Monday, December 24, 2012

My 10 Best Photos of 2012

"Icy Tree at Lake Tahoe" - This ice and icicle
 covered tree was photographed in the early
morning at Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe.

2012 was another great year for viewing beautiful scenery in the Tahoe area. Really, what year isn't? It was also another great year for Scott Shots Photography. I was fortunate to be very busy with commercial work and I was lucky to capture many great photos of the area that I love and call home. 

The ice around Tahoe and Truckee seemed to be particular interesting this year. The snow was a bit late and it wasn't the best year for our snow pack. But, this made parking around the area much easier than usual and the snow didn't cover up the frozen smaller lakes and streams until later than usual. Here's a few of my favorite ice photos that I captured: 

"Frozen Creek in Martis Valley" - This small frozen
creek was photographed at sunset in Truckee's Martis Valley.

"Rock on Prosser Reservoir Sunset" - Sunset
photograph of a rock sitting on top of an
icy frozen Prosser Reservoir in Truckee, CA.

I went shooting a bunch this year with my photographer friend Tony Spiker of This one below was a full moon setting over Lake Tahoe at sunrise that we shot together from Sand Harbor. He got some great photos as well. 

"Full Moon Setting Over Tahoe 1" - Photograph
shot from Sand Harbor of a full moon setting
in the early morning over Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Donner Lake in Truckee provided some great sunrise and sunset photos for me this year. This one  below of boulders in the foreground with a fiery sunset and a silhouette of Donner Summit in the background was my favorite.  

"Donner Lake Sunset 5" - Photograph of rocks and an intense
 sunset on the South shore of Donner Lake in Truckee, California.

Squaw Valley's Cushing Classic was a blast to photograph. I brought my camera for pure fun and to maybe catch a couple photos but I ended shooting during the whole event. Tons of fun photo opportunities, the one below was my favorite.  More from this shoot can be found on this blog post:

"Cushing Classic at Squaw Valley 23" - Photograph
 of a skier crossing a pond during the Cushing Classic at Squaw Valley, USA.

I also had a ton of fun this summer backpacking in Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness with my son and friends and then again with Tony Spiker. I traveled light on photo gear but still got many incredible images. This one below was my favorite, more can be see here: and here: . 

"Tree at Lake Aloha 2" - This tree was photographed
at Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness.

Perhaps my favorite photo shoot of the year was photographing the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race's Dawn Patrol from a hot air balloon, what an incredible experience. I wanted to add more photos from the shoot to this top 10 list but I narrowed it down to these two below. More from the shoot and a bit of the story can be found on this blog post:

"Dawn Patrol 6" - Photograph of the Dawn Patrol hot
air balloons at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon
Race. Photographed from a hot air balloon.

"Dawn Patrol 15" - Photograph of a glowing hot air balloon
flying for the Dawn Patrol at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race. Photographed from a hot air balloon.

The fall colors were great in the Tahoe area this year, my favorite photo of them is below. Also, this year I was invited to blog for my town on their site. Here is a post I wrote there with many other 2012 Tahoe fall color photos:

"Truckee River in Autumn 6" - Photograph of the Truckee
River in Autumn near Downtown Truckee, California.

Well, there you have it. I'd love to know what you think about the images I chose. Please feel free to leave a comment below or ask any questions you may have about the photos. Thank you, and cheers to another great year for photography!

-Scott Thompson

The photos above are available as fine art prints, photo gift items, or as stock photography. Click on an image for more info and a larger view of the photo. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 Fall Colors in Truckee / Tahoe (with photo tips)

It has been a beautiful fall up here in Truckee / Tahoe and I was lucky to add many new bright and colorful images to my archive. There are still pockets of yellow and gold out there but the snow is falling as I write this and the aspen and cottonwood leaves will most likely be scarce in a couple of days.

When shooting fall colors, it is easy to want to shoot wide angle photos of the whole aspen grove or cotton wood tree. I do this as well, but don't forget to have some fun with close ups and abstracts. The images below are  examples of how I enjoy a getting a little more creative with the color.

For the this image, I hand held the camera and used a small aperture and long shutter speed. While the camera was exposing, I intentionally zoomed the lens. I do this several times until I dial in the exposure and speed at which I zoom. It's a fun look that made a great background on my smart phone's display.
"Aspen at Fredrick's Meadow 6" - Photograph of yellow aspen trees in the fall at Fredrick's Meadow near Fallen Leaf Lake, California.

For this one, I shot the reflection of the aspen trees in a pond. I knew when I shot it that I would be flipping the image upside down when processing, as it is a look I've gone for previously. Sure I could have been more pure and shot the image with the camera upside down but, for me, it's easier to shoot it normally, knowing I'll be flipping it in Photoshop.
"Aspen Reflections 3" - Photograph of yellow aspen trees reflection in the fall at a pond near Spooner Lake, Nevada.

Often when shooting fall colors, I go for back lit yellow leaves. It can create more of a "glowing" look to the leaves. Also, I can often include a sunburst like in the image below to add another interesting element to the shot. If you are close to the trees, a flash can be helpful the bring out even a bit more yellow in the darker leaves that are shaded by other leaves. I used a flash for this one.
"Truckee River in Autumn 6" - Photograph of the Truckee River in Autumn near Downtown Truckee, California.

I find a tripod is not usually necessary when shooting fall colors. This is because the wind is often blowing a bit and you get the "quaking aspen" leaves. The moving leaves can appear blurry at slower shutter speeds so I tend to shoot with a high shutter speed, safe for hand held shots. That being said, I do sometimes use a tripod anyway so I can adjust my settings, dial in my perfect exposure, and make sure I have the same composition.

If you were able to get out and shoot some fall colors this year, please leave a link to the images in the comments section below, I'd love to see what you got. Also, if you have any other tips for shooting fall colors, please let us know. Thanks and happy shooting!

-Scott Thompson

The images above are available as large fine art prints, photo gift items, and as stock photography. Please click on an image for more info.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Truckee PhotogBlog is live!

Recently, the town I live in, Truckee, CA updated their website. They licensed a few of my images for the new website but they also invited me to be a featured photographer on their Truckee PhotogBlog. The blog also contains posts and photos from other local photographers. The new site and the new blog have recently gone live and I have now made a couple posts to the blog. Please check it out and let me know what you think, comments in the PhotogBlog are very much appreciated.

-Scott Thompson

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Great Reno Balloon Race Dawn Patrol Photos

"Dawn Patrol 15" - Photograph of a glowing hot air balloon flying for the Dawn Patrol at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race. Photographed from a hot air balloon.

"Dawn Patrol 6" - Photograph of the
Dawn Patrol hot air balloons at the
2012 Great Reno Balloon Race.
Photographed from a hot air balloon.
I recently had the incredible experience of photographing the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race Dawn Patrol from a hot air balloon. It was one of those moments in my life where I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, well, the 2:30 am alarm clock buzz may have contributed to that feeling.  

It's a long story how I scored the spot in the balloon but it has to do with the Dawn Patrol team using one of my images I got of them last year for a poster they were signing and selling for charity. I was actually supposed to fly during media day a couple days earlier but the high winds made it unsafe to fly. So my pilot asked if I wanted to try again for Dawn Patrol,  "Of course!"

The low light and moving balloon were a huge challenge for photography but I was able to pull it off. Please enjoy this slide show of images below and let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.

-Scott Thompson

All of the Great Reno Balloon Race images above are available as large fine art prints, photo gift items, and to license and download right now. Click on an individual image for more info.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My Best Photos of Lake Tahoe, the "Best Lake in America"

I'm so not surprised, but Lake Tahoe won the title of "Best Lake in America" in a recent survey conducted by USA Today. The USA Today article with more info can be found HERE.

I absolutely love photographing Lake Tahoe. It's incredible beauty is unmatched. In celebration of it's new title of "Best Lake in America", I thought I'd post a slideshow of 200 of my best Lake Tahoe photos. Click the full screen icon on the bottom right of the slideshow for the best view. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

-Scott Thompson

The Lake Tahoe images above are available as large fine art prints, photo gift items, and to license, download, and use as stock photography. Click on an image for details. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness

A Photography Adventure at Lake Aloha in Tahoe's Desolalation Wilderness.
"Desolation Wilderness Sign 1"

Last Friday, I headed out to Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness again. This time with Tony Spiker of, he and his wife also own the Vista Gallery in Tahoe Vista. Our destination was beautiful Lake Aloha. I had been there a couple weeks earlier on a big backpacking trip with my son and some friends (see previous blog post HERE).  Although I got some great photos that trip, I wasn't 100% focused on photography like I planned on being during the Lake Aloha trip with Tony.

We started backpacking from Echo Lakes fairly early in the day and after a nice healthy climb, we made it to Lake Aloha in great time. We had both decided to bring our tripods instead of tents so setting up camp wasn't much work at all. The food was hung in a nearby tree and the photo fun began. 

Lake Aloha is an incredibly photogenic lake. There are tons of dead trees, boulders, and small islands in the water. The shoreline has plenty of trails along it, there is also plenty of easy access to higher mountain peaks where you can get a great view of the lake from above. 

"Lake Aloha 4" - Photograph of Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness..

"Wildflowers at Lake Aloha 2" - These pink wildflowers were photographed at Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness.
After getting some nice daytime photos, we took a break and Tony taught me how to fly fish. I'm a fishing fool but I had never fly fished before, and what a perfect setting to learn. Although we didn't catch any fish, I did catch this nice photo below. Thanks Tony for showing me how to cast, now, how am I going to convince my wife I need to spend the money on a new rod and reel???

"Fly Fishing at Lake Aloha" - Photograph of Tony Spiker of fly fishing at Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness.

The late afternoon light at Lake Aloha was great so the photography fun started back up. I had a lot of fun shooting more dead trees and including the sun in the photo:

"Lake Aloha 12" - Photograph of dead trees at Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness.

When it was time to shoot sunset, the few clouds that we did have had disappeared. But we still got lucky with a nice alpen glow that gave us purple and pink skies in one direction, and golden orange and blue skies in the other. Again, the dead trees in the middle of the water gave us very unique looking photo opportunities. 

"Lake Aloha Sunset 6" - Photograph of Lake Aloha at sunset in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness.

As the sky started getting darker, we decided to do some light painting. Tony had brought his giant flashlight that works great for this kind of fun. During long exposures, he would shine the light on the dead stumps and trees to "paint" them with light. The flashlight puts off a much warmer color than a camera flash does and gives the image a great look.

"Lake Aloha Sunset 8" - Photograph of dead trees and stumps in Lake Aloha at sunset in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness. A flashlight was used to "light paint" the stumps during a long exposure.

We kept on shooting long after sunset. The moon was fairly bright that night and lit up the landscape very nicely. I took quite a few 20+ minute photographs, getting a interestingly lit landscape with a bit of star trails in the sky. My last photo was just after 11 p.m.,  then I crawled into my sleeping bag exhausted but happy. 

"Lake Aloha at Night" - A long exposure photograph lit by the moon of Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness..

I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to shoot the sunrise but unfortunately it wasn't very interesting at all so I crawled back into my sleeping back and got a couple more hours of sleep before heading back down the mountain. 

Some items I would highly recommend bringing when doing a backpacking photography trip to Lake Aloha are:
  • A quality big backpack. You'll need plenty of space for photo gear, camping gear, and food.
  • One camera body. Skip the backup body or large battery grip. Lighter is better.
  • A Tripod. I didn't bring one my first time to Lake Aloha and regretted it. It's more important than a tent in my opinion. 
  • A camera flash and possibly a big flashlight. 
  • Bug spray and sun block. There is no shortage of mosquitoes or sunshine at Lake Aloha.
  • A food bag and a rope, or a bear proof food bin. The little ground critters are more of a problem than the bears in my opinion, they'll chew a hole through your backpack fast to get to the trail mix as I learned my first time out. Get your food hanging in a tree as soon as you arrive. 
  • A good water purifier.  The climb to Lake Aloha takes a lot out of you.  Clean natural springs can be found in the area at certain times of the year, but you should definitely have a filter pump, SteriPEN, or iodine tablets ready to go.
If you ever make it out to Lake Aloha or Desolation Wilderness, I'd love to see your photos. Please leave a link in my comments area. Here's a slide show of more photos I got on this recent trip. Enjoy!

-Scott Thompson

The images above are available as large and small fine art prints, gift items, and as stock photography. Click on an individual image for a larger view and purchasing information. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Desolation Wilderness Photography

A fun family and photo adventure into Tahoe's incredible Desolation Wilderness.

"Tree at Lake Aloha 2" - This tree was photographed at
Lake Aloha in the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness.
Last week, I made a last minute decision to join some good friends on a 4 day and 3 night backpacking trip in Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness. We decided to go from Echo Lakes to Emerald Bay via the Pacific Crest Trail and other trails. My 11 year old son went with us so I had a lot to pack. With my backpack weighing in at over 50 pounds, I actually considered not brining my camera to spare my back. Boy am I glad I decided to ditch some of the trail mix and bring the Canon 5D MarkII.

My son Kane and I backpacking Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness.

I only brought the one body, a 24-105L lens, and a 580 flash. I don't have a carbon fiber tripod so I decided not to bring my heavy one. Although I missed having the tripod, I still pulled off some nice photos. Many of the photos that I shot were during quick stops along the trail so I wouldn't have really had time to set up a tripod anyway. For carrying my gear, I was able to remove the shoulder strap on my trusty old LowePro Topload Zoom AW camera bag and attach it to my backpack shoulder straps with 2 caribiners. It worked out very well for accessing the camera quickly without having to remove the backpack. 

If you ever get the chance to visit the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness, I highly recommend toughing out the extra weight of a good camera. There are an incredible amount of lakes to shoot in the Desolation Wilderness backcountry, I saw Echo Lakes, Lake Aloha, Heather Lake, Susie Lake, Half Moon Lake, Dicks Lake, and Eagle Lake.  You'll also find incredible granite formations and mountains, beautiful trees and wildflowers, wildlife, and more.  Here's some of the images I was able to get: 

Echo Lakes, at the start of our journey.  We "cheated" and took the water taxi across the lake so we could make it to Lake Aloha before dark.

Lake Aloha at Sunset, the first lake we spent the night at. In my opinion, this was the most photogenic of  all of the beautiful lakes. I want to go back for more photos here...

Heather Lake, a spot along our trip that we cooled off in with a quick swim. 

Gilmore Lake, the second lake we spent the night at.   The mosquito swarms here were probably the worst I had ever seen. 

Dicks Lake, we were going to stay here for the night but decided to continue on to Eagle Lake.

Desolation Wilderness vista view, an incredible spot where we were able to see much of the area we had traveld through.   A sliver view of Lake Aloha can be seen in the top center. 

Eagle Lake, the last lake we spent the night at. It was a short hike out to Emerald Bay in the morning.  We saw plenty of day hikers here as it is not too far of a hike from the road.

Below is a slideshow of even more Desolation Wilderness photos with some fun family snapshots mixed in. Get out there and enjoy it for yourself! (More info on visiting Desolation Wilderness HERE.)

-Scott Thompson

Most of the Desolation Wilderness images above (the ones without people) are available as large fine art prints, gift items, and to license, download, and use as stock photography. Click on an individual image for more information. 

A BIG THANK YOU to Todd Bromley of Class V Electric and the Bromley family for getting us out there!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New "Beauty at the Bottom" Photo Exhibit at Rick's Wine Cellar in Marin, CA.

Scott Thompson and his prints to be exhibited at Rick's Wine Cellar.

Come one, come all!!! 
Exhibit Opening Reception - Saturday, June 9th  4-7pm

Starting Saturday May 19th, I'll be exhibiting my "Beauty at the Bottom" photos at Rick's Wine Cellar in Marin. The exhibit opening reception will be on Saturday June 9th, from 4-7pm.  I'll be there to talk about the photos, answer questions, and most importantly, to have fun with my San Francisco Bay area friends and fans. 

The "Beauty at the Bottom" photo series consists of images that were created by shooting down inside wine, beer, and tequila bottles. Different light sources behind the bottles create colorful kaleidoscopic-like abstract images perfect for enjoying with your eyes while indulging your palate. More about this series of photos can be found on this previous blog post:

Photo courtesy of Rick's Wine Cellar. 

Rick's Wine Cellar is a popular and award winning wine tasting bar that sells wine by the glass and bottles to go. Owners Rick and Candy Mendell offer a huge selection of low production, high quality wines and I can tell you from experience, they are very talented at helping you pick out a perfect bottle for any occasion. They are located at 207 Corte Madera Ave. in Corte Madera (Marin), California. And their website is:

If you'd like to attend the reception, please add the event to your calendar via this Facebook event link: (no RSVP necessary)

Beauty at the Bottom: Red Wine 2

Also.... At the reception I'll be raffling off a signed 8"x10" print of the popular "Beauty at the Bottom: Red Wine 2"! You will need to be there to enter the drawing and again to pick up the print, but you won't need to be present to win.

Hope to see you there, CHEERS!!!

-Scott Thompson

UPDATE 5/20/12 - The exhibit is hung and looking great! Here's a photo of the art, Rick, and I at Rick's Wine Cellar:

Scott Thompson and Rick Mendell of Rick's Wine Cellar. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Scott Shots Prints, now available at the Vista Gallery in Tahoe Vista!

I have BIG NEWS to share. My Tahoe area Scott Shots Photography prints are now available at the Vista Gallery in Tahoe Vista

The Vista Gallery is a great gallery owned by Tony Spiker of Spiker Photography and his wife Melissa who does a great job running the gallery's social media presence. It has an incredible view of Lake Tahoe, but your eyes will likely be checking out the wonderful art. The artwork in the gallery includes Tahoe area photography from many local photographers, incredible paintings, sculptures, and more. They also have a full service frame shop in the gallery! 

The frame shop is a great because I sell unframed prints there and on my website. The Vista Gallery has a huge selection of moulding and mats and they do quality work. You can find elegant expensive frames there or economical yet nice frames that compete on price with the bulk frame shops in the cities. 

Also, soon... my work will be available for renting or "rent to own" at the Vista Gallery. This is perfect for Real Estate agents or interior decorators that stage homes, businesses or hotels that need large amounts of art but don't want to pay for it all at once, or fine art buyers that want to try out the art on their wall for a while before committing to buy. 

Please stop by the gallery and check out my work and the other art there the next time you're in Tahoe Vista. You won't be disappointed!

-Scott Thompson

Vista Gallery information:

phone:      (530) 546-7794

Photos from the Cushing Classic at Squaw Valley, 2012

"Cushing Classic at Squaw Valley 23" - Photograph of a skier crossing
a pond during the Cushing Classic at Squaw Valley, USA.

This past weekend brought an end to the 2011/2012 ski season at Squaw Valley USA. My son skis and I snowboard there almost every Sunday in the winter. It's one of the reasons we moved to the Tahoe area

This closing weekend was also the famous Cushing Classic pond crossing. An event where skiers and snowboards dress in silly costumes and attempt to ski across Lake Cushing (it's more of a pond than lake). 

I was there with my friends and family and wasn't planning on working, but I brought my camera just in case. We ended up getting a great spot to sit, thanks to my wife, so I got the camera out of the bag. I'm glad I did, as I got a ton of fun and funny photos of a very entertaining event. 

Below is a slideshow of the Cushing Classic. If it looks like fun, be sure to check it out next spring!

-Scott Thompson

The images above are available as prints or to license as editorial photography. Click on an image for more info. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Downtown Truckee, California - A Great Spot for Photography

"Snowy Sierra Tavern 1" - This snow scene of the Sierra Tavern and Commercial Row was
photographed in historic Downtown Truckee, CA.

Historic Downtown Truckee in the Tahoe area of California is a great spot for photography, but it is often skipped by photographers visiting Tahoe who head for the big lake instead. Downtown Truckee is about a 15-20 minute drive from Lake Tahoe and can provide many styles of photos in a small, walkable area.

"Snowy Truckee River 1" - This foggy and snowy scene of the 
Truckee River was photographed from the bridge near
West River St. in Downtown Truckee, CA.
"Downtown Truckee Tracks 2"- These railroad tracks were
photographed in Downtown Truckee, in the early morning.

Commercial Row in Downtown Truckee has a great deal of history to it, here's a link to a walking map that points out historic locations. I'm not a historian but you can find many great stories about Truckee's history at Many of the buildings in Truckee have an old western feel to them and are very photogenic. Truckee has recently improved it's sidewalks and walking around for photos is very easy, even after snow storms.
Commercial Row in Downtown Truckee.

Brickelltown wagon in Downtown Truckee.
There are some great vantage points above Downtown Truckee that can give you nice photos of the town. The hillside by the Cottonwood Restaurant provides a great view of historic Commercial Row, especially in the fall. Truckee has a good deal of Cottonwood trees along the Truckee River and aspens scattered throughout town that can turn a brilliant yellow or orange color. The Rocking Stone can provide a nice view above the opposite side of town.
Photographed from the Rocking Stone.

"Downtown Truckee in the Fall 2"

Downtown Truckee can also provide you with photos of an old diner and a classic Flying A gas station replica that is now a clothing store. The Christmas Holiday season is a great time to visit as most of Downtown Truckee gets decorated in twinkling Christmas lights. You might even get lucky and photograph a snow covered Christmas tree or snowy candy cane if the weather cooperates. Trains in Downtown Truckee are a regular sighting and are often stopped or going slow, perfect for photography. If you happen to take a helicopter or airplane ride for some Truckee aerial photography, the downtown area can be very photogenic by air as well.

So the next time you visit Lake Tahoe for photography, be sure to take a little trip into Truckee, you wont be disappointed. And if the lighting happens to not be that great, stop into one of our many restaurants or bars where you can get "motivated" and wait for the lighting to improve...

Please enjoy this slide show below of even more Downtown Truckee photography (and the surrounding area). If you have any questions about the location of a photo or how it was shot, don't hesitate  to ask in the comments section below. Thank you.

-Scott Thompson

All the images above are available as large fine art prints, gift items, and to license, download, and use as stock photography. Click on an image for a larger view and purchasing information. 

Please visit Art Obsessions art gallery when you visit Downtown Truckee, where you can view and purchase Scott Thompson's prints of Downtown Truckee and the Tahoe area