Mono Lake & Bodie Field Trip, Sept. 14-15 2012

Field Trips

David and Chris Wilkins arranged another fun field trip for us, a return to Mono Lake for Star Trails and a trip to Bodie State Park.  Approximately twenty LPA members made the excursion to Lee Vining, the base for our photo adventures.  Some arrived a day ahead and some had to leave a day early, but most everyone made it to the south shore of Mono Lake for sunset and to light paint the tufa and practice star trail photography.

In preparation for the event, David and Chris arranged for a “close to home” field trip beforehand to our local state park, Saddleback Buttes, to learn how to set cameras for light painting and time exposed shots of star trails.

Mono Lake is a great place to photograph star trails.  On a moonless night, it is very dark out there!  Friday evening we ventured down the boardwalk and found our favorite spots along the shore before sunset.  We were lucky… there was color in the sky, and it was beautifully reflected upon the lake.  In between sunset and total darkness David shared tips on light painting, having us practice, and shared pointers on how to set our cameras up for timed exposure shot of star trails.  Most important to do ahead… start photographing star trails with a fresh battery, decide whether you want to do one long exposure and have noise reduction on, or to take a series of exposures to stack (noise reduction must be off).  Some did a 1 hour exposure for star trails, and others photographed for 2 hours.  Afterwards, a few of us decided to photograph the Milky Way and light paint the tufa in the foreground.  The long evening spent on the shores of Mono Lake was a great opportunity to talk photography with photo friends.  The stars were amazing, and we even had a little astronomy lesson from Tina.

Saturday morning, a few of us ventured to the north shore of Mono Lake via the county park boardwalk to photograph birds.  In addition to numerous shore birds, we also spotted the very noisy Clarks Nutcracker.

Photo friends met at Bodie on Saturday and enjoyed the step back in time and photographed the old buildings and relics of Bodie, the most well preserved “ghost town” in the West.  Photo tips were shared among attending photographers, with the “organized” part of the day being a meet up at 4pm for our group photo.

Saturday evening, ten met for dinner at the Mono Lake Inn.  It was an elegant place to dine and the food was awesome!  The dining room faces Mono Lake and the view out the wall to wall picture windows made for a beautiful scene as the sun set and darkness fell over the lake.  What a great way to end a photography trip!  Thank you David & Chris for arranging another wonderful photo trip for us!

A variety of photographer styles were noted… some traveled really light, with only a camera around their neck, some also with IPhones (yes, taking photos with them!), one with two cameras (each with a different lens) hanging off their hips, one with a cart full of camera gear, and two with wagons full of gear!  Bonnie/Dwight/Cory all shared a wagon full of gear for three, ice chest, and chairs for three. The wagon was all “tricked out” with eyebolts and bungee cords to secure the gear and chairs, an extension to the pull handle, and even a strap for a brake for controlling wagon speeds on downhill slopes. It was obviously designed by a photographer/engineer.

Some fun facts learned on the trip…

  • It is possible for a Nikon camera with a lens hood to crash to the ground, hit upon the sharp pointed tufa rocks and totally damage the lens hood and still have the camera work.
  • Great photos can be taken with smart phones and made amazing with Apps.
  • Hiking back in the dark is a whole lot longer than the hike out in the daylight.

If you like stars and night photography, check out the newly released Yosemite Nature Notes 19: Night Skies at

View member photos from the trip in the gallery.

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