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Dawn's Reflection, Mono Lake

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 10 October 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - November 3-7, 2010 (Workshop Sold Out)
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Mono Lake and its calcium-carbonate tufa formations draws photographers from around the world. South tufa is the hot spot as the towers can grow in excess of 30-feet tall. But on the northwest end of the lake, the tufa formations look more like crusty rocks protruding from the saline waters.

Today's image was my first frame as we arrived on location 35 minutes prior to posted sunrise time with Gary Hart's workshop group at Black Point. A five-mile jaunt along dirt roads in the dark leads to a dead-end parking lot and a subsequent quarter-mile walk through black lava sands leads to this mystical location affording one a view to the east past Negit and Paoha Islands. The lake shore currently resides at 6,400 feet and has an average depth of 59 feet and a maximum depth of 159 feet.

The horizon was just starting to come to life with color and I knew I had a small window of opportunity to blend the brightest and darkest areas of the scene in one frame before the contrast range got outside of 6-stops of light that the sensor can handle. This was a three-minute exposure with no filtration (except for a polarizer that was not doing a thing to this image because I was shooting straight towards the approaching sun but helped me cut about 1 1/2 stops of light allowing for the longer shutter time).

My thought was to allow a bit of silkiness to the already calm lake and allow for a bit of movement in the clouds. This image required very little processing and the colors were actually this vivid in the RAW file. To those not accustomed to witnessing mountain light, the intensity of the colors can look a bit amped, but as our workshop students can attest - these colors were real - no Photoshop magic was employed!

As a side note, I would say that this sunrise was one of the best I've seen in all my years of photography. Our group photographed non-stop for a 90-minute period. Simply said, it was an incredible morning!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 174 second F/16.0 ISO 400 200 mm

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