Silver Lake, CA on a moon-less night to photograph the night stars and reflections in the lake
Whenever I am not photographing people I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to get out into the California landscape and photograph the mountains, water, sky and, lately, stars. I have really fallen in love with following the moon phases so I can photograph the night sky during a New Moon. That was the case here. My wife and I love driving up the less-traveled Highway 395 on California's eastern side and seeing all the sights along 395 like Lone Pine, Big Pine, Bishop, Mammoth, Mono Lake, Bodie (Ghost Town) and Bridgeport. There's something romantically haunting about the area. I can't quite put my finger on why I love the area so much but I just do... it speaks to me and resonates with me. I think one of the reasons I admire this area so much is that it reminds me how small I really am in this world and in this life and that I am just here for a very short time (compared to the amazing landscapes and history of the area).
We planned a trip around the December holidays to get away from LA for awhile and to just take in the beauty and awesomeness of the area. We went to Mammoth and did a little tubing and wanted do ride some snowmobiles but the weather hadn't provided enough snow at the time. But, we'll be back and will have that chance to get on the snowmobiles in January or February. That being said, I love to photograph the landscapes of this area and to take a break from a year of photographing people. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do for a living but it's nice to just set up the camera, admire my surroundings and try to capture the amazing beauty in a photograph.
We drove up to and stayed in June Lake, CA (about 9 miles north of Mammoth). I had never stayed in June Lake before but was blown away by this quaint little village at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's gorgeous (or as the kids say... GORGE!!!). 🙂 Upon arriving I immediately noticed "Oh! Ridge" (see below) and there's a reason it's called Oh! Ridge; when you come over the ridge and see the lake and mountain you cannot stop yourself from uttering "OH!". It really is that awesomely beautiful.
Oh! Ridge - Photo credit by The Haven June Lake and IshCreatives.
So I waited until the perfect night where I could see stars and the Milky Way and the wife and I started driving around June Lake, Mono Lake and Silver Lake looking for the right opportunity. Unfortunately the wind was not cooperating at June and Mono Lakes. The slight breeze was not allowing me to get the reflection on the water and I really wanted that to be a part of the shot. On a whim, I said that we should check out Silver Lake to see what was going on there and if there was any opportunity to get the shot. When we arrived I noticed that this lake is protect on all sides by rolling hills and mountains. The water was so still and clear that I stepped in the water thinking I was still walking on rocks. At that point I knew I had the right location. The moral to this story is to move your butt and explore your options. A 10 minute drive allowed me to make this image when I was on the verge of walking away and not getting the shot I wanted of this beautiful, inspiring landscape.
Getting a great shot of the Milky Way around June Lake, California
It's important to use a tripod, use Mirror Lock UP if your camera has the setting and a shutter release cable. Also, I am including the incredibly useful 500 Rule PDF in this post for use when and if you want to photograph the night sky.
- Nikon D3s Camera
- Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 Lens
- Really Right Stuff Tripod and Ballhead
- Nikon Shutter Release Cable
- Flashlights (only for adjusting settings on the camera)
- My "500 Rule" Guideline for Night Photography Available for download 500 Rule*
*The 500 Rule for Night Photography is a set of calculations for use with specific focal lengths in order to get the best exposure without getting blur from moving objects (like stars) during the earth's rotation.
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