Astrophotography at Mono Lake

Astrophotography at Mono Lake

During our trip to California last September, we decided to stop in Mono Lake to see the famous tufas, the mineral formations. Mono Lake is only 2 hours away from Yosemite National Park, and it is definitely worth the visit!

I was particularly interested in doing some astrophotography. Mono Lake has little to no light pollution, making it a great spot to capture the night skies. On top of this, the tufas provide a fantastic foreground and are great for light painting. This makes a pretty killer combo for star photography!

Past & Present | Mono Lake, CA

Past & Present | Mono Lake, CA

The one thing I am still struggling with is focus. In the image above, I was shooting at f/1.8 to reduce the ISO and the exposure time, which meant I had to do two exposures: one focused on the tufas and one focused for the sky. Focusing on the tufas was relatively easy when lit with the flashlight. The live view on the D7000 is definitely not good enough to focus on the stars so it was a big issue.

Light painting is challenging, and it took us a lot of tries. But it was a lot of fun! I cannot wait to do it again…

In the end, I was able to get a great result, with decent sharpness overall. I would love to print these images but they are very grainy. The D7000 is not so great at ISO 3200. This is one of the reasons I want to upgrade to a full-frame. It would allow me to get much better quality for night photography at high ISO.

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