A Night at Mono Lake

So after rejoicing in the fact that I survived the trip to Bonsai Rock, we headed off to Mono Lake where we were going to spend the night and wait for sunrise.  Mono Lake is situated in the high Sierras on the eastern side of California.

Mono Lake Basin is situated at an elevation of 6,382 feet and is a high desert surrounded by mountain peaks.  The water of Mono lake, which has no outlet, is approximately 3 times more salty than the ocean and about 80 times more alkaline.

The lake is one of the oldest in North America at 760,000 years old.  One of the stunning features (at least for photographers) is the Tufa (toofah) towers that have formed at various points around the lake.

The towers are a result of the interaction between freshwater and the alkaline water of the lake.  Calcium in the fresh water reacts with the carbonate within the lake as it bubbles out of ancient springs forming these limestone formations.  These towers were formed hundreds and sometimes thousands of years ago.

As the lake level had dropped over time, these amazing works of nature were revealed resulting in an alien landscape.

The towers provide wonderful subjects for landscape photography.

While I’ve never been in the summertime, I can say for sure that winter time at the lake is a special time to visit.

You’re all but guaranteed to find yourself some serious alone time out there.  I say almost as a fellow photographer happened along, long after dark, giving my wife a small scare.  (too many horror movies I think) Instead of an ax murderer though, I happened to meet Peter the photographer who had the same idea as I did on a perfect, bitter-cold night.

Did I mention bitterly cold?  It was a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although I must say, it was the warmest 9 degrees I had ever experienced.  It was a dry cold!!  Non-existent humidity (nevermind the 6 inches of snow on the ground) and very little wind.

The wife was paranoid that I was going to walk out to take pictures and disappear into the cold darkness.  No such luck.  Peter and I did experiment with quite a few different long exposure shots trying to balance the excess light from the setting crescent moon while getting some good star trails.  Having someone to chat with during the 40 minute exposures definitely made the night go by faster.

Ultimately Peter left to  find refuge at a nearby hotel while Amy and I decided to live on the wild side and slept in the car in the parking lot.  Didn’t seem worth it to find a hotel room or set up the tent for only a couple hours as the real mission was to catch sunrise at the lake.

Anyways, that story is for the next post.  For this one, here is the best image from the night of star trail shots. This one at the Southern portion of the lake.  It’s a little brighter than I had wanted, but overall I like.  I hope you do too.

Canon 5d Mk II, ISO 250, Canon 16-35L MkII @ 18 mm, f5, 2336 sec.

One Response to “A Night at Mono Lake”

  1. Tom's Wife says:

    And this shot is GREAT! It was definitely worth sleeping in the car. And actually, I stayed pretty warm and comfortable in the car anyway.

Leave a Reply

See also: