Turning Digital Night to Day

Julian, my eight year old, and I went on a camping trip for most of this last week. We started in Yosemite Valley, staying in a tent at Camp Curry for several nights.

This year there are many visitors from Europe and Asia in the national parks. It’s amazing how chic these people look, even in an environment as inhospitable to chic as Camp Curry – particularly the French and Italian women.

Camp Curry is run by the park concessionaire that runs all the businesses in Yosemite Park, Delaware North Corporation. This company has nothing to do with either the State of Delaware or the direction North. It is named after a street intersection in Buffalo, New York, and manages to both be incredibly smarmy (running advertorials lauding its environmental practices in front of “campfire” presentations), to serve food that is memorably awful, have zilch in the way of customer service, and be unable to keep its restrooms from becoming filthy – hence my surprise at the aptitude European women have at staying chic.

But Julian loves the place. He gets to run around, explore, and climb all the rocks that are between the tents. He likes sleeping in the canvas tents (actually, a rather filthy cross between a tent and a cabin). Oh, to be eight again and have a brave new world to explore!

We checked in pretty late Sunday night, and spent Monday hiking (up the Yosemite Falls trail), in the swimming pool, and swimming in the Merced River (the Valley temperatures were in the 90s). In the late afternoon, we got in the car and toodled up to Glacier Point (it is about an hour drive).

First, we stopped along the way, and fixed a Mountain House dinner on my camp stove. Thus fortified, we found a spot a few feet from the three thousand foot drop-off to the valley. Julian was cool as a cucumber, but it made me a little nervous to see him sitting so calmly close to the brink.

I set my camera on the tripod, and read “Half Magic” by Edgar Eager to Julian as we waited for the sunset.

The thing that really surprised me about the photo above and the one below is that I took them after dark. These photos are probably only really possible with digital technology.

Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

By the time I took both pictures, everything was pretty completely dark. I had the Nikon D70 set on Aperture preferred metering with the lens stopped way down – f/25. Exposures were long, two seconds in one case, four in the other.

Now here’s where it gets weird. Basically, when you open the camera RAW files of these photos in Photoshop, the default settings in the CS2 conversion dialog makes them look like washed-out daylight shots. I had to fiddle with the conversion settings quite a bit to get them to look like sunset, let alone the almost-darkest-night which was the way it really looked.

We didn’t leave Glacier Point until about 10PM. Julian fell asleep during thr ride back down to the Valley. When we got back to Camp Curry, I got him up and he walked to our tent. In the morning, he didn’t remember waking up – just watching the sunset at Glacier Point.

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