Mono Lake Sunrise

After two disappointing evenings at Mono Lake, we hit the photographic jackpot on Sunday morning, November 16. Temperature at the lake was a crisp 18F and we were encouraged by wisps of clouds in the sky. It being mid-November, the sun rose southeast of the lake, so from our position on the shore, there would be no overwater sunrise shots and the tufa was lit from the side. The sunrise did not disappoint, although at this time of year, it happens very fast–as you can see from the time stamps of the photos. The cold weather created some “sea smoke,” which added drama to the shots taken just before sunrise.  

For those of you wondering what “tufa” is, they are basically calcium carbonate “stalagmites” formed by underwater springs that once fed this lake, which is salt water, like the Great Salt Lake. Once, these formations were completely underwater. However, in the early 20th century the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District began diverting the rivers draining the eastern Sierras that used to feed Mono Lake; the lake level dropped substantially, especially between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, exposing the tufa. There is now an agreement in place to allow the some of the river water to slowly replenish the lake surface. However, the drought of the past several years has caused the lake’s water level to drop even further.

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