The Perfect Shot: A Man, a Moon, and a Thin Piece of Rope

Watch Dean Potter walk across a highline over Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National park while the moon rises in the background.

At approximately 10,911 feet high, Cathedral Peak in California’s Yosemite National Park is an outstanding pinnacle just off of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It derives its name from its square shape, having resisted erosion above the glaciers for centuries. It is also the setting of the spectacular video below.

Moonwalk by Bryan Smith is part of a National Geographic Channel series called The Man Who Can Fly. This particular scene features Dean Potter, a record-breaking climber who lives in Yosemite, walking on a highline between two enormous granite rocks. For over a year, Potter insisted that the moon would provide a stunning backdrop for the stunt, and convinced photographer Mikey Schaefer to capture the shot. Using a Canon 5D Mark II and an 800mm, f/5.6 lens with a 2X doubler as well as an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, Schaefer found the exact point where the moon would rise. He set himself up on an adjacent ridge 1.2 miles from Cathedral Peak at 7:30 p.m., affording him the perfect balance of exposure between Potter and the moon. In an interview with National Geographic, Schaefer describes the series of events that led to the shot of a lifetime:

The whole scenario seemed crazy ... I was over a mile away from my subject, who was walking a tightrope with certain death consequences if he fell. I was running through the woods with $20,000 worth of camera gear, making the most unique photo of my career. I'm still a bit amazed that I managed to stick the shot.

For more from National Geographic, visit their site

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Alessandra Ram is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic Video Channel. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy.

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