Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Mt. Tallac Sunrise on Fallen Leaf Lake

No one talked on the trail. Each photographer focused on the path ahead in the pre-dawn light. With only the pair of boots ahead to guide us, each hiker artfully dodged rocks on the groomed trail.

The sunrise came early last Friday. The last photographer arrived at the trailhead along Fallen Leaf Lake Road shortly after 5 a.m. The group hit the trail at half past the hour.

As photographer Tim Rains led the hike, I'm sure the last point during Thursday's workshop resonated in each mind.

"Famous photographers became famous because they were out there," said Rains. Great photographers like Ansel Adams captured breath taking photographs by taking the take the time to "get off the beaten track."

The brilliant red and blue hues of a Sierra Nevada sunrise waited each photographer. The 10-minute trek would soon bring the group to photographic treasure. The trail led us through a dry meadow and over a narrow rocky hill to the our photographic vantage point.

"Spread out and pick a spot along the beach," said Rains, as we approached the eastern shoreline of Fallen Leaf Lake.

As each photographer selected his shooting location, Rains encouraged us to pick a vantage point on the beach that incorporated objects in the foreground. Objects like a weathered tree stump, for instance, add depth to the photograph, said Rains.

As I set my tripod up on the rocky beach, Rains suggested that a polarizing filter would enhance color saturation and darken the sky to a rich, blue color.

The class quickly swung into action. We only had 15 minutes until the sunrise would illuminate the rocky face of Mt. Tallac. Hardly anyone talked as we focused on the coming sunrise.

I snapped several shops of the mountain in the pre-dawn light. Satisfied with my exposure settings, I turned the camera southward to the photograph the shoreline.

"Take your time, sit and look the area over," said Rains during the workshop. "You might discover something."

This technique has allowed Rains to discover geographic faces -- often set rock formations -- in his outdoor photographs. I found an old tree stump a fascinating subject.

The sun started to inch down the face of Mt. Tallac after I shot several quick pictures of the shoreline. I bracketed each series of pictures of the sunrise in increments of 1/3-stop. (Although Rains recommends 1/2-stop increments, I've my camera set for 1/3-stop increments.)

The peaceful morning was only interrupted by a water skier on the lake. A light breeze and wave action from the boat limited the quality of the reflection in our pictures.

At about 20 minutes past the six o'clock, I knew I had captured my sunrise when the image on the LCD monitor jumped out of the camera. I was rewarded with a fiery red reflection as the waves rippled toward the shore.

As we packed our cameras and tripods around 7 o'clock, Rains announced that he had one good shot. It may not have been a spectacular sunrise in photographic terms. But it was my first in recent years. (I took scores of Pacific Ocean sunrises with a Petre SLR as a sailor in the 1970s.)

A lively hike back to the truck punctured the cool morning. We talked about our photographs as red hues of the sunrise gave way to the bright morning sun over Fallen Leaf Lake.


  1. Thanks ... I have had several shots framed by Wholesale Art & Framing. I'd love to return to the northeast side of the lake and try it again. S

    ome clouds and a glassy-smooth day would enhance the shot.

  2. Nice one Steven! That red glow on the mountain is sweet. I think I do like Tallac better in the winter though, with snow on the mountain, or in the fall when the Aspens are turning at the end of the lake.