About the Shot: June

by | Dec 16, 2014 | Stories & Expeditions | 4 comments

2015_Lenspiration 6Jun

June 2015 – Daybreak Over Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California

Life is most fulfilling when I have had the opportunity to serve other photographers in a way that helps them grow in their skills as a photographer as well as encourages them to honor the Lord with their choices. That’s why this photoshoot in the early morning hours over Lake Tahoe stands out in my memory as such an enjoyable experience.

It was around 5:30 am when  my alarm went off, breaking the silence that reigned in the motor home. It wasn’t long before we were bumping down the road from our camping area to a parking lot close to Emerald Bay. The movement of the motor home helped to wake up the other three photographers in our group, and we were ready to step out into the freezing darkness to await sunrise at just the perfect spot. We had scouted this spot the day before, and I figured it was going to be the best overlook for capturing both the color of sunrise and the complete, uninterrupted silhouette of Fannette Island in the middle of the bay.

It wasn’t long before the sky started to lighten up. I shot a few frames to determine the best composition considering the shapes created by the layout of the land. This was my first shot:

7175_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28 mm, 13.0 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

I liked it. It included a lot of sky in case there was going to be some color. At the time, I had no idea how the sky would look at sunrise. You never know what a sunrise or sunset might look like. But it looked promising, with a clear horizon and with clouds floating around. But I’m never satisfied with the first try so I tried a few other compositions to see what else might present itself.

7178_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 47 mm, 30.0 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

7185_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 55 mm, 20.0 sec at f - 16, ISO 200

7188_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 15.0 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

The sun was coming up now, and the sky was coming alive with color. The early rising, the waiting in the cold, and time spent in scouting all seemed worth it now! The sun was coming up farther to the right than I was expecting, so I kept my composition shifted to the right to keep it focused more on the color.

7198_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

However, the composition just didn’t seem right. I needed to see the complete circle of the bay in the frame. I needed that circle of black to keep the eye in the frame. So I recomposed and shot to the position that eventually ended up in the calendar:

7201_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 0.4 sec at f - 16, ISO 50-2

And that was as much color as there would be that morning. I went back to a few of the other compositions that I liked, but it wasn’t long before the sun began to spill out on the landscape and the clouds and sky returned to their normal colors.

7220_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 105 mm, 0.3 sec at f - 14, ISO 50

7258_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-25 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

During the entire time, we 4 photographers were bouncing ideas off of each other, working through our exposure settings together, and suggesting different compositions. There’s nothing quite like the intense fellowship of shooting with friends of like interest under such circumstances. I’ll never really know if what I said or did during that photoshoot was helpful or discombobulating, inspirational or disheartening. But what I do know is that what we did that morning was something that many of us had not done much of before. I think we all walked away with memories we would never forget and I trust the Lord will use them to advance His Kingdom in our hearts.

Christmas is just around the corner! Do you know a budding photographer you would like to encourage or inspire with a gift? I hope you will consider buying some Lenspiration calendars: for one, two or just a few, go to the Staddonfamily Store; for more than 9 calendars, you can get free shipping plus quantity discounts as low as $5 each on the Lenspiration Store. Thank you for promoting a Christ-centered, creationist worldview in the realm of photography!


In the post processing of this picture, I did not attempt to create an HDR image. The shapes of the silhouettes were strong enough that it looks much better in the high contrast picked up by the camera. The camera also does not pick up the colors in the original format when shooting in RAW, so I made sure to boost the saturation conservatively in Lightroom


7201_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 0.4 sec at f - 16, ISO 50-2


7201_Near South Lake Tahoe-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 0.4 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

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  1. Katie

    Lovely colors!

    • James Staddon

      As you know, it doesn’t always happen that way. 🙂

  2. Megan Hutchinson

    Wow! How beautiful!…We serve a GREAT God,who is so good to give us such beauty in our everyday surroundings(wherever that may be)!



  1. StaddonFamily.com » Blog Archive » Adventures of a Landscape Photographer - […] June: When rising early pays off. […]

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