Taken at Mono Lake South Tufa near Lee Vining, California, on March 16th, 2021.
I have visited Mono Lake more times than I can count. It’s one of my favorite places in California to photograph due to its fascinating landscapes and unique ecosystems. Over the course of my visits I have seen Mono Lake in every kind of weather imaginable, from sideways-driven snow, to tempestuous thunderstorms, to sleet and hail, to blazing blue skies. But no matter the weather, one thing that is a constant presence at the lake is wind. As warm and cold fronts move in from the west, wind whips across the lake, creating sand dunes on the eastern flats, and giving birds a place to soar.
As I pulled into the South Tufa parking lot on this particular day however, the lake was as still as I’ve ever seen it. From shore to shore its waters were glassed out to a mirror finish, and it appeared as though there were two skies: one above, and one below.
Grabbing my equipment, I quickly hiked down to my favorite section of tufa. When I arrived at the water’s edge and saw the perfect reflections, a sense of serenity swept across me, and I felt like I could only speak in a whisper. I knew I needed to convey this peacefulness in a photograph. Looking out across the lake I realized this floating tufa formation was the perfect focal point for the image I had in mind. With it, the sky, and the reflection, the scene had everything it needed. Anything extra would overcomplicate the view’s delicate tranquility.
As I set up my camera, the warm rays of the late afternoon sun illuminated the distant mountains and I could sense something special was about to happen. The sun sank lower in the sky, its light lifting off the mountains and striking the clouds above in a magnificent display of lavender and rose. I was awestruck by the silence and beauty of the lake and my instincts told me the critical moment had arrived. I pressed the shutter button and captured this frame, breathing in the profound, zen-like calm of the scene in front of me.