Mono lake sunrise

Click to Enlarge

There’s something really special about watching a brilliant sunrise and having the area all to yourself. It’s like nature is putting on a personal show, just for you.

Most of use spend our lives during daylight hours. While we might be awake for the sunrise, we seldom see it because we’re in the house preparing for the day. A few years ago I took a nephew along for a sunrise shoot at [wikipop]Lake Tahoe[/wikipop]. He’d never seen anything like it and I hope that it’s a memory that he won’t soon forget.

This particular morning was in mid November a couple of years ago at [wikipop]Mono Lake.[/wikipop] The town of Lee Vining had all but shut down for the season, the tourists were gone and it was cold. My wife and I left the boy sleeping in the motel room and headed out to Black Point. It’s off the beaten path and generally free from the hordes of photographers that plaque the South Tufa area. It was still quite dark when we arrived and the air was crisp and calm. I could already see that we were going to be in for a show as just a hint of light started to appear on the Eastern horizon.

Shooting sunrise is always a challenge because of the speed that the lighting conditions change. I had my pockets stuffed with my full arsenal of Singh-Ray split-grads and knew that I was going to have to use them. The story in the image was very clearly the color in the sky. The shapes in the foreground added visual motion but this image was all about color. I knew that the dynamic range was beyond that which my camera was capable of so I used a 2 stop split-grad to bring down the sky. I metered on the foreground rocks and set my camera two stops below the meter reading to render the foreground black. The result was an exposure of 1/6th second at f/11 and ISO 100.

A little over a week from now I’ll be in the area again with Gary. While I won’t be completely alone, I’m hoping for the personal show once again.