One of the best things about living in a National Park are the random things that fall into your plate just because you’re around. I got a call Tuesday afternoon – did I know anyone that would be interested in helping out a photographer/friend by setting up a time-lapse shot and hanging around to watch over it a bit? Um. Yes. Me.
But I wanted company, so I wrangled Tom into coming with me too. (By wrangled, I mean, I asked if he would be interested, and he immediately said yes. It was not one of those long, drawn-out wrangling session.) We set the alarm for 4:15am, and arrived at the trailhead by 5am. That might seem painfully early, but I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to get up pre-dawn in anticipation of some small adventure. It’s been 5-6 long years since we were happily ticking off long Yosemite climbing routes on a regular basis, and compared to that, our 4:15 alarm was a relaxed start.
We arrived at the trailhead just after 5am, and it was already light enough that, although we brought headlamps, we didn’t need to turn them on for the hike. The light made the hiking easy, but I started to worry that we were already too late to catch the first rays of morning, and tried to hike a little faster. To be clear – this isn’t “our” photograph. The idea, location, camera, and all the expertise belongs to the amazing photographer, Corey Rich, who was in the Valley but was elsewhere on assignment. We followed his detailed instructions on how to set up the camera, (1/500, f8.0, 20mm, focus, ISO200, every 10sec.) and then crossed our fingers. I was really hoping that we hadn’t missed the beginning light.
Tom and I shared a relieved and somewhat surprised look when we took the first image and it looked purely, substantially, and entirely black. Huh. Corey had warned us that he’d set the exposure for daylight, and that we would be able to see much more than the camera in the morning, but we still double checked that we hadn’t done something truly boneheaded, like leave the lens cap on or something. All systems seemed to be go. Given how much light we already thought there was, we decided that we weren’t going to be able to eyeball when light would start to appear on the sensor, and started taking the time-lapse images at 5:30am so we wouldn’t miss anything (sunrise was supposed to be 5:41am).
It was wonderful hanging out on the ledge early in the morning. Bird song filled the air, and as the camera clicked away, Tom and I settled into having a little breakfast. No need to skimp – we brought granola and yogurt and whipped out the Caldera Keg that the Neighborhood Ultralight Backpacking Guy gave us to brew up some tea.
It’s not camping – but having breakfast on a granite ledge and using a stove to brew up some hot drinks was enough to give me that same feeling of being out and away from it all. It occurs to me that this very spot is on my commute from our place in Yo West, and only about 10 minutes from the road. I could do this EVERY morning if I wanted to. Well, the breakfast part anyway, not the time-lapse images part.
After breakfast, Tom got a little work done, and I hung out and wrote in my journal (yes, the one that’s on paper that nobody gets to read). Watching him typing away so peacefully on his laptop, I realized that Corey had managed a cell phone conversation from this very spot the night before. If the reception gods were with us, we could actually work from this spot if we had a PC wireless card or some other system to hook our computers to cell service. Now, that would be an office situation to envy!
All that, AND we managed a short run before we had to leave. I’d made a plan to meet some friends for a morning session of photography with the Canon Photography in the Parks folks. Not a bad morning. (I did go to work, by the way, and worked an 8+ hour day too – but that all happened AFTER.)