Mono Lake is one of the most famous California nature photography sites, that fame is a consequence of both it’s photographic and environmental history. Environmentally it supports the second largest population of California gulls (the first, paradoxically, being in Utah), that support was threatened by the diversion of streams that provide water to the late for use by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 300 miles away. Photographically, tufa, the strange limestone formations exposed by the lowering lake level, the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada to the west, and the gull population provide a rich source of photographic opportunities. In this post, I hope to excite you (just a little bit) about the area, and suggest a few places you might want to begin your photographic exploration of the area.
The most frequented area of the lake is the “South Tufa Area”, located along the south side of the lake. While often a busy and well-frequented area, the number, size and variety of the tufa formations there are unparalleled. Your biggest challenge many times of year will be other photographers, but the area is large and gets interesting light both at sunrise (both toward the Sun and toward the Sierra) and just past suns, when the geography and elevation often provide strong, saturated earth shadows such as the one in the image I’ve included above. (more…)