Being a landscape photographer means we can have very long days, shooting both sunrise and sunset on the same day. As we move closer to the winter solstice, sunrise gets later and sunset gets earlier. This is totally in our favor. But, when you add in star shooting (before the sunrise), the “workday” can be very long and quite exhausting. Here in Mammoth Lakes, CA, we are attending a workshop focusing mostly on the famous Mono Lake. It’s a short workshop, just a day and a half. We came to find out that it was about 36 hours, with virtually no time for sleep, which ended up being the longest day! What follows really happened.
2:30 AM: Our day started with a rude wakeup call. The call itself was fine, it’s just any call at 2:30 AM is rude. Why 2:30 you ask? We needed to leave for Mono Lake at 3:30 so we could be there by 4:30, ready to shoot the night sky. Getting up might have been doable under normal circumstances, but this day started off anything but normal. There was only Decaf coffee in the hotel room (this was my fault and is filed under – no good deed goes unpunished, which is story for another day).
4:30 AM: We arrived at Mono Lake to warmer than expected temperatures. We spent the next hour shooting the stars in the night sky. We’ll come to find out that it was a total disaster, photographically. Every shot was blurry. It turns out, that focusing in the pitch black is not so easy. On the bright side, the starry sky was the most beautiful we had ever seen. At least we had that!
6:00 AM: We shoot the blue hour just before sunrise and the golden hour just after sunrise. It was light enough for us to focus our cameras so we had much better success, so we (OK, I) thought. Sorry, no pictures of Mono Lake to show you – you’ll see why in a moment. Please read on.
8:00 AM: Breakfast at the gas station. No, really, we ate at the gas station to fuel up for next shoot (sorry, couldn’t resist). To our surprise, it was quite good. After breakfast, Moose (our instructor – and he is not really a moose) performed a critique session of our morning photo shoot. My turn came. He did a quick review of my shots and said, “everything you shot, once there was light, was lousy.” Of course, everything I shot while it was dark, was lousy too. Thanks, Moose, you really know how to build up my confidence.
10:00 AM: We visited a local waterfall. Shooting waterfalls is a particular favorite of mine. We spent a couple of hours shooting all aspects of the falls.
12:30 PM: A quick stop for some local color – fall foliage in the Sierras.
1:15 PM: A 90-minute stop to shoot a local lake. At this point we are so tired, we spent half the time in the car “resting.”
3:30 PM: Dinner at the same gas station (I won’t say it). Unbelievably, the food was excellent.
5:00 PM: Back to Mono Lake for a sunset shoot. We were really running out of steam. But once we got down to the lake, we got charged up and enjoyed the shoot immensely. And our shooting improved a bit. Hang on for the next post (coming tomorrow) for pictures of Mono Lake and their famous Tufas.
8:00 PM: Image post-processing session with Moose. We tinkered a bit but decided sleep was more important that image processing. We called it quits at 9:30. I think this is a first for Kas to choose sleep over her photos!
10:30 PM: Lights out. Sleep time.
3:00 AM: Alarm wakes us up after another lousy nights sleep. This is getting very old. Luckily, this time we had caffeinated coffee so we could function a bit.
4:30 AM: Back at Mono Lake for a repeat of star shooting followed by a sunrise shot. This time our star shoot was much improved as we got the camera focused. And our “light-time” shooting was much, much better. Sorry, no pictures until next post!
7:30 AM: Done!
Remember, it’s all about the light.