Behind the Image: Sand Harbor Tahoe

May 11, 2023  |  Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

It's not unusual for me to go back through my photos months or even years after I've taken them, and find an image I've never edited or shared before. You might think that something I didn't choose to edit immediately after I made the photo would be a lesser image, or filler. That's not always the case. Sometimes, it's my eyes and my mind that need the time to recognize the best images of the bunch. Sometimes I'm just looking for something else. Then, at some later date, I will decide to go back and look through my photos with fresh eyes, and find a gem that's just waiting to be edited and shared. Such is the case with "Sand Harbor Tahoe", below.

Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe.
Sand Harbor Tahoe

The crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe rhythmically lap at the shoreline at Sand Harbor. A picturesque lake abounding with splendor, the sun reflects off its surface like a million diamonds. Gigantic rock formations and towering evergreen trees frame this peaceful scene, while above, a few white fluffy clouds dot the sky, adding to the tranquil atmosphere. Sand Harbor lies on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, high in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.

I made my first ever visit to California in 2009, visiting a coworker who covered Northern California and Nevada as a technical representative for Canon USA. He'd invited me out to do some photography while he visited his accounts in the areas I wanted to visit. While he covered his Reno accounts, we stopped for some photography at Lake Tahoe, specifically at Sand Harbor State Park, on the lake's eastern shores.

It was late afternoon and we'd decided to stick around for sunset. The park was busy with late summer visitors, on August 24th, 2009. We waited around a bit and eventually found we had the beach to ourselves. As we waited for the sun to drop below the mountains to the west across the lake, I wandered the beach and found this spot. I was enamored with the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II lens at the time, and was using an EOS 5D Mark II back then. All those weathered rocks seemed tailor-made for the ultra wide angle lens, helping to create space and give a sense of context to the scene.

I spent a lot of time looking around the rocky shoreline, trying to use these big round shapes as a foreground. I don't remember the exact moment I captured this scene, but I remember being overwhelmed by all of the rocks, and I remember the bright sky against the rocky foreground was causing me exposure problems. Several of the images from that day were awful because the exposures were so contrasty and the Canon imaging sensors back then couldn't handle it. I ventured to this area because I wouldn't be shooting directly into the sun, which alleviated the issue. But I had images from later on when the sun set that I'd hoped would be much better.

I didn't get around to editing this one until almost three years later, in 2012. I remember it being a rainy Saturday and I was home just relaxing. I was going through older photos just killing time and came across this one. It immediately struck me and I edited it as you see here. I then uploaded it to my old website from back then and immediately it sold. I'd never had one sell that fast. Turns out an Irish guitarist in a heavy metal band I listen to, Celtic Legacy, purchased it. Every now and then I see the print when he posts videos of him and the band rehearsing in his home. Pretty cool!

So that's the story behind Sand Harbor Tahoe. Hope you enjoyed it!