Photojournalist Dylan Silver had been shooting his adventures on and around Lake Tahoe for four years when, in 2014, he bought his first waterproof camera housing and began training his lens not at the lake but into its clear waters. In the six years since, Silver has amassed a colossal photo archive with thousands of images that document its underwater world and shoreline environments.
Lake Tahoe—deep enough to swallow the Empire State Building and holding enough water to submerge an area the size of California—is a geologic wonder and recreation paradise located in the High Sierra on the California-Nevada border. In Silver’s photo book Clarity: A Photographic Dive into Lake Tahoe’s Remarkable Water, which was published in May, images capture the interplay of sunlight, sky, water, sand, and stone through the looking glass of Tahoe’s renowned clarity.
Decades of research and studies have documented numerous threats to Lake Tahoe. And Silver’s photographs highlight just what is at stake as climate change, urban runoff, algal blooms, and human impacts literally haze the waters. “I began this project purely for selfish reasons, to experience the lake in a fun new way, but over time I created this massive archive that I hope helps people understand changes in Tahoe’s underwater environment,” Silver says.
Tahoe is oligotrophic, or low in the kinds of nutrients that cloud many lakes. “Sometimes it’s so clear and bright under the surface that it seems you can see into the distance forever,” says Silver, who took this image of rippling sunlight and waves in the winter of 2015 during a period of reduced lake levels that allowed him to wade for several hundred yards in knee-deep water.