spread the love to others in their lives.

Of course I’ve seen lots of change while accumulating my Yosemite memories. Gridlock is a summer staple, the bears have been separated (with moderate success), the Firefall has been extinguished, and backpacking requires permits, water purifiers, and bear canisters. And now there are rumblings that some of the park’s cherished names—The Ahwahnee, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, Yosemite Lodge—will be lost to corporate greed. But despite human interference, Yosemite’s soaring granite and plummeting waterfalls are magnificent constants, a vertical canvas for Nature’s infinite cycle of season, weather, and light.

(An earlier version of this essay appears on my website)

Join me in Yosemite

My Yosemite

Click an image for a closer look, and a slide show. Refresh the screen to reorder the display.

14 Comments on “Yosemite and me

  1. Thank you for sharing your early memories, creating a backdrop to your vision and artistry. Sandi

  2. What a wonderful post, Gary. Sharing your early years makes your passion for Yosemite even clearer. Those early childhood experiences make lifelong impressions. I love this set of images– some of my favorites.

  3. My first time in Yosemite was in 1960. Such a different place back then. Still a wonderful and beautiful place.

  4. I would love to have each picture as wallpaper in my house….one for each wall……

    • Thanks, Gayathri. A volcano is the comparison that’s most often made for Horsetail Fall, but it’s actually a small waterfall on the side of El Capitan in Yosemite. It turns this color for a few minutes at sunset in February, when the light is just right. Thousands of people try to photograph it each day.

      • It was sooper to see it… actually thought it was a volcano

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