Pyramid Lake at Night ~ Photo of the Week

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What to do in Reno for fun?

First off, I’m sorry.

You can go check out the strip which is like old old old town Vegas, with many of those shuttered $39.95 Neon Hotels no longer flickering. However with Northern Nevada having the largest Basque population in the United States, I highly recommend taking in some delicious Basque food. We had an amazing 5 course meal at Louis’ Basque Corner just off the strip and the double cut lamb chops at the Santa Fe Hotel look scrumdiddlyumptious as well.
After that, I recommend getting out of town. Take Pyramid Way for 30 minutes north and you’ll come to Pyramid Lake. I had been to Pyramid Lake once before, on my way to the Playa for a pre-Burning Man festival. I remember walking along the lake and I getting some great surrealscape shots. The lake is surrounded by mountains and has many tufa formations in and around the lake that enhance the primordial landscape.

Pyramid Lake will probably become a more sought after destination once Apple’s iPad starts shipping in late March. The screensaver on the iPad is a night shot taken on an 8×10 camera in 2004 by Richard Misrach.  I can see it now, Apple will inspire the masses to dust off their 8×10 cameras and flock west. The next time you go to Pyramid Lake, good luck, there will probably be a wall of tripods that you will have to contend with to get your shot!

Now, I like to stay a little ahead of the game. So when I asked for the map of Reno at the rental car office, I had to smile at my luck as to how close Pyramid Lake was to Reno!  The next night a group of us headed out. I can’t really tell you much about the drive through the desert to the lake, except that it was really dark. With only a crescent moon lighting the way high ISOs or real long exposures were going to be the only option.
As we struggled in the dark to find a shooting location we finally stumbled across a marina in Sutcliffe, which ironically looked like a similar location to where Richard Misrach took his photograph. My high ISO test shot didn’t reveal anything good on the back of screen until 30 seconds at 2.8. Normally I like to shoot in the 6-8 minute time zone, but with the star trails circling and reflecting in the lake I definitely wanting to take it a little more extreme. The final product was a 20 minute exposure at f4 and ISO 500 with noise reduction on, which meant I had to wait 40 minutes to see the image! I think it was worth the wait, and what really surprises me about the images is the different colors in the star trails. I have never seen orange and blue star trails before and if anyone can explain it please share. We were all awestruck with the amount of stars that could be viewed. I fired off one more image below that was four minutes long and captures more of that celestial feeling that we got standing at edge of time as the stars shone all around us.

UPDATED ~ From Lance Keimig, night photographer pioneer and educator.

Gabriel- The colors in the stars have to do with their chemical composition and age. The younger, hotter burning ones are bluer, and older, cooler ones are more orange. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it’s true.

7 thoughts on “Pyramid Lake at Night ~ Photo of the Week

  1. Hi Gabe – the shots are absolutely awesome. Surely makes you look at the stars with a different perspective. Love your comments – each one is a travel guide and your perspective on the scene as well as the technical info. Expect your show tomorrow will have some spectacular images also. All our best wishes for a grand show.
    The Pittsburgh B&H.

  2. New ground for ya Gabe, looks good.

  3. These are AMAZING shots, Gabe (as usual). I love the difference between the long and short trails, and the reflections. You make my heart go pittar-patter.

  4. I’ll be in Reno, NV the night of April 8th…. so now I have something interesting to do! Thanks. Great photos Gabriel as always.

  5. Thanks Sandy and Mom. Yes, just as I think that star trails are an interesting effect it is sometimes better to go for a shorter exposure to get that celestial, star-globe look!

  6. Love the photo of the week but wow your second shot is like a snow globe of stars!
    Great work as always and love all of the background info you give us with the PotW!

  7. very cool nice to see you found the real beauty of reno as you do every day. good luck on Wednesday and have fun

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