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Tahoe Boulders - Sand Harbor, Nevada | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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Tahoe Boulders - Sand Harbor, Nevada

The skies cleared before I could get to Sand Harbor State Park on the east side of Lake Tahoe. So I waited until after sunset for the sky to soften the colors and warm up the granite rock. No HDR! (Disclaimer: I like HDR and do it on cityscapes. 'No HDR!' just reduces all the questions about it!)


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Settings etc.:



Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 17-40L @ 36

8-second exposure @F16

LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9 + 0.75

Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring

No polarizer.

No NDX-400!

ISO 50

Small Slik tripod with Manfrotto pistol grip ball head

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop

See the notes for lake statistics.


Last Friday, I headed out from my house for my first winter trip to Lake Tahoe, a mere 160 miles from away. It normally takes about 3 hours so I figured I'd be there for a great stormy sunset. Well, I left at 10am and was within 30 miles by 1pm. Unfortunately the freeway traffic was really slow because they required snow tire chains over the Donner Summit even though it was above freezing with no snow on the road. So the last 30 miles took 4 hours. Yes, FOUR hours!


I did see an incredible sunset... while inching along in my car. Aargh! This photo is from 2 days later.


I stayed at Squaw Valley, elevation 6,400ft (almost 2,000m), home of the 1960 winter Olympics. It is a very cold valley and by the morning, the car had become encased in over 1 inch of solid ice plus another 8 inches of fresh snow. I borrowed an ice scraper but I could not make a dent in the ice without possibly breaking the windows. So I was stuck watching a nice sunrise from the parking lot! It was 18F that morning (-7c), the coldest I have ever experienced.


After that, the clouds cleared away for the next several days. But I had to see this place for myself. So once the ice was gone, I came here.


Since there were no clouds, I knew I'd have to be a little extra creative to get an interesting shot since I like to have nice clouds in the sky. Fortunately, there is a brief time after sunset when even on a clear day, the colors turn soft and reddish. So after hiking around for an hour, I found the most interesting composition I could find as the sun set.


During the day, these stones normally have only a slight reddish tint to them, but after sunset they almost have an orange-reddish glow. So I tried my best to make the best photo that I could.


The map shows exactly where this is. The middle beach at Sand Harbor.


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Taken on November 29, 2009