Mono Lake Night Photography Continued


Karen got this shot of me before the sun went down at the South Tufas on Mono Lake.

During our last visit to Mono Lake, about two weeks ago, I was mainly focused on night shooting in Bodie. I was attending a night photography workshop that gave us special access to the ghost town after regular visiting hours. This was excellent, but didn't give me enough time to visit the rest of the Mono Lake area, including the South Tufas. So after spending about a week in the Carson City/Lake Tahoe area, we returned to Mono and continued where we left off.

We spent the first couple nights shooting the South Tufas, which are interesting-looking limestone rock formations that grow out of the water in certain parts of the lake. I experimented both with flashlights and speedlights firing through colored gels.

Mono Lake-1

This is one of the results of my light-painting nights at the South Tufas.

Now while we're on the Tufas topic, I want to mention something cool that happened when we were there. While we were scouting our shooting spot one night at the lake, we ran into another photographer with a passion for night photography. He was working on some time lapse sequences and we struck up a conversation about it. Before he left, we exchanged business cards and continued shooting. We didn't get back to the bus until late that night, and while I was waiting for my images to load I looked up the photographer's web site. And HOLY COW was he good! Karen and I spent a good amount of time looking at his stuff and marvelling over the amazing time lapse "movies" he had up there. We highly recommend you check him out. His name is Jeff Chen, he's based out of San Francisco, and his site is It was nearly two in the morning, but we figured we'd shoot him an e-mail on the off chance he'd want to meet for breakfast. Not only did we meet for breakfast, but we met up a few random times during the next three days, talking photography and visiting the local gallery. Isn't it just awesome the way things can happen like that? Now we're looking forward to visiting him in San Francisco later this summer.


The MINI and the Milky Way

Anyway, during our week in the Mono Lake area, the moon was almost nonexistant, and the Milky Way showing up really well. It was my first time shooting the Milky Way, and I would have rathered be shooting with my 5D Mark II, which dove off a waterfall last week (see previous post), but I was happy with the image I got, shown above. (The MINI was actually lit with my iPhone.)


The Bristlecone Pines, the oldest trees in the world!

After shooting a few nights in a row at Mono, we headed south to where the Bristlecone Pines were. These trees are among the oldest organisms on the planet, some of them over 4,000 years old! We did a little light-painting there, but there were other photogs with the same idea, because we found ourselves jockeying for a tripod position. We didn't stay too long, and the above image is what I ended up with.

Alabama Hills Lightpaint_0000_Layer Comp 4

Alabama Hills Lightpaint_0001_Layer Comp 2   Alabama Hills Lightpaint_0002_Layer Comp 5

A few variations from the arch at Alabama Hills. The bottom two shots are verticals also. Click on them to see the full image.

A few hours south of Mono Lake are the "Alabama Hills," an area of hills and rock formations near the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Many thanks to Jeff for letting us know about this nice place to shoot! The place is home to a pretty cool arch, and that's what we wanted to focus on. It was really convenient, because we were able to park the bus less than two minutes from the trailhead, and it was only a 5-10 minute walk to the arch. We did some light-painting at night, and then woke up early to shoot again at sunrise.

From the Alabama Hills area, we were Arizona-bound. Our friends and nomads of Technomadia just bought a vintage bus and were heading to the Lake Havasu area. Little did they know it, but we would be paying a surprise visit!

More to come…