Sunrise from Mono Lake

A second RP with more saturation and vibrance:

The first RP with the tufa darker:

And the original:

This was an hour earlier the same morning (in October of 2010) as the fun post I did for the Fire challenge: Burning bushes

I dug it out to drop in that thread to illustrate why I hadn’t been very enthusiastic about the bushes, although I’m very happy that several others found it worthy. The mountains were just in dead light by the time I found the burned bushes, on my way out. And the shoot here was disappointing due to wind spoiling the reflections. There were a lot of very active birds on the lake that I thought would spoil very long exposures, but I really should have tried anyway.

I had never done much with these shots as this really wasn’t one of the better sunrises there, due to haze to the east and no snow.

And as soon as I posted this I decided the tufa stood out too much, so put up a version with them darker.

Specific Feedback Requested

All comments welcome!

Technical Details

Screen Shot 2022-11-23 at 11.05.55 AM

The old raw file was reworked in the newest LR, but fairly minimal tonal work (mostly Dehaze) with a couple of gradient masks. In PS, NR and sharpening, some cloning of bird wakes. Large crop from the bottom as the broken up reflections on the water competed with the mountains.


I like it anyway. Mono Lake is shot from the same spots (I have this one, too) all the time and there is only so much you can do with it. It’s magical though and I remember my heart sped up and my hands shook at the prospect of screwing it up. No matter that I really couldn’t, it’s just part of being a photographer. I did get one good reflection shot, but the wind kicked up and that was that. The pinky glow is worth it.

The composition of the scene, with the converging inverted V of tufa outcrops and the M of the mountains, is really a positive for this scene. The flat lighting on all but the mountains tends to make this not a Mono Lake image, however. I took a bit of a heavy hand to the colors and luminosity contrast, but can offer this as a slightly different direction for the processing. Also cropped out a bunch of the bright sky.

@Dick_Knudson, you are correct that the scene is understated. I thought about pushing if further and decided to quit while I was ahead, as the raw file was very low contrast and it wasn’t the wildest of sunrises that day. But I think your version has gotten too far away from realistic colors, and feels too crowded at the top. I’ve done a third version (above) which I do like better then my first two attempts, though, so thanks for the nudge. It is very simple, with a gentle nudge to both saturation and vibrance and a slight exposure reduction.

Diane, your second RP is very nice. Quite peaceful morning. I also really like the pano treatment. Nice work with an older file and newer tech. Well done.


My vote is either the original or the second one, but with the crop that @Dick_Knudson suggested. I am not a fan of over-saturated colors, as they usually are not that vivid, Usually. I think the tufa on Mono makes a great foreground to the majestic Parker Peak and Mount Dana.