Pro photo tips for shooting Tahoe in summer

I fell in love with Lake Tahoe when I was in the Navy working as a combat cameraman. My wife and I would make the 12-hour drive up for extended weekends and always wished we could stay longer. So, when my time with the Navy was done, it was only natural that we decided to make Tahoe our home.

“This crescent-shaped cove has great colors almost any time of the day.”

We have owned Vista Gallery and Framing on the North Shore for a little more than six years, and in that time I have a developed a few favorite spots in which to capture great images.

Rarely a day goes by at the gallery without someone asking, “Oh! Where was this taken?” So, I want to share a few of those spots, along with a few tips to make sure you get some great images, too.



Speedboat Beach

Speedboat Beach is a small strip of beach along the California-Nevada border off Highway 28, nestled against the historic Cal Neva Lodge. Its large, rounded boulders and sandy beach are great to play on and make excellent elements in a photograph. (Be aware of new parking restrictions in place this summer. Visit for information and a map).

Tips | Shoot at sunrise or sunset. The beach faces south, so the sun has a tendency to drift into frame during the day. You can climb up on the rocks and shoot down on the lake to get some of the formations below the surface, which is why I like to make sure I have a polarizing filter to cut through the reflections.


Secret Cove

Secret Cove, in my opinion, is the most beautiful beach on the lake. This crescent-shaped cove has great colors almost any time of the day. Because of its secluded location, it is also clothing optional.

Head south on Route 28 past Sand Harbor for 2.7 miles to the parking lot on the right. Take the trail downhill about 1 mile and follow the signs to the beach.

Tips | Some of the greatest sunsets I have ever seen have been from Secret Cove. There is a trail that goes around the cliff above that makes an excellent vantage point from which to get the iconic Tahoe blue images during the mid-morning, before the sun has moved to the western part of the sky.


Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor State Park on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe is an absolute must see. The cove makes for great swimming, and its long, sandy beach is a wonderful place to catch some rays.

The park is 9 miles north from the Route 50/Route 28 interchange on Route 28, or about 9 miles south on Route 28 from the California-Nevada state line in Crystal Bay.

Tips | Shooting Sand Harbor in the summer can be difficult because of the crowds. I recommend getting there early in the morning or late near sunset to minimize the number of people in your photo. There is a boardwalk around the park that offers several excellent vantage points.


Emerald Bay

If there is one iconic Lake Tahoe scene, it is Emerald Bay. Eagle Falls drops several hundred feet to its shore and Fannette Island sits in the middle.

It is 20 miles south on Route 89 from the wye in Tahoe City or 9 miles north on Route 89 from the wye in South Lake Tahoe.

Tips | Really, there is no bad time to take a photo here (or anywhere for that matter), but I try to avoid shooting from around 8 a.m. to noon so that I don’t have the sun in my frame. If you see high, wispy clouds in the pre-dawn hours or the late afternoon, this can be an excellent place to catch either sunrise or sunset.

Explore beauty of Emerald Bay


By Tony Spiker

Tony Spiker is the owner and proprietor of Vista Gallery and Framing in Kings Beach. You can see more of his photography at or at Vista Gallery at 8338 North Lake Blvd.