He’s attended many events already this year, but one in particular triggered in Peter Bush some happy memories of his time in Yosemite
We’re halfway through the year, and I have already enjoyed a number of functions and exhibitions that have passed through New Zealand’s capital city. Leading the way in June was Exposure: The New Zealand
Photo Show, with many of the events carrying a free-entry tag. So, while it was on, I went down and checked out the very large The Wellington We Love wall of pictures — many of the prints showcasing sights and venues in the city I had never seen before.
Next, of course, was the must-see photographic trade show, which was held in conjunction with the NZIPP Infocus Conference. All the latest gleaming digital gear was on display, and it was all too much to take in during the limited time I had to browse, as, later that afternoon, I had an appointment at Westpac Stadium to witness the All Blacks play the touring Welsh side.
A week later, I was down at Wellington’s Academy Galleries for a gala opening of Environment: Celebration + Conservation, a photographic exhibition curated by Julie Nevett and Simon Woolf, to celebrate 100 years of American national parks and acknowledge the visual history, environment, and people of Wellington. This was an exhibition of stunning images, and a tribute to the many dedicated people who made it happen. Alongside the selection of large beautiful full-colour prints of American national-park landscapes were other collections celebrating Wellington’s own visual wonder. Photographer and publisher Graham Stewart had selected, from his vast number of files, 21 black-and-white prints of the city’s historic tram fleet, circa the 1950s, and top commercial photographer Nick Servian contributed four archival prints of the harbour and other scenes, all shot from his home up on the Brooklyn skyline. It was a truly memorable evening, the climax being a superb performance by Whim’s Rhythm, a group of young women a cappella singers on a world tour from Yale University.
For this exhibition, I had submitted two black-and-white prints from a time long ago in America when I worked in the Yosemite National Park as a part-time guide and room clerk. This was in 1953, during a stop on my youthful global wandering. One print is of a black bear cub and myself. The story behind the image is one I have often told, so please be patient with me … It was the end of May, and the snow covering the High Sierras was slowly melting. As it was my day off, I had hiked up to Glacier Point, which commands an inspiring view of the Yosemite Valley below and the high peaks of the Sierras surrounding it. Just out of the picture, I had set up my small stove and boiled the billy for tea. As I was enjoying a fat sandwich, I was suddenly joined at my lunch site by this half-grown bear cub. Not being overly familiar with bears of any size, I thought it wise to share part of my lunch, which I offered on the stick I am holding in the picture. The photograph was taken on my Rolleiflex with an f/3.5 lens mounted on a small tripod with a self-timer tripping the shutter.
Later in my stay, I saw a number of full-grown black bears — some of them proving to be a real nuisance as they raided the tents of staff and visiting tourists alike. A week after my encounter with the young bruin, I set off very early in the morning for an overly ambitious hike through the still–heavily snow-covered Sierras, my destination being a ranger’s base near the top of the local range. At times, I was floundering through waist-deep powdery snow, while, at other times, I strayed off the normally well-marked trail. Evening shadows were deepening when I finally spotted a lone light shining from a snow-covered cabin.
Relief would not do justice to my delight at reaching such a safe haven nor at the generosity of the ranger, who not only offered me the hospitality of his lodgings but continued to cook up a seemingly never-ending supply of pancakes with maple syrup for me to devour.
In the morning, amid a winter wonderland of snow-covered pines, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast. After finishing the meal, he switched on the radio and, a few moments later, we heard the electrifying news that a ‘Noo Zealander’ and a Sherpa had conquered Everest. When he mentioned Edmund Hillary as the climber and Tenzing Norgay as the guide, I could not help but tell him that I had met and photographed Ed back in Auckland while working at The New Zealand Herald. Not to be discouraged by myself, the ranger was soon on the radio to tell his mates that he had hosted one of Ed’s countrymen in his cabin that night.
My stay in Yosemite remains one of the happiest and most memorable periods of my life. I returned there in 2002 with my mate Gerry Evans to find many more tourists, but Half Dome and the other silent monoliths still cast the same shadows across that great Yosemite Valley.