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Alpine Caribbean: Lake Tahoe's majesty in the eyes of a photographer

KCRA Sacramento logo KCRA Sacramento 12/1/2017

Lake Tahoe is known world-wide as a skier's paradise and alpine destination where the serenity of the deep blue water meets the majesty of the towering pines that sway in the Northern California breeze.

Many of us take for granted living so close to this natural beauty as we load up our swimsuits for some sunbathing at the lake in the summer and prepare our skis and snowboards for some epic powder runs.

However, for Crystal Bay resident and professional photographer Peter Spain, he sees the Lake Tahoe area with a very unique eye. Spain captures incredible photos of the lake and mountain scenery, with its beaming colors and eye-catching splendor everywhere you turn.

We spoke with Spain, who shared some of his favorite photos and spoke a little about why he loves photographing what he calls the Alpine Caribbean:

a close up of a pier next to a body of water © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY?

SPAIN: I was a film and broadcast communication major at San Francisco State University, so I was used to looking through the lens, and it was natural for me to transition into photography. About 20 years ago, when I was in Tahoe shooting some back country snowboarding with that thing called film, I stumbled upon a job at the Cal Neva Resort as an in-house photographer. We had a large studio and shot thousands of weddings, portraits and events over the six-year period I was there. It was at my unofficial “University of Cal Neva Photography School” where I learned so much, more than one ever could learn from a classroom. When I left there in 2003, digital was just emerging, and I started my own business, which I continue to this day.

a large body of water © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE SPOT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN THE TAHOE AREA?

SPAIN: I have so many favorite spots to choose from, but I would say right in my backyard, which is the East Shore area. It includes the amazing shoreline of the Sand Harbor area. Unfortunately, over the last five to six years, the traffic and the amount of people visiting in the summer has skyrocketed, clogged with people and traffic. Now, they are building a walking and biking path from Incline Village to Sand Harbor, which will only bring more chaos over there. Bummer! That area used to be my favorite zone to paddle out to and shoot from, as it normally was not easy to access.

a man flying through the air on a snow covered mountain © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU CAN GIVE US AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING TO SNAP SOME AWESOME PICTURES AT LAKE TAHOE?

SPAIN: My Favorite places to shoot are on Lake Tahoe's magical east shore in the morning hours when the sun rises from behind the mountains and lights up the crystal clear water below. It's always best to have the sun at your back when shooting landscape images in general. Another favorite spot is the Emerald Bay area -- some of the best vantage points to shoot from are literally only steps away from the roadside parking, which make it nice. My favorite time of the year is in the spring when the mountaintops are filled with snow and the crowds are minimal. This is the best way to get those crisp, clean water shots without any people or boats in the photos. For those sunrise and sunset shots, look for fall and winter as your best bets. No matter if you have a smart phone or DSLR, it is hard to go wrong up here if you pick your time and place right!

a large waterfall over a body of water © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

WHAT KIND OF CAMERA DO YOU NORMALLY USE WHEN YOU PHOTOGRAPH OUTDOORS?

SPAIN: During outdoor shoots, I use all Canon gear -- I’m a Canon snob (better skin tones for shooting people and portraits). My go-to cameras are the Mark2 and Mark3 and mandatory L series lens, which is Canon’s highest-rated lens geared toward professional photographers. This lens makes all the difference. My favorite mediums to print on are the gallery canvas wraps or prints on metal that have a little more contemporary look to them.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PHOTO YOU'VE SHOT?

a rocky shore next to a body of water © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

SPAIN: It’s so hard to choose just one, but I would say it is this Sand Harbor clarity image -- I call this photo the Tahoe Azul. What I love about this image, is that it was shot with my Hasselblad 501CM camera back in 2002, (yeah I'm old school!) with Velvia transparency film and a Carl Zeiss 50mm wide-angle lens. With the snow-capped peaks in the distance and the amazing colors and clarity, it was the perfect combination for a series of images I took that morning. This film was was then scanned in high file and can be printed up to a 40x60 or in a larger panoramic crop.

a close up of a rocky mountain © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO WITH THE LEAGUE TO SAVE LAKE TAHOE.

SPAIN: I have been donating my scenic photographs to the League to Save Lake Tahoe for more than 10 years now. Many people may know the nonprofit group better by its mission "Keep Tahoe Blue." They often use my photos in their PR or marketing literature, social media posts and their annual newsletter. The organization has been dedicated to protecting Lake Tahoe since 1957. Some of the most important issues I have seen them work on include promoting restoration of wetlands damaged from development and organizing beach cleanups around the lake. To have an organization like the League to Save Lake Tahoe use my photography is a great honor.

GIVE US THE STORY BEHIND A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE IMAGES.

a large body of water © Peter Spain Photography

ALPINE CARIBBEAN: After more than 15 years of shooting Lake Tahoe, I always find myself going back to the magical east shore area near Sand Harbor, where the different shades of blue and water clarity are mesmerizing. Some of the best moments are captured in the morning, when the lake is like glass and the rising sun lights up the boulders beneath the surface. This image can also be seen in the original panoramic version, which prints up to a 30x90-inch fine art piece.

a sunset over a body of water with a mountain in the background © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

CRYSTAL BAY SUNRISE: The sunrises around here, and in Tahoe in general, are best in the fall and winter months. I noticed this particular day setting up from my house in the wee hours as I scrambled to grab my gear. I got up to this vista just in time as the sky lit up as far as the eye could see -- the deep red colors and reflections were truly amazing. It's one of my favorite sunrise shots for sure. This image is also available in a panoramic crop.

a rocky shore next to a body of water © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

INCLINE VILLAGE SURF: The sea was, er ... I mean, the lake was angry that day, my friends! Preceding every major winter storm, there is usually a strong wind event, with winds often gusting over 100 mph on the ridge tops. This happened to be the case on this cold November morning, with 6-foot swells charging through and breaking perfectly into this Incline Village beach under a fiery winter sunrise. It was the biggest surf I have yet to see or photograph.

a pool next to a body of water © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc.

AQUATIC FALL: I have a lot of fun shooting with my water housing, and on this particular fall day, the water was a perfect shade of turquoise with freshly fallen Cottonwood leaves scattered about. Get ready for winter!

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[image id='068c3f80-a781-46e6-9010-6b4d2d8db5a3' mediaId='c29cf770-b100-4330-b3a2-bed9baff63dc' align='center' size='medium' share='true' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image] You can check out some of Spain's work in person at the Sand Harbor Visitors Center or the Sand Harbor Grill, both located at Sand Harbor State Park. You can click here to visit Spain's website or check out his Facebook page at Peter Spain Photography.

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