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05.15.2011

Eye Scene: Photographer, Ryuichi Oshimoto Travels with Sigma Camera & Lenses

Title Photo: Mono Lake is situated 6561 feet above sea level, east of Yosemite National Park. Snow inundated the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the weirdly shaped Tufa Tower, created from limestone was also covered in snow. The super wide-angle zoom lens captured the cold mystical winter landscape boldly. Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/30 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 8mm

Influenced by the winter storm, even Los Angeles experienced the cold weather in mid-February, I visited Mono Lake, where there was media buzz about a discovery of an organism that fed on poisonous arsenic.

Snow covered Sierra Nevada on the west, the dry, white China Lake on the east and more snow covered mountains beyond the lake. I drive north on the endless highway 395. On the final day of the holiday season, there were a number of cars with snowboards packed heading south, but there were few cars heading north.

Was this a salt factory at China Lake located by Highway 395? In the open landscape, it was an eye-catching building. Carrying the compact telephoto zoom lens, I got out of the car quickly to take the photograph. The existence of the antique building, as well as the winter landscape, was captured faithfully. Camera: SD15 Lens: 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 70mm

The road ascended as we passed Bishop and the elevation increased. By the time I arrive at Mono County, the snow accumulated by the highway and I felt like I came to the north.

Moving closer to Mono Lake, I was surrounded by a snow-covered landscape. The compact digital camera was used to capture the large winter landscape. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:24.2mm

In the snowy landscape, as I headed north on Highway 395, I see a sign for South Tufa. When I visited this lake a few summers ago, I headed east on State Road 120 without passing through it. After passing a snow removal truck, I see Mono Lake. I walk over to the lakeshore after parking the car and there wasn’t much time until the sunset. The summer I visited this place, the sun was strong and humid, but on this day the winter clouds hovered over Mono Lake and cold wind blew.

There was less snow by the shore than I thought. The salt content is three times the amount as the ocean, so I wonder if it has any impact. Not wanting to lose against the cold wind, I moved around the shore and it became dark suddenly. By the time I arrive at Lee Vining, a town right by the lake, it was a very dark night. The motel I stayed a few summers ago had been closed due to the snow. I bought a simple dinner at the only market in town and stayed at the motel next door. On this night, there was only two other guests here and it was an undisturbed night.

Bubbles forming on the surface of the lake were frozen. The cold wind blew from the Sierra Nevada in the winter evening. Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/160 sec,Aperture: f6.3, Focal length: 8mm

As soon as the sun set behind the mountains, the clouds parted and it became a quiet sundown. Setting the camera on a shortened tripod, I went into the lake to take the photograph. Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/15 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 8mm

The temperature dropped to 3?F on this chilly morning as I leave the motel at 5:30am. Tufa Tower made out of limestone at Mono Lake fascinates the people who visit. It is especially popular for the photo enthusiasts and there were already two men with cameras in their hands, waiting for the sunrise. Wanting to photograph Tufa Tower at moment of the sunrise and a photo of the morning sun shining onto Tufa Tower as well as the lake, I walk along the lakeside to look for a good spot. I was surrounded by snow, but the area around the lake was much slushier. Snow invaded my shoes and mud affixed itself to the soles of my shoes, making it unusually heavy. Enduring the coldness in my feet, I chose a favorable spot and set up the tripod. I look over to the east and wait for the sun to rise. Suddenly when I look toward the west, the land beyond Tufa Tower had started to receive some sunlight.

The moon floating in the brightening sky put a great emphasis on the mystical landscape. Securing the tripod, I pressed the shutter with my frozen, immobile fingers. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM,Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance:daylight, Shutter speed: 1/15 sec, Aperture: f4.0,Focal length: 28mm

The eastern sky brightened up and the sunrise was very close at Mono Lake. The surface of the water formed a mist and became a mystical landscape. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 23mm

The sunlight first lit up the Sierra Nevadas on the west. Focusing on the mountains in the distance and blurring the prominent Tufa Tower in the foreground, Tufa Tower’s presence was still solid. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 26mm

The sun rose and when the sunlight reached the lake, the temperature increased slightly. My frozen fingers became mobile again and pressing the shutter was more enjoyable. The sun emphasized the interesting shapes of Tufa Tower and I felt like I stepped into a strange planet.

A winter sunrise at Mono Lake. The sun feels warmer since the air is frigid. The sunlight directly entered the lens, but the super wide-angle lens captured the morning air and lake faithfully. Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 8mm

Tufa receiving the morning light. The area receiving the most light had less snow. The compact digital camera sharply captured Tufa, the strange forming limestone. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec, Aperture: f11.0, Focal length:16.6mm

Were they geese? The lake, also popular with bird watchers, has seen over 300 types of birds here. Beyond the Tufa the mist covered the surface of the lake, making it difficult to see. With the super telephoto zoom lens, I followed the birds and chose a favorable focal length to take the shot. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/160 sec, Aperture: f7.1, Focal length: 203mm

Walking around the lake for nearly two hours since the sunrise, I went back to the motel to change my socks and check out of the motel. I bought some coffee at the market and headed to a country park, north of Mono Lake. The park was closed from the snow, but I decided to park the car on the shoulder and walk inside. The park entrance and parking lot was knee deep in snow and difficult to walk through, but the path leading to the lakeshore had evidence of people walking around and it was easier to get to the lake from there.

The red painted wall of the market stood out in the sparsely populated town. The icicles shone brightly under the morning sun. The white snow didn’t overexpose and the shadows of the icicles didn’t underexpose. The high contrast scenery was recorded faithfully. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture:f11.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

The park was closed due to the accumulated snow, but there were evidence of people walking on the wooden path, so it was comfortable to walk through. It was a very sunny, contrasty day, but the footprints and the texture of the snow were strongly portrayed. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/500 sec, Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 150mm

Accumulated snow on Tufa. The longer macro lens produced the texture of the limestone and snow firmly. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/500 sec, Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 150mm

After walking around the closed country park, as I looked down at the lake before heading back to the highway, a car appeared on the snowy road and a young man stepped out into the mountain with skis. From looking at his unwasted movement and lack of hesitation, I thought he was from this town.

From the highway, I look down at Mono Lake from the road leading to Country Park. Tufa floats on the lake that reflects the blue sky. It looked like a small pile of rocks. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/1000 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 209mm

The Country Park area was covered in snow. With the naked eye it only looked white, bright snow, but the digital camera captured the texture of the surface of the accumulated snow. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100,White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/320 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

A skier climbs up the vacant mountain. I wonder where he is climbing toward. In a swift movement, he disappeared beyond the mountain. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 186mm

The access to the snow covered Mono Lake was limited. The road leading to the west of Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass Road was closed during the winter months.

I went as far as I can, but Route 395 was closed off with a gate a few miles in, so I turned back immediately.

The landscape seen from the west side of Sierra Nevada mountains by Route 395 from Yosemite National Park. I wanted to go beyond the mountain, but access was limited. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f11.0, Focal length:24.2mm

Heading in the direction of Yosemite, I look back at Mono Lake. The road in the foreground is Route 395. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec, Aperture: f11.0, Focal length:16.6mm

In the afternoon when I returned to Mono Lake, the temperature had taken a 180? turn, making the chilly morning seem like a lie. While I sat on a bench by the lake, I gazed at the salt lake formed over 760,000 years ago. I anticipated the sunset.

The land area now was once part of the lake. The river water flowing into Mono Lake was redirected to the city of Los Angeles, so the water level had dwindled and the size of the lake decreased. Currently the area of the lake is 45,133 acres. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/1000 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 209mm

A warmed up Mono Lake on one winter afternoon. I look at the Tufa through a Tufa frame. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:16.6mm

As soon as the sun set over the western mountain, the temperature dropped. Winter at Mono Lake was unimaginable when visiting during the summer, but Tufa is interesting no matter what season. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec, Aperture:f8.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

Since there was no way of the lake water escaping anywhere, the salt concentration increased in Mono Lake. The strangely shaped limestone called Tufa flourished in the water. From 1941 the water flowing into the lake was redirected to the city of Los Angeles and because of the decreased water level, the ecosystem had collapsed. Presently, there are movements to restore the water level and it has improved. In the future, there are hopes that the water level will be normal once again. It is only natural that the Tufa will cease its existence and it might be unnatural for us to point our lenses at them.

All artwork on this page was processed from RAW data (X3F) with Sigma PhotoPro software. After processing, some selected images were imported into retouching software to remove dust. This photo essay is currently running on Sigma Japan’s site and it is published here two months later.

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