Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, revisited.

Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, revisited.

Caroline and Bob at Glacier Point, Sep 15, 2005, 7pm

6x7" Diapositive



Forensic astronomers from Texas State university were able to pinpoint the exact date and time of a picture by Ansel Adams: September 15, 1948, at 19:03. This exact same lunar constellation occurs every 19 years (also in 2024). Having read about that research in the L.A. Times in 2005 while installing an exhibition focused on the remake of the 1972 Munich Olympic games terrorist attacks, Draeger decided to engage in a new adventure, a possible new project to add to his research about the notion of the remake in contemporary art. He decided to visit Yosemite on 15 September 2005 for a re-creation of the famous 1948 image. There, witnessing the dramatic turn out, Draeger envisioned a conceptual exhibition project to commemorate the 2024 event. The project aims to showcase all photographs taken during the rare celestial event at Glacier Point by the various photographers present. Later, Draeger will compile the photographs together into a photo book, to be published by jb books&projects, Geneva.

The project is also a tribute to the legendary Ansel Adams, the renowned American photographer, celebrated for his iconic black and white landscape photography of the American West, particularly Yosemite, where he captured some of his most iconic images. Draeger plans to continue this initiative in 2043 and possibly 2062, offering a unique perspective on landscape changes in times of unprecedented climatic pressure, while honouring Ansel Adams's legacy as an early environmentalist.


Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is considered one of the most influential photographers in the history of photography. One of Adams' works, “Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point”, shot in Yosemite National Park featuring a waxing gibbous Moon rising over mountains of the Clark Range in the Southeast, is particularly celebrated. His photographs of Yosemite helped to raise awareness of its natural beauty and played a significant role in the conservation, preservation, and appreciation of the Yosemite Area.

However, as young Adams was partly inspired by the Transcendentalist ideas of individuality and direct union with God in nature, it should not be left out that “Go West - Young Men!” was the slogan of a colonising movement, robbing the earth from the indigenous people in the American West. The creation of the first US national parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone in the late 1800s aligns with the colonisers’ obsession to preserve parts of the colonised land in a «virgin» state. Focusing on conservation's impact on local inhabitants, Karl Jacoby traces in his book “Crimes against Nature Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation” the effect of criminalising such traditional practices as hunting, fishing, foraging, and timber cutting in the newly created national parks.

It is planned that these, and other aspects like potentially negative effects of tourism and traffic will be examined in a critical text by Joerg Bader, who will also be the publisher of the book. 

Research from Texas State University

In 2005, a team of astronomers at Texas State University, San Marcos, applied their unique brand of forensic astronomy to Adams's Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, shedding new light on the celestial scene. Texas State physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, along with Mitte Honors students Kara Holsinger, Louie Dean Valencia, and Ashley Ralph, published their findings in the October 2005 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine.

This analysis revealed a curious mistake that Adams made during bookkeeping. Adams kept detailed notes on the technical aspects of his photographs but information about the location, date, and time of his images was often incomplete or contradictory. Such is the case with "Autumn Moon" for which Adams gave the date as 1944, while other sources  listed it already as from 1948.

After consulting lunar tables, topographic maps, weather records, and astronomical software, the Texas State researchers determined that Adams created Autumn Moon on Sept. 15, 1948, at 7:03 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Additionally, the team determined that Adams had set up his tripod just off the trail below the stone Geology Hut at Glacier Point, pinpointing the location to within 10 feet. During the research, Olson stumbled across a unusual color version of Autumn Moon, published in the July 1954 issue of Fortune magazine, taken during the same session at 7:01 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, roughly 2½ minutes prior to the black-and-white version — just enough time for Adams to change the film holder and adjust the settings on his camera. In this period, Adams was working with Kodak to test new color film developments.

15 Sept 2005

For fans of Adams's photography, 2005 offered a rare opportunity to relive the scene of Autumn Moon — both color and black-and-white versions. That year, the progression of 19-year-long lunar Metonic cycles coincided for the third time with that of 1948 — meaning that skywatchers at Glacier Point were in for a celestial encore. "We do have lots of people showing up at Glacier Point for every full Moon," park ranger Dick Ewart explained. "But it's never been like this. Perhaps there will be a similar gathering on September 15, 2024, when the Sun and Moon will once again create the same memorable scene." Christoph Draeger was among those on Glacier Point in Yosemite on September 15, 2005, for the recreation of the Ansel Adams photograph. As everybody else was busy taking their own personal Ansel Adams picture, Draeger was focusing his camera on the gathering of hundreds of fans rather than trying his hand on a remake, creating the photo featured above.

It was only days later that he had the idea for a conceptual exhibition project: to showcase the photographs taken by all, or as many photographers as possible, in that moment. Too late. Since it was not possible to track down more than a handful possible participants, he decided to postpone the project to 2024. He also decided that he will be focusing on publishing a photo book as the main output, to go together with a possible later exhibition. With jb books&projects, Geneva., he has found a publisher committed to print, publish, and distribute the book.´

This future book, and the exhibition will feature many a slight variant of the same picture - all by different authors, making it one of the most radical approaches to the topic of the “Remake” seen to date. Here, Walter Benjamins theory of the loss of aura of the painted or sculpted art work through the photographic reproduction could be applied in relation to the mass of photographic representation of the Yosemite landscape. Draeger’s future collection of photographs of “Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point” shot at the same moment can be also seen as a metaphor of the hundred of millions of digital photographs shot and published every day all over the globe replacing the photographed object by its streamed reproduction.

The Event: 15 Sep, 2024

Next September 15, exactly four Metonic cycles will have passed since Adams photographed a waxing gibbous Moon rising over the Clark Range, presenting a scene that will closely duplicate the one in 1948. This is a unique, once-in-nineteen-years opportunity for any fan of Ansel Adams to join Christoph Draeger and his team to visit Yosemite, and have their picture published in a photo book.

Like in 2005, even the direction of sunlight and shadows will be repeated, so whoever plans to make a remake should come to Glacier Point when the Moon's position will match the Adams photographs at 6:52 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on September 15th. The balance of light between the rising Moon, the setting Sun and the shadows in the foreground mountains will last for just a few seconds and will provide a rare opportunity to share Ansel Adams's experience from half a century ago.

The team plans to catalyse interest for this event with social media, to make sure that many photographers will know about the event. Christoph Draeger and his team also make a commitment to continue the project in different form in 2043, and if possibly, 2062, when he will be 97 years old. This kind of epic time span may reveal some dramatic changes to this celebrated landscape due to climate change. Draeger hopes to draw attention to the many challenges nature faces, and at the same time honour the memory of Ansel Adams, who was one of the world’s earliest and most prominent environmentalists.

(Thanks to Meherwan Patel for co-writing this text)



Caroline at Glacier Point, Sep 15, 2005, 6:50 pm, to the right: her resulting picture


The project was originally planned to be presented at the Centre de la Photographie in Geneva, where Joerg Bader (jb books and projects) was the director until recently. As a preview, I created the performance-lecture-video "Getting To The Point" for the exhibition OSMOSCOSMOS at CdG, curated by Joerg Bader in 2019.