Mono Lake – Add to Your Bucket List
Mono Lake is on every photographers bucket list and if it’s not, it should be. It is true that Mono Lake is heavily photographed and very popular with the landscape crowd. This should not deter you from shooting there for one simple reason: Mono Lake is incredible!
I was lucky to be there during some great shooting conditions with an exiting storm and light winds. Mornings were calm and peaceful and the limestone Tufa Towers make for some interesting compositions. If you get to the lake early, you can also see an incredible light show from the stars. There is minimal light pollution and the Milky Way is vivid and seemingly close. I’m not much of a Milky Way photographer though, but I did arrive extra early to see the full transition from night to morning. This is the best time of “day” to capture balanced light behind the contrasting odd silhouettes.
To get there early, like 3:45 a.m. early, I decided to camp nearby so I could sleep in 5 minutes longer. Those 5 minutes don’t really matter though because 3:15 or 3:20 a.m. is still really, really early! So all you have to do is wait for calm weather, get up really early and find a composition that speaks to you and you can get a crazy cool image. There’s one problem with this. Actually, 100,000+ problems. Mono Lake is a HUGE bird refuge and there are thousands of birds everywhere! I had one whole morning shoot “ruined” because of wildlife.
Besides the actual lake, there are many shooting opportunities around this geologically diverse area. There are unusual colors throughout the landscape with much exploring to be had. The entire area is covered with pumice and driving off-road can be tricky. I attempted to drive around the lake on pumice/dirt roads but I’ll save that for a motorcycle adventure:)
Lastly, this place challenged me photographically and many important lessons were learned. Despite Mono Lake’s popularity and crowds of photographers I’ll definitely be back to shoot there again. I’ve already envisioned a few images from browsing my shots from this area. One bit of advice, go before they open Tioga Pass that connects Yosemite National Park. It’s like a floodgate.
I’ve got one more post from the Sierras in a few days in which I’ll talk about the most amazing experience in nature that I’ve had in my life, hands down. I’ve posted about it before so we’ll see what months of hindsight and a different eye produces.