On our last trip to Mono county, I convinced my wife to spend some time at south tufa of Mono Lake. This is one location we have been to many times but never completely satisfied me. First we visited we were passing through en route to Oregon, second time we forgot our tripod and the third time sky was absolutely overcast. Which was again the case this time when we visited as the sunset drew closer the sky became cloudier and it started pouring. I was a little disappointed and we started walking back with most people but half way through the trek back we saw the storm clearing and rushed back to the shore and this was what we were greeted with.
The sky was absolutely dramatic with rain pillars in the middle of the lake and sunset happening to the left along with an almost still water offering perfect reflections. I had a field day shooting many shots and this one is a stitch panorama shot made of about 8 images. Thanks for visiting hope you all enjoy the image.
USA 2011 - Monolake
USA 2011 - Monolake
On our recent trip to the Bishop/Mammoth lakes area, I had a chance to add a quick visit to the south tufa beach during sunset. I have a bit of history with the place and have never missed an opportunity to visit. The sunset light was gorgeous on this day, but it was a rare clear day. If you are not familiar with the area, golden hour cloud formations tend to be quite dramatic due to the Tioga pass nearby. As I walked towards the tufa formations, I noticed that the sunset colors were intense by the horizon but quickly became softer at higher elevations. To take full advantage of the colors and cut the sky as much as possible, I switched to my 70-200mm lens. It was one of those rare windless days at the lake with water mimicking glass, and I wanted to include it in my image. After a bit of frantic searching, I came across this swooping curve on the coastline, and the whole scene looked perfect.
Composing with a telephoto lens is often tricky, and when you add the constrain of quickly dying light, the process often comes down to luck. Thankfully I remembered that I had a leveling base on my tripod head and set up a quick pano shot. I was hoping that I got all the images in good focus and that the light was consistent. Thankfully everything came together perfectly, and I love the results.
South Tufa beach at Mono Lake has always been a tourist attraction. People flock there to see the tufa formations and to marvel at the alkaline lake. While I find the lake fascinating and the wildlife fascinating, the main attraction that held my interest has always been the mountain surrounding the lake and epic sunsets and sunrises that always guaranteed at this location. The reason for the spectacular sky is the nearby Tioga pass, that causes the wind to whip the clouds around. So, whenever we pass through the area, I always make it a point to stop by for either or a sunset or sunrise.
The usual sunrise shoot involves a good bit of planning but with Mono lake, the tufa formations and lake often provide interesting framing options. And the mountains surrounding the lake provide a canvas for the sun to light up. Usually, the lakes are at their calmest in the morning, but I have never seen calmness in the water here. The pass often has strong winds and early morning is no exception to that rule. Since a reflection shot was out of question, I tried to compose a simple shot of the mountains and the morning sky with the tufa formations and the choppy lake as the foreground interest.
Panorama photos were one of the best possibilities of digital cameras when they came around. I had tried my luck in panorama photography while I had an SLR, but it rarely ever worked out. One of my most popular photographs online is a wide pano image of LA under an epic sunset sky. That shot was taken at 70 mm focal length, and I loved creating stitched panorama images at telephoto focal lengths, But somewhere along the line, I stopped making them due to their cumbersome nature. Getting a good level panorama shot is extremely difficult at tele focal lengths.
Over the years, I have realized that it all comes to the tripod head. My first tripod head had a panning function on the top close to the clamp, and I switched to a more traditional ball head later, which panned close to the base. At the time, I didn’t know this, but panning close to the base is not good. This essentially limits you to making panoramas only when the camera is level. And unless you want a lot of sky in the image, that’s not an optimal scenario. Then I got introduced to something called a leveling base, which was a revelation. Leveling bases usually go under the tripod head and allow you to quickly level the tripod without meddling with the legs too much. Once you have a level base, you can frame the shot by moving the ballhead in any way you please because the panning axis will be level when used with a traditional ballhead with bottom-level panning. It makes life much easier, and taking telephoto panoramas is a breeze.
Recently, while at Mono lake during sunset, the sky was incredible, but there were no clouds, so I wanted to compose my panorama image with minimal sky. All I had to do was set up the leveling base, mount the camera in portrait orientation, find the right focal length, and shoot away.
I have always had a fascination towards astrophotography and whenever I get the time. Often it's difficult to convince the missus to stay well past sunset in the cold waiting for the stars to rise. During our last trip to Mono Lake, I bargained with my wife to spend a night shooting the stars. This time I was smart to employ her as an active participant. So this shot was taken by her while I ran around and light painted the pirate ship tufa formation. She was super excited and spend time worrying about the shot rather than the cold. All in all a happy wife happy life story.
So after getting some cool shots at the hot creek geological site during sunrise, which I posted earlier, we decided to head to Mono Lake for sunset. Now the first time I was at Mono Lake was when we passed through the area on our first northern California trip. We actually stopped right at noon so being the high desert we didn’t had much luck getting any decent shots. But we were floored by the stunning beauty of the place. Fortunately we got many opportunities to comeback to this stunning location and witness some of the best sunset and sunrise skies at this location. But very rarely did those translate to good shots forgotten tripods, sudden desert storms, heavy traffic and other nuisances often messed with a decent photography experience here.
So this time I wanted to be fully prepared and we did manage to get to the location well in advance for sunset. I tested some compositions and were ready for the sunset sky. My wife, who is by now an expert on sunset conditions, was not very hopeful as huge clouds were making the sky very dull and grey and soon the sun went under behind the tall peaks of the Sierra. I was about to abandon hope and leave when the sky suddenly burst out in vivid pink, orange and red hues, painting the clouds in all kinds of colors and shapes imaginable. I used the lee big stopper to bring the water to stillness and a 2 stop grad to get some colors on the sky. Almost 4 years since buying the D800, it still blows me away with how much details it can gather if you do even a half decent job of exposing the shot.
I have waited for a long time to post this image. I took this shot in the summer of 2015 during a trip to the eastern sierras. This location is called the south tufa beach and this spot is easily reached from the parking lot. On this day as we were driving to the Mono Lake area suddenly, it started pouring. The strong winds immediately cleared out the rain and suddenly we saw a huge rainbow to the roadside. We parked the car to the roadside and took a couple of shots. While taking the images we realized that there were, in fact, three rainbows. We were excited to see the rainbows, but I was wishing for a slightly more interesting landscape.
So, after the rainbows, we kept on driving to Mono Lake and lugged our gear to the coast and then the skies opened up again. We were the only people who braced the torrential downpour and decided to stay. Thankfully the rain stopped soon, and the skies cleared up allowing the sun to flood the scene with some warm light. This also gave me my second chance of the day to see beautiful rainbows. I saw this beautiful double rainbow above the tufa formations of Mono Lake which much more intense colors were than the ones before. This time they also formed right above a stunning landscape scene, so I did have all my prayers answered. This entire scene only lasted a couple of minutes and was truly one of the most magical moments I have ever seen.
Had the amazing opportunity to hangout with one of my favourite photographers, Beboy Photographies: www.flickr.com/photos/beboy_photographies/, at...
Another sunrise shot, this time it’s a short crop of the beautiful glow on top of the Sierra Nevada peaks as the first light of the day hit them. It’s a sight I will never grow tired of and always feels like the reward for waking up so early. This particular day was very windy and cold, we were in no way prepared for the chill but stick it out and were rewarded with this view. I have seen this quite a few times now but every time it’s different and every time I was rendered speechless.
Since the wind was strong that day, the water was very choppy and basically took away any opportunity for a reflection, so I focused entirely on the mountain in the background and just used the lake as a foreground interest.
An old shot from our trip to the stunning Mono Lake. We were lucky to see an awesome sunrise but forgot to pack our tripod which we realized only once we were at the location. So I decided to wing it and do the shots handheld by hiking up the iso of my D800. Needless to say I only got a few shots that were usable and I had to do a lot of noise cancellation work on them to get half way decent images. But this shot was one of the better shots of the day. Hope you all like it..
For the weekend after my wife’s birthday she wanted to go somewhere where we could see some stars and fall colors. Since we lived in Los Angeles we decided to pack up and head towards Mono County. After living in New England, California Fall colors are not very exciting but to quote Forrest Gump “In the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It's so beautiful.
We had such a hectic week before the trip that I forgot to pack my tripod, so high iso and hand held was the only option for this sunrise shot which was taken at the South Tufa Beach of Mono Lake. We had a spectacular sunrise with colors and amazing cloud formations. Thanks for visiting hope everybody enjoys the shot.
Another shot from the beautiful sunrise we witnessed at the South Tufa Beach region of Mono Lake. This one was taken a little later than the photo I previously posted so I had better results handheld. This was actually one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen and had some really vivid colors that one usually associates with sunsets.
I think I am getting a bit obsessed with this area due to the stunning golden hour light you get in this area and clear beautiful star studded skies. Hopefully next time I will remember my tripod. Thanks for visiting hope everyone enjoyed the shot.
One of the star pics from our trip to Eastern Sierra. As always I didn't have much of a plan and just decided to stay after a lack luster sunset to see if we will have any luck with the stars. I got a decent shot of the stars above the pirate ship but as we started walking towards the parking lot, we noticed the milky way core rising above the eastern side directly above the parking lot.
So we went up and I set up the camera above some of the tufa formations and the paved hiking paths. I liked how the Milkyway got rendered from this angle. Hopefully next time I am more prepared.
This one is an old shot from our Mono Lake trip, taken during an amazingly vivid sunrise. We have been to this location twice now and both times we simply didn’t have enough time to properly capture the beauty of this amazing place. Being from a more tropical and green location, it was initially very difficult for me to see the beauty of a desert and I am glad it was my trips to Mono County and Death valley National park that changed my attitudes towards these wonderful arid locations.
Mono Lake for sunrise is a very popular destination for many landscape photographers especially around the South Tufa area and there are locations, after a short walk, will provide you with a thousand different compositions. So far I haven’t had time to explore any more locations around the area but I hope I would be able to remedy that this year. Thanks for visiting and have a nice day.
Another stitch Panorama shot from Mono Lake basin. This one was taken just after sunrise and since I didn’t have my trusty tripod with was taken hand held. I am just realizing how helpful my arca swiss tripod head is in making Panorama stitches. I had to take so many shots to get this stitch and it still didn’t come out as sharp as I usually like. I wanted to condemn this image for facebook or instagram but sheer beauty of the location and the perfect sunrise is why I overlook my own skepticism and post it in flickr.
Hope everybody likes it..