Mono Lake, California
Mono Lake is one of those must see places if you’re a photographer. Must see at sunrise, must see at sunset and must see at 3:30 a.m.! It really is a spectacular place that is gifted with amazing light. There are odd formations along the south shore called tufas which are basically mineral deposits that form vertically. As the lake recedes, they are exposed making for a landscape that is straight from a Dr. Suess book. For photographers, they form infinite compositions and are a blast to shoot.
When I first arrived, the weather was cold and rainy with low clouds hugging the lake and mountains. I chose not to shoot much at the lake thinking the clouds wouldn’t produce the images I had in mind. The shots I did take were very moody with dark clouds and a somewhat angry looking scene. This didn’t reflect my mood at the time at all so I passed on shooting much more. It looked a little too dark and not reflective of the happiness I was feeling.
As the storm passed the skies cleared and I planned my days around waking up really early (3:00 a.m.) and limited my time of evening shots. The area can be fairly windy so the evenings generally produced rough waters. Again, not quite the images I was was seeking. Mornings however, brought still water, beautiful light and far less people. I was amazed to find another headlamp wandering around the shoreline when I arrived at 3:30! Hope they got some sweet star pics! Us photographers keep weird hours;)
I was hoping for some shots with the intense Milky Way and sunrise colors but sleepiness and my lack of experience shooting at night combined to make shooting difficult. I never nailed my focus on any images. So it goes I guess! At least I was there for the full pre-dawn experience for a few days and came away with images that exceeded what I thought I’d find.
Lastly, there’s one more complication to shooting still scenes at Mono Lake: birds. The silence and serenity I feel in the images is quite opposite what the places actually sounds like. It’s really, really loud. Mono Lake is home (or a rest stop) for millions of birds and the lake provides ample food and habitat while migrating north and south. You know that sound of a chirping bird at sunrise? Multiply that by a million. More than a few images were disrupted by birds swimming though my viewfinder! Silly wildlife.
Mono Lake should be on your list of places to shoot when in California despite its popularity. I felt my photography skills grew from shooting only 3 days there and I’ll definitely be back. Go early though, really early and bring extra coffee and a headlamp. You won’t be disappointed.