NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

I’m getting ready to teach my Lightroom seminar today in Sacramento. We have almost 400 photographers signed up so it looks like it’s going to be a great day. I arrived earlier in the week, on Wednesday, and drove up to Lake Tahoe to do some shooting. Whenever I do a seminar, I try to figure out what’s nearby and plan an extra day to go shooting. Since I was already flying across the country, I figured I’d make the most out of it and hit Lake Tahoe, which is only about 2 hours from Sacramento.

The Gear
I went with an all-Canon gear bag this time. It was actually the first time I totally left my Nikon equipment back home. I’ve shot with the Canon before, but always had my D800 there. This time I took the Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm and 16-35mm lenses along with all of my neutral density filters because I knew I’d probably want to do some long exposure stuff.

Luckily, I used to shoot Canon a long time ago. Plus, I teach workshops and seminars and am always helping people with all sorts of gear. So my memory of settings, dials, etc… made it pretty easy to work with the camera. As you can imagine, it performed excellent. I’m really digging the 24-105mm lens for landscapes. I love the 24-70mm for landscapes, but the extra 35mm on the long side makes it so I don’t have to dig in for the 70-200mm as much. And I absolutely love Canon’s live view. It’s so clear and makes focussing manually SO much easier.

The Location
I’ve had my eye on Bonzai Rock near Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe for a while. After researching 500px.com, Bonzai Rock was one of the main places that stood out to me. So I met my good friend (and awesome photographer) Karen Hutton, and we set out. If you know where to stop along the road (you can find GPS coordinates online), it’s not too hard to find. The trail down is a little steep, but nowhere near as bad as I was expecting after reading about it. It took less than 10 minutes to walk down. It’s not treacherous at all and was actually pretty easy. Just some uneven sandy/rocky areas that could be slippery if you weren’t being careful.

We had a good 20-30 minutes to kill before sunset and I walked around to try different compositions. As the sun was going down, it went behind some clouds so those final moments weren’t great. But, most of the really nice photos I’ve seen of Bonzai are actually twilight photos, when the sun has already set. And this evening was no different. I definitely liked the twilight photos better. We had some nice clouds and the color really lit up nicely.

The wind would pick up and die down intermittently. I really wanted some reflections and clear water shots so I just waited and it happened from time to time. I knew I wanted rocks in the foreground so I positioned myself toward one side that had a lot of rocks and clear water.

(Click to see the photo larger)
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Personally, I wasn’t as crazy about the shot above because it was too wide. It takes the focus off of Bonzai Rock and it’s pretty chaotic up front with all of the little rocks. So I moved over to another area, got my tripod really low, and was able to clean up the scene a little.

(Click to see the photo larger)
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