Lost Magic

When I arrived in Lee Vining yesterday I went to the South Tufa area at Mono Lake after dinner, right around sunset.

I brought the camera with me, but I wasn’t really “pumped” to make photos. I brought it just in case something would speak to me and attract my photographic eye. Primarily though, I just wanted to see the place again. I find Mono Lake and the entire Mono Basin very fascinating.

South Tufa at Dusk, Mono Lake, Lee Vining, California. August 2015.
South Tufa at Dusk, Mono Lake, Lee Vining, California. August 2015. (cellphone photo)

When I reached the parking lot the normal people just left – and the photographers took over. I walked out to the tufas and there must’ve been about 20 photographers. I walked around, and literally around every corner and bend were photographers, bunched together in smaller groups.

There was ONE non photographer guy there for sunset. He wanted to do some Tai-Chi or other body and concentration exercise, but it was entirely futile because the photographers just kept walking around him. I bet if he would have had a tripod, and camera in his hand, they would have been more respectful.

One particular group had a squeaky little cart with all their photo gear in it. A lady shouted: “Hey, why are my photos not in focus?” (apparently to her workshop leader, I don’t know). Another guy had his camera in fully automatic mode and his pop-up flash kept popping up, and he kept pushing it back down. Every. Single. Time. Wouldn’t you think that before you go to such a place, you at least familiarize yourself with your equipment a little bit?

It was too many photographers in this one particular spot. I felt intimidated. I saw something that looked good, but I needed a slightly different angle – and there was another photographer’s head in the frame. Everywhere! In the end, you can either join the masses and make the same photos they make (because they’re all lined up at more or less the same spots) – or hope to get lucky and find a moment where no one is in your frame while the light is still good.

I get it, everyone has the right to be there and make photos, but it reaffirmed my hesitancy to visit such “trophy locations” – but the worst probably is that, as a non-photographer, the experience of seeing this magical place at sunset is pretty much ruined…

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