Breathless - Sand Harbor State Park, Lake Tahoe

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Lake Tahoe has many beautiful places along its shores, but for me Sand Harbor is at the top of the list. The way the white granite boulders merge with the beautifully clear, turquoise water is simply incredible. On this night I was shooting a sunset that started off without a bang. In fact it was so boring I began to pack up my gear to leave. But as I turned around to head back to the car, the clouds to the northeast began to light up with beautiful pink and purple hues. Tearing my camera back out of my bag I set up a composition which highlighted the clarity of the water, the white granite, and the reflection of the beautiful light show happening above the mountains in front of me. With the beauty of the scene, and a complete lack of any wind, it seemed as though Tahoe and I were both left breathless.

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Tech Notes on this Photo

Nikon D300s
Tokina 12-24 mm
ISO100 - To help stretch out the shutter speed
f/10 - as always I started out at f/8 since that's the sharpest spot on my lens and it helps me defocus scratches, drops, and dust on my filters/lens. In this case I wanted to increase the shutter speed a little bit to help smooth out the water as much as possible. Turns out there wasn't much difference to the smoothness in the end, but this shot at f/10 had the best light.
6 sec
12 mm on a crop sensor
Lee 3-stop, 2-stop, and 1 soft GND Filters, handheld at a very slight angle to help darken the horizon on the left.

In Raw Converter (Nikon Capture NX2)
- Processed single raw file twice, once for the majority of the image, and another time at +0.3 ev to blend in to upper-right corner to remove some darkness there
- Global contrast for added pop
- Slightly darkened and added contrast to the sky to add oomph
- brightened and added contrast to darker rocks on left
- slightly darkened and added contrast to brighter rocks on right
- increased brightness, contrast, and saturation of foreground rock and turquoise water
- straightened horizon by 0.2°

In Photoshop:
- Noise reduction via Neat Image
- gradient blend of 2 tiffs to lighten upper right corner a little
- Selective sharpening of rocks and mountain ridge
- Curves layer to slightly brighten submerged rocks in foreground, mid-ground rocks, and upper right part of the sky
- Decided I didn't like the extra pinkness in the foreground rock so I used a hue/saturation layer to tone it down

Thanks for looking!


Costasocoa, Mahnie, Calmtwood, and 860 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. Joshua Cripps 78 months ago | reply

    Scott McCracken Thanks Scott! No polarizer here. I just relied on the wide-angle lens' field of view and the reflective properties of water. In other words, looking straight down at water it becomes mostly transparent, but looking across the surface of water it becomes reflective. That's why the water is clear in the immediate f/g and reflects the sky more and more the farther it gets from the camera.

  2. Birgit Zimmermann 77 months ago | reply

    thanks or sharing the stories and details with your shots. flawless image!

  3. cweav59 77 months ago | reply

    Magnificent photo, fantastic work!

  4. matthewnielsen 77 months ago | reply

    Congratulations on your award from Popular Photography! Saw it this morning and immediately recognized it.

  5. aquatic wheel [deleted] 77 months ago | reply

    Hi, im an Admin for `Howards Gallery` and would be very honoured if you would consider posting your stunning photo into the Gallery.
    This Gallery is so different than anything flickr has done before, as it is an easy place to belong to and participate, yet you have to have exemplary work to be invited here, and it is my opinion that this wonderful piece here belongs with us ……. I hope you will post this picture of yours with pride into the Gallery..…and we look forward to seeing more of your talent in the future......Kind regards..Caz (A)

  6. Ulrik Hasemann 75 months ago | reply

    Very beautiful photo!

  7. cweav59 75 months ago | reply

    Absolutely gorgeous photo !!!

  8. quiet wish [deleted] 75 months ago | reply

    Please honour "Howard`s Gallery" by posting this magnificent picture that you have taken there.

    Hello I am Howard, lead Art advisor for Howards Gallery........... and you have really caught my attention th this beautiful work.

    Howards Gallery is upper echelon, and is a very dignified site of class,displaying upscale photos of "ALL TYPES" for the best to strut , and for many to aspire to, ......I hope you take me up on my offer to post here .......your work displayed here is beautiful .......I am also leaving you an "Admin. Invite".......there are NO rules for commenting unless you want to .........We now have an exceptional team of expierienced moderators and administrators who bring a wealth of talent, and knowledge. and appreciation of photography to Howards Gallery. I have just established " the platinum level ....explained here.............

    so your invitation by me is a serious gauge of your work.......and as a premier site of high caliber and respect, I hope to see your picture here posted with us because "I" love IT!!!!!!!!!!!!...

    Howards Gallery has become an eclectic group looking for the best of the best of what they do I hope your participate in my Gallery as it would be an honor to have your continued support…My Co Admins Caz and Angie will be thrilled to see this posted..........
    ...Oh don`t forget and take that bow.... You certainly earned the right to take one with this beauty..............Howard

  9. Dave Morrow Photography 74 months ago | reply

    Tahoe is freakin awesome. I love the blue that you got in this shot. I think it makes the photo complete:) really well done you nailed it.

  10. Daniel Murray (southnz) 74 months ago | reply

    Crazy rocks! And what a scene...very nice.

  11. A-scape 72 months ago | reply

    Epic shot of Sand Harbor!!!

  12. Lake Fred 70 months ago | reply

    Great total picture! The framing and composition of your photo are very good! Please add this nice photo to: Commented "Good Composition"

  13. NikonDigifan 70 months ago | reply

    Nice soft colors with great elements in this comp.

  14. J Formstone 69 months ago | reply

    stunning image!!

  15. offshore geometries 67 months ago | reply

    softly surreal-the clouds mimic the contours of the rocks-so many elements converging into the whole- an artist's work

  16. Wikalia 50 months ago | reply

    Wow, so wonderful ! I love the colors, & the composition !

  17. freedom_addict 42 months ago | reply

    The view is more than beautiful! Wonderful shot!

  18. urbaguilera 34 months ago | reply

    Fantastic color and POV, great work Joshua!

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