Ever since I first saw David Shields photos of Bonsai Rock I had wanted to shoot this location. For the past couple years I've leased a ski cabin with several of my friends for the entire winter. Being so close to Lake Tahoe and Bonsai Rock you'd think it would be easy to get here to shoot. Last year I had made it up to the eastern shore to photograph Bonsai but I waited too long into the year (it was almost May when I made my way over there) and the sun was setting more northerly than I wanted. Willie and I decided to do a Tahoe photo weekend at the end of March, hoping the sunset would still be south-westerly enough for a nice sunset. It was storming all week and we rented a 4 wheel drive SUV for the trip. Hoping to get a great sunset we departed plenty early from my cabin and arrived at Bonsai Rock pretty hopeful.
Random side-story: I've driven all over California (and many parts of the United States) over the past 6 years and although I've seen "Caution: falling rocks" signs, I've never actually really paid attention to them or had any issues. On the drive to Bonsai Rock the car in front of me rolled down his window and started waving his arm, pointing to the left, signaling something that I couldn't figure out. He quickly changed lanes and that's when I realized what he meant …. GIANT F'ING BOULDER!!!!!!! There were 3 cars to my left and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the giant rock. This thing would have seriously messed up the SUV. So Mr. Car in front of me … thank you!
We arrived at Bonsai Rock with plenty of time before sunset. Last year there was so much snow that the lake level rose fairly significantly. Even with a dry winter the lake level is much higher than we really want for good Bonsai Rock photos. The beautiful foreground rocks are mostly under water. Willie and I spent a couple minutes looking at compositions but with so few rocks exposed we were pretty limited and found our shots pretty quickly.
We had plenty of time to kill before sunset and it was partially cloudy so I decided to pull out the Lee Big Stopper and see what kind of effect I could get. I set up a 3.5 minute exposure, clicked the button and sure enough, I got a super neat pattern in the sky. The water was pretty choppy and the long exposure turned the water into glass. Perfect! Now we just need a beautiful sunset and I'll repeat this. Unfortunately we didn't get a sunset (thick clouds blocked the sunset) but I did manage to get a nice long exposure photo!
Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S:
36mm, f/16, 3 min 20 sec, ISO 200
Lee Filter Holder + 0.6 HiTech Soft ND Grad + Lee Big Stopper