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Tranquility, Mono Lake

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 14 October 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

So what's the deal with reflections? At home they pretty much rule our lives; in nature they attract us like magnets. On one level we all understand that reflections are the primary medium for our own relationship with our physical self. They're the closest we come to seeing ourselves as the rest of the world does (albeit completely and ironically reversed). Each morning a reflection guides and verifies our worthiness to face the world, and as we navigate the day, periodic encounters with reflective surfaces allow us to blatantly or surreptitiously validate or adjust the way others see us ("Gee, safron is sure a nice color on me," or "Yikes, has that spinach been there since lunch?").

But when we're in nature, the insignificance of reflection-reinforced vanity is underscored by the boundless majesty surrounding us. Here reflections are not about us; in fact they often dwarf our presence, actually doubling the beauty and furthering the comprehension of our own insignificance. Reflections also convey the tranquility we long for in our frenetic city routine--it's just hard to be stressed in the presence of a snowy peak reflected in a mountain lake or fall leaves glistening in a meandering river.

A mirror reflection like the one in this Mono Lake scene requires an absolute and rare stillness. When both air and water are this quiet I feel the urge to pantomime or whisper any communication, and notice others doing the same. What's particularly unique about this scene is that it happened at sunset. Mono Lake is often still at sunrise, but rarely is it like this at sunset. Because this South Tufa perspective faces east, sunrise reflections include the brightest part of the sky, requiring the tufa to be rendered in silhouette. But when the reflection happens at sunset, the brightest sky as at my back and I can expose for the tufa's detail without sacrificing the color in the sky, a real treat.

I tried many compositions that evening and finished with several others I like a lot. But I decided to feature this one first for its simplicity. Sometimes a scene's beauty is so basic that imposing a conscious composition cheats it of the simplicity that makes it special. So I broke the "rules" here, putting nothing in the foreground and centering both the horizon and subject. To my eye this composition provides a balance that best conveyed the moment's utter tranquility.

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Julie from Le Cannet des Maures, France

Splendide !!!

14 Oct 2010 6:00am

Babzy from Besançon, France

wow, wow, wow ;)

14 Oct 2010 6:44am

Florence from Paris, France

Appealing shot and colors and composition ! Colors and reflections pop out of my screen. That's gorgeous, and almost surreal. On what planet are you living ? ;-)

14 Oct 2010 9:01am

@Florence: Thanks, Florence. Yes indeed, Mono Lake is often described as surreal and otherworldly. It's a large salt lake (no outlet) about 20 miles east of Yosemite's east boundary. The barren surroundings and calcium carbonate (limestone) shapes, called tufa, give Mono Lake a prehistoric atmosphere. And it's proximity to Yosemite only underscores its uniqueness. From (approximately) November through May the road from Yosemite is closed by snow, making Mono Lake about a 7 hour drive from Yosemite, but from June through October it's about a 30 minute drive to Yosemite, and about 90 minutes from Yosemite Valley.

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

What a gorgeous light! How is called this planet, I agree with Florece here :)

14 Oct 2010 9:33am

Marie LC from Dauphiné, France

Just 5* for this wonderful sunset

14 Oct 2010 9:59am

Sylvie49 capture image from Vallée de la Loire, France

5* Excellent.

14 Oct 2010 10:25am

christiansaboya from mataro, Spain


14 Oct 2010 10:55am

Mehran from meshkin, Iran

great shot.

14 Oct 2010 12:06pm

MK from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

beautiful colors n symmetry. it deserved a central position

14 Oct 2010 1:00pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Gary, so many things that you noted in your text are floating around in my mind (normally a cavernous void but not right now)! Here, the simplicity is truly majestic. The solitude and quietness are so visible in the scene. The colors all around are so blissful. And the stillness that you speak of...well, I can FEEL it here! The reflection does just as you say, it takes me to a space where I forget the daily troubles and just gaze awestruck on the beautiful image here, and allow my mind to travel there if only for a bit. Gary, this is such a masterful image. Thank you so very much for presenting this to us all. I am so moved by this one!

14 Oct 2010 1:26pm

Judy aka L@dybug from Brooksville, Florida, United States

Beautiful image and liikewise, I like your analogy to viewing ourselves.

14 Oct 2010 1:49pm

Wild Mustang Photography from Carlisle, United States

Superb shot! So beautiful, and I love everything about this image!!!

14 Oct 2010 2:03pm

Suzanne from Melbourne, Australia

rules....surely they are there to BE broken.....reflections in nature are as you say. To find quiet in the chaos of both man and nature is truly priceless....exquisite image

14 Oct 2010 2:30pm

Julie from Easton, United States

So true of the title! What a beautiful, warm photo!

14 Oct 2010 3:21pm

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

Mr. Hart, this is one of those awesome images that we will keep coming back to every couple of weeks.

14 Oct 2010 4:08pm

Stu from Scotland | Living in 京都 Kyoto, Japan

This is wonderful. One to be proud of.

14 Oct 2010 5:49pm

Elora from Genoa, Italy

True tranquility indeed. Well done. The colour is superb, as is the reflection - and so is your post :) No complaints from me!!

14 Oct 2010 7:15pm

Paul from summerside, Canada

Nice one

14 Oct 2010 9:54pm

marci from somewhere in..., Morocco

this is brilliant! absolutely fabulous!

14 Oct 2010 10:51pm

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

I have seen many beautiful images of Mono Lake, including my favorite-which is on the cover of your book-but the light and the calmness you convey here puts this near the top of the list! Absolutely stunning, Gary.

15 Oct 2010 1:29am

Mici from Mississauga, Canada

Absolutely amazing

15 Oct 2010 2:06am

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

This may break some "rules" but from where I am it looks perfect! The reflection is just amazing!

15 Oct 2010 2:45am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

superb mood and amazing colours! i think the central composition works here as you create a sense of order, balance and symmetry around it, which would have been disturbed otherwise - lovely work!

15 Oct 2010 2:51am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

What a fantastic image Gary ! This landscape is absolutely magical... the reflections and the colors are so beautiful ! Have a nice day :)

15 Oct 2010 8:27am

Iknow from Chengdu, China

really amazing scene you`ve seen and captured! so excellent for the color,light and frame,BRAVO!!

15 Oct 2010 11:20am

Dutçh from Chicagoland, United States

It's hard, when a person takes such stunning photos.. to choose one over the other but this has to be one of my favorites for you. Absolutely golden, pun intended. Just wow!

15 Oct 2010 4:42pm

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

What beautifiul golden tones! Stunning!

15 Oct 2010 6:26pm

Ted from South Wales, United Kingdom

that's stunning Gary!

15 Oct 2010 7:35pm

CARLOS GRANDE from Jerez, Spain

Great place to make landscapes. Good choice. Very beautiful picture. Guapa, guapa!!

15 Oct 2010 9:09pm

jessica from lowell, United States

wow that is truely a beautiful piece of art! I love it

15 Oct 2010 9:12pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria


17 Oct 2010 7:44pm

Kenny from Hong Kong, Hong Kong


19 Oct 2010 3:04am

Mike from California, United States

Like the "simplicity" of the composition and the great reflected colors.

20 Oct 2010 6:58pm



24 Oct 2010 5:16pm

Marie from FRESNES, France

wouaw, magnifique !

31 Oct 2010 4:49pm

Kelly Morvant from Lafayette LA, United States

It looks like the tufa is floating in the sky. Wonderful!

1 Nov 2010 7:03pm

chris baker from Perkins, United States

Talent, Timing and Subject Matter... sprinkle all of that with a little bit of luck and you get wonderful images like this. It's Magical!

4 Nov 2010 12:34pm

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Great shot , great colors and light

10 Nov 2010 6:20am

Tinx from Kuressaare, Estonia


14 Mar 2011 2:57pm

Aubélia from Kortrijk, Belgium

Excellent !

29 May 2011 3:12pm

Moein from Bandar-e-Anzali, Iran

Excellent ! amazing colors

5 Jan 2012 7:33pm

pcpanik from Hemer, Germany


10 Dec 2018 3:24pm