Travel | Family Trip to Tahoe on July 4th – All shots taken with iPhone!

Andrea is turning 3, yeeeeeeah! Happy birthday! It is also the 4th of July weekend. We decided to head up to Lake Tahoe, one of my favorite places, to celebrate.

As known to my friends, I bring my camera bag EVERYWHERE I travel. For this very special trip with a lot to celebrate, I spent quite some time to organize my bag, making ensure all batteries were charged and memory cards were in good shape. Catastrophically, 3 hours after we took off, I found that I left the camera bag at home!! I wanted to punish myself by jumping off the car...relax, I did not. There is always a solution for a difficult situation. Look at the bright side. I pulled out from my pocket the only camera I had at the moment: my iPhone 5. Thank you Steve! Will I pull it off or disappoint Andrea? I don't know. It will be challenging because I have never used my phone for serious pictures. I was told many times that I don't need a good camera for good pictures; instead, I need good visualization. But I have always been SLR dependent. This time, I wonder how much I can achieve with this tiny lens on the phone.

Now, let the trip begin...

Andrea on the road from Max Ye on Vimeo.

Tahoe is located on the boarder of Northern California and Navada. For the folks who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe holds a very special place in our heart. In the winter we come here to ski and snowboard; in the summer, we come here to swim, hike and camp. It was Lake Tahoe where I fell in love with nature wilderness and started landscape photography.

On our way to Tahoe, we took a rest at Donner Lake, which is located in Truckee, north of Lake Tahoe. Donner Lake has the unique blue color and surrounding forest just like Lake Tahoe, but boutique style. Here is the best spot to view Donner:

Donner Summit Bridge; GPS Coordination: 39.319243, -120.318705

Reno is a city in Nevada and it is about 50 minutes away from Tahoe. People call it “The Biggest Little City in the World”. With many casinos and hotels, it is a convenient location to spend the night when someone cannot find a place to stay near the Lake Tahoe area. During non-holiday weekdays, you may find very good deals of nice casino hotels.

Eldorado Hotel Casino Buffet, $25/person, Andrea is too young to be charged!

After a night of good rest in Reno, we headed to Lake Tahoe the second morning. I-80 West is the most popular route from Reno to Tahoe. But we recommend to take highway 431. On the way, you will find beautiful meadows and accessible forest for a short hike.

Incline Village; GPS Coordinates: 39.302705, -119.917228

When you get on Highway 28 from 431, go southbound to circle the Lake clockwise. The view is better than the other way around in my opinion.

Here it is, Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is an Alpine Lake; the water is ultra-clear. The surface area is 190 square miles and shore line is 71 miles. You can find many beaches and parks along the shore but what I love the most is to find a remote spot with lots of boulders, turn it into my private beach (for the day), and jump off the boulders into the cool water just like kids do. Come here to show your wild side in the wilderness!

iPhone 5 Pano ModeGPS Coordinates: 39.229371, -119.932382

Don’t miss the Emerald Bay and Eagle Falls at southern part of the lake. Some of the best views are there within minutes of hike from the highway. If you have more time, hike up one hour to Eagle Lake (we did not visit this time).

iPhone 5 Pano ModeEmerald Bay; GPS Coordinates: 38.947271, -120.106543

iPhone 5 Pano ModeEagle Falls; GPS Coordinates: 38.951645, -120.111562

I certainly had better luck on the way back home. We found a sunflower field off I-80. With the sun setting, it is called the "golden hours" by photographers.

GPS Coordinates38.513007, -121.778729
We were back to our home on Sunday night July 6th. When I walked into the house, I saw my camera bag sitting on the floor near the door to garage... I think I learned a lot in this trip without my camera bag. It was a mistake (or wasn't?) but not as bad as I thought...Look at the bright side, my friends. :)