Great Spots for Great Shots in Lake Tahoe
By: Cam Schilling
Guest Post with Cam Rodrigues, Photographer & Videographer for Spec Productions
Lake Tahoe incessantly provides unmatched picturesque scenery. Towering pines line sandy beach fronts of the vibrant blue alpine lake, which all sits tucked away in a crevice of the sprawling Sierra Mountains – it’s the Jewel of the Sierras, to say the least. With a long list of reasons why Lake Tahoe is a renown destination venue, breathtaking photography is pretty close to the top of that list.
To be out here and not photograph the often surreal landscape feels like a wasted opportunity, and with that on my mind during every new adventure, I decided to invest in a camera and make serious efforts to practice more. Recently I got some advice from a real pro, drone specialist and master behind the lens for Spec Productions, Cam Rodrigues, who gave me the scoop on where and how to take advantage of the stunning surroundings of Lake Tahoe.
Luckily, it’s so beautiful here that regardless of the locale you won’t need to be an expert on the matter to take a nice postcard-worthy picture. That being said, it certainly takes some skills and it does help to have a good eye, or in my case a good friend who can give you a few pointers.
So, where might you start?
Cam: Emerald Bay is the obvious one, but it’s all about getting first light, and not just to dodge the crowds. First light at Emerald Bay is insane. It never gets any easier prying yourself out of bed, but it’s worth it every time. With that whole area, you can’t go wrong really, but there’s much more for picture-worthy stuff than the obvious Vikingsholm or Fannette Island.
Cam: Eagle Point and Eagle Falls each offer their own great views of the bay from a different perspective, but if you’re lucky, the real draw is that you might catch some bald eagles in their nesting grounds. You’ll also find some great shots headed north on 89 – right before you reach the scenic overlook of Emerald Bay, there’s a view on the left looking at Cascade Lake with a side shot of Tallac in the background. Just awesome at Emerald Bay and I come across a different new favorite shot every time.
Though intense at times, Lake Tahoe is the epitome of an ideal winter season. Even just a bit of snow in a photo can make for a completely different feel, a really fun and interesting to shoot landscape. With the snow and ice comes some cool textures, shimmering reflections, and lighting, vivid contrasting colors. The snow is one of the main reasons why people want to live or visit here, use it to your advantage in your photos.
Cam: Tallac is , in my opinion,one of the best looking mountains in the Tahoe basin, if not the best. Depending on the angle of where you are it can look very different than what you’re used to, but at the same time still very familiar. The allure of photographing this peak – there’s just something about this shot that draws you in for more. Even when it’s not the focal point it is greatly enhancing the backdrop of another shot.
Kiva beach, Fallen Leaf Lake, and along the east shore are all great spots for a Tallac shot, but if you’ve got a few hours the trek to the top is well worth it for some pictures in the clouds. When the weather is gloomy, you can photograph some seriously cool and moody rolling clouds and fog above 10,000 ft.
It’s pretty special when you have the best of the beaches and the mountains in the same shot. The entire Pope-Baldwin Recreation area is easily one of the best places on the south shore to spend a day taking photos of the two together. Start at the Rainbow Trail and end up at the beautiful Kiva Beach. There’s always wildlife around the marshes of Taylor Creek all the way down to the lake. Between the beaches and the remnants of the old estates on the property, you’ll walk away with a memory card full of keepers.
Cam: From Cave Rock , you’ve got the ability to see Round Hill all the way to Stateline and much further down the south shore. This place is really neat and the short dirt path leads to 2-3 different rocky lookouts if you’re willing to climb a bit. This is my go-to for a little journey with a large reward. It is especially spectacular for sunset, watching the sun come down splashing the sky with different colors as it lowers over the west side of the lake. The top of the tunnel is a great vantage point for capturing the whole show from the early bright yellow and orange hues fading into deep pinks and purples.
Cam: This shot of Echo Summit looking back at South Lake – I took out my camera for this shot not really knowing what I would get, not expecting much. This was my reminder that when you live in an area that boasts some of the greatest landscape photography in the world, even just pulling over on the side of the road you can end up with some remarkable stuff. You’re not always going to find your best shots at the highest peak or the most colorful valley, sometimes you just need to stop and take it all in to realize what you’ve got right in front of you.
Echo Lake ends up being a little hidden gem once the seasons change and the flowers start popping all along the 2-mile loop around the lake. Save this one for when the snow clears a bit.
Cam: Fallen Leaf Lake is year-round fun with the camera. Right now (pending the road is open), if you get there early enough you can catch the fog floating above the frigid water. The glum-grey scene makes for some really eerie shots against the white snow. Something fun to try on this lake if it’s calm enough, you can capture some incredible reflection shots, particularly at dusk.
From Fallen Leaf Lake you’ll also have access to some of the best day hikes around, each one with their own great lookouts. It’s also a perfect spot to practice your shutter speed settings with the Glen Alpine falls and other streams. I always make a point to come back in the fall when the colors flip.
There are many places and different approaches to capturing some great stuff out here, and there’s no wrong way to do it. We’re spoiled, take advantage of it like Cam who really honed his passion for photography and video with the inspiration of South Lake Tahoe.