The first night we arrived at Mono Lake it was past midnight and we were wiped. Absolutely done. So I knew there would be little chance of a sunrise shoot, especially considering that we had no idea where to go to shoot in the morning. Considering we had detoured that day to the Eureka Dunes (shots here) – one of my favorite places ever. I was pretty happy with the day’s efforts so I didn’t put up too much of a fight when no alarm clock was set.
The next afternoon, after a morning of diner breakfasts and hiking, looked promising in terms of texture in the sky. Being an avid hiker, I’ve always tried to keep weather in mind if I am planning on being outdoors, but when I’m somewhere I want to shoot if it’s outside, making sure I keep tabs on what the sky is doing is paramount. Sky without texture sucks, and makes a photograph boring. Maybe not all photographs, but I’d still prefer some texture. (Things I’ve learned!)
The other thing I’m big on, if you’ve read any earlier mishaps on this blog, is planning for the shot I want. Good examples of missed opportunities due to lack of planning here (first time I tried to take a photo of a water drop) and here (where lack of planning completely messed up the first time I saw a bear). I may not know exactly what I’m doing 90% of the time, but I’m trying. And being prepared is a huge part of that. And yes, that quality drives my girlfriend absolutely nuts. (More things I’ve learned!)
After a quick stop to the visitor’s center, we were all set to hit the south side of the lake shore, where the tufas are. Tufas are big mineral towers that formed underwater when the lake was at a higher elevation, before Los Angeles stole all the water. We called them Toofers the whole time, in homage to 30 Rock.) They make the formations that makes Mono Lake one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. It’s like being on the moon.
By the time the sun was giving us that sweet golden light, the clouds had all blown away so I was largely disappointed the first night EXCEPT for the shot below, and that Michele and I had a great time just laying on the beach of the lake at night looking up at the stars during long, 15 minute exposures. I don’t do that nearly enough, and it always reminds me of my dad when I do.
I had some technical difficulties the first night out – when the sun set I forgot to open my aperture all the way and was struggling with long exposures. (Things I still haven’t learned!) Note how the photo below is fuzzy and has a lot of noise. That’s because I was trying to do a long exposure shot with my aperture at f22.
The second night out was actually an accident. A very, happy, accident. We’d spent the day at Bodie Ghost Town and a Haunted Creepy Murder Ranch, and had plans to do something else that night when I noticed that around 6 pm it was still really warm out but that the wind had started to pick up out of the west off the sierra mountains, bringing cold moisture with it. This late in the day, still warm, plus a new eastern flowing wind. When that cold moisture hits the hot/warm landscape of the eastern plateau we get clouds, and this late in the day they will still be forming when the sun goes down which = colors at sunset. SCIENCE.
We hauled ass so hard to the other side of the lake and Michele was kind enough to let me grab what I needed and take off down to the shore (about a 3/4 mile haul from the parking lot) while she stayed at packed up coats and her heavier tripod (there is *no* running with that beast, which I learned here in this blog post in Sedona.) I literally ran/power walked as the sun was juuust about to set behind the mountains.
And I’m glad I did – I got everything I could have wanted out of Night 2. Full gallery of both nights below.