Panikos Photography Ltd


Mono Lake and its Tufas

Posted on December 4, 2010 by Panikos under Uncategorized

Well, this was very interesting, we arrived late one autumnal afternoon at Mono Lake, northern California, it was grey and dull, with rather ominous clouds overhead, and rain showers in the distance. What confronted us was most unusual, things that looked like stalagmites standing in some cases up to 30ft high out of the lakes surface! They’re called “Tufas” – now there’s an odd name!

The reason they are there is because the whereas these “Tufas” as they are known usually grow underwater, the water level of Mono Lake has fallen by some 40 vertical feet in the last 40 years! This has exposed great numbers of these normally submerged structures, creating a rather bizarre land/waterscape. This lake is at a relatively high altitude, and was used to supply water to Los Angeles some 350 miles away, hence the drop in the water level. An interesting ecosystem has developed there though with a variety of plants and birdlife.

If you look VERY closely at the photo above – which coincidentally captured the feel of the place exceptionally well – you’ll notice a few birds silhouetted against the dark clouds as they sit on top of the Tufas.

Way in the distance, you can see the first snows of winter on top of the Eastern Sierras, with some grey Tufas in the foreground. In fact on that day the snowfall was enough to close the Tioga pass which enables drivers to cross over the Sierras onto the western side of the mountains. This made travel to Los Angeles a much longer trip of about 7 hours as opposed to 4 or so had the pass been open.

As you can see above the water was a little choppy that afternoon. But, being gluttons for punishment, we returned there the following morning. The air was still then, in fact there was a bit of a quiet eeriness about the place that morning. We were hoping to get a few nice sunrise shots with some red and orange colours in the sky, but that was not to be. What we did get was water that was as still as a millpond, that reflected the light of the sky and clouds turning it almost turquoise in colour. In fact it was just like this:

And, guess what… it started to rain too. But undaunted by the weather I carried on, capturing those same Tufas you see above in a raindrop that hung off of one of the plants at shore level. I like this shot a lot!

The plant almost looks like it is a hand, with the water dripping off its thumb, with its forefingers just below. I thought it captured the day perfectly!

Although the place at first sight may seem uninteresting, by looking closely you’ll always find something worthy of photographing. What about these tiny flowers growing out of the cracks of one of the tufas above? Who would have thought they could survive & thrive by growing off of what is effectively a lump of chalk?

I’d like to finish of this post with my first stitch that I took of Mono Lake in the morning. I don’t know if it’ll come out well in this here, but, this photo at normal resolution will print up to 4ft across, which means it’ll easily print up to 8 ft with more than acceptable sharpness. On screen at full resolution, it looks amazing, and I’m sure it’ll look great on a discerning persons wall one day! So whoever that person is, just give me a call & I’ll get it done for you for a modest fee!

I took this series of photos (its actually 5 stitched together) at the only time there was a little colour in the sky, that tiny bit of pink far away on the horizon, just as the sun peeked through the clouds at dawn. You need to click on the photo to see its full width, it’ll then open in another window, but you get a much better idea of what it looked like.

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