Salton Sea

What Is It?

Located in Southern California, not 45 minutes from Palm Springs, is the Salton Sea ‹ California’s largest lake and the third largest saline lake in the United States. It was created by accident in 1905 when a canal levy burst. Today it is a huge recreation area for boaters and fisherman and a delight for nature photographers because of the vast quantity of birds that make it their winter home. Located on thePacific Flywayit features a wildlife preserve at the southern end of the lake. But, during the winter months hundreds of species of birds can be found everywhere on the lake and its shores.

Rather than provide additional detail about the Salton Sea here, I recommend that you research it further if you’re interested by searching the web. One site that offers a good natural history can be foundhere.

Photography at The Salton Sea

Pelicans in Flight, Salton Sea, 2000

Highway 111 runs along the eastern shore of the Salton Sea and is easily accessible from the Palm Springs area. There is about a 15 mile stretch with public beaches and access points before the road swings away from the lake. On the morning in mid-January 2000 when I was there the beaches and cliffs were virtually deserted ‹ except for birds ‹ millions of birds.

This photograph was taken with theCanon 300mm f.2.8L ISlens. It was taken shortly after sunrise and the flight of pelicans was flying into the rising sun, which cast a warm glow across the water.

3 Pelicans, Salton Sea, 2000

This photograph was taken with the Canon 300mm lens and Canon’s 1.4X Extender for an affective focal length of 420mm at f/4. If you look closely you can see through the haze the faint outline of a mountain range in the distance.

Pink Flight, Salton Sea, 2000

Taken just before sunrise the soft pink glow of pre-dawn light blended the sky and water so that they merged into one. UsingFuji RMS 100/1000pushed 1 stop to ISO 200 I was able to catch this flight of birds at 1/125 sec @ f/2.8 with the Canon 300mm lens. It’s worth looking at the enlarged version by clicking on the photograph above to see the details in this image.

Black-Necked Stilts , Salton Sea, 2000

The low cliffs surrounding the lake on its eastern shore allow a slightly elevated perspective on the shore birds. While the great flights of pelicans and swallows are magnificent to watch and shoot, the myriads of shore birds such as theseBlack-Necked Stiltsprovide a wealth of interesting and enjoyable picture opportunities.

My primary interest is in capturing the more abstract nature images, like the first three above, but doing strictly representational shots like this one has its own appeal.

If you’re interested in learning more about the equipment used for these photographs, including theCanon 300mm f/2.8L ISlens and theWimberley Sidekickgimbal mount, read the separate articles that are available on each topic. You might also be interested in learning aboutJoshua Tree National Parkwhich offers wonderful photographic opportunities and is also very close to this locale.