Bodie State Historical Park is one of my favorite places to shoot. In north east California, just north of Mono Lake, it was a boom town that was abandoned and left to disappear. The state took over and has kept it in a state of “arrested decay”, meaning that they don’t repair anything, but the also don’t allow it to get worse.
Winters brought snow ten feet deep and summers were hot and dry. The mills of the mines were loud and constant. And the population was a large group of hard living miners who weren’t always law abiding. Life must have been hard during it’s hay-day.
Shooting there is a blast. It has a shot everywhere you turn. They also have a museum where you can look at the artifacts found on site from a past culture. Inside, against a window is this collection of old bottles from the town.
I took this with a Lensbaby and actually did a great job getting the sweet spot in focus. I like the blur on the outside edges of the shot and the clarity of the center bottle.
Whenever I traveled up to Atascadero to visit my parents, I got to visit my “second” parents also. I grew up with the Arnolds as parents and, in some ways, they were more influential in my life than my real parents. The best part was that the Arnolds and my parentes were best friends.
Dave Arnold was also a pilot who was more than willing to take me up on flights over the central coastal area. He flew for the sheriff department and the civil air service and knew the area better than most pilots in the area.
I took my camera on every flight and on this particular flight, we circled Hearst Castle several times as I shot out the passenger window.
Shooting from a plane is problematic because of the vibration, but if you use a high shutter speed and don’t touch the camera or your arms to any part of the plane, you can get some good quality images.
I was lucky to get a camp site during the summer in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground. Usually, they are sold out and there is a waiting list, but this time I got there early and got in for a few nights as I explored the area. During the day, I did the usual thing, driving up and down the coast looking for sunsets on the water, water falls in the forest, etc., but at night I stayed in the camp ground.
I’m not to big on staying in state/national park campgrounds because they are noisy, crowded, and usually full of people who have a pretty high sense of entitlement, but in this case it’s the only game within a reasonable driving distance. So, that is where I stayed.
In some ways, I got lucky. The sun was streaming in through the trees and the smoke from the other campers fires and cooking allowed to sun rays to form. I looked up and at first thought there was nothing there to shoot, but I grabbed my camera anyway and looked for the shot. I found that if I zoomed in on the rays and left out most of the rest of the scene, I got something I liked.
When I got home, I kept coming back to it, so I played with it and found that the image grew on me. Here it is.
I wish I could have staged this image, but I didn’t. In 2009, I spent an entire Saturday in Bodie Historical State Park with the sole purpose of photographing the ghost town and documenting the area.
Late in the afternoon, I was walking down the hill to my car to rest and get something to eat and drink. I looked to my left and noticed this two gentlemen dressed in full cowboy clothing sleeping in the shade of one of the small buildings about thirty feet off the main road. They were wearing the whole thing; hats, boots with spurs, Lee jeans, leather belts with big brass buckles, and long sleeve, button down shirts.
They looked just like a scene out of a western movie; laying on the grass, hats over their faces to block out the sun, taking a mid-afternoon nap. I kept looking around for the reason that they were there, expecting to see a movie set or horses or something. I could find nothing, but I was happy with the scene as I shot away trying to get the right composition.
I have several different shots, but I like this one best. The only regret is that the sky is a boring blue. I would have liked to have some dramatic clouds or at least some nice white cumulus clouds, but I haven’t learned how to control the weather yet.
I was in the Mono Lake area to visit Bodie State Historical Park and shoot there, but I had an extra day to visit the area around Lee Vining and Mono Lake.
Being a photographer, I had to get up and shoot the sunrise over the lake and the tufas. I was fortunate to awake to high clouds and cool temperatures. The lake was empty of other people and/or photographers, so I had the are to myself for a long time. I was rewarded for my getting out of bed early with a beautiful golden sky.
I wanted to get the texture of the clouds along with the sense of the shapes and the sharpness of the tufas, so I intentionally exposed for the sky and silhouetted the tufas.
Morro Bay Sunrise HDR
At the Morro Bay Photo Expo in 2009, I took a panorama class that met at the peak of Black Rock near Morro Bay State Park. After learning about nodal points, tripods, and the RRS pano head for tripods, we hiked up to the peak and started setting up for the sunrise.
Honestly, I didn’t shoot to many panoramas, but I did play with HDR. I try to make it a point to shoot both panoramas and HDR in almost every situation where applicable. In this situation the lightening sky would either be blown out or the hills and forground would be blocked up. By bracketing and merging into HDR, I was able to bring out the small in the valley, the plants in the foreground, and the beautiful sky at the same time.
Another shot from Bodie State Park. It was nearing the end of the day. I had traveled to Bodie for a photographers day, where they open up the park early for the photographers and then let them stay late. It costs extra and they only offered it about once a month, but for a photographer, it is worth it.
I was tired and sitting on a bench on the mains street. My plan was to catch the last light on the buildings as it went down. I was looking across the street at some of the artifacts and then turned my head and noticed that the ground was on fire. At least that was what it looked like.
What I saw was the reflection of the sunlit building in a puddle on the street. I wasn’t really tired anymore. I shot for another half an hour before I moved on to get the sunset shots I was looking for.
Bodie Bank Vault
The ghost town of Bodie, a California State Park, is a turn of the century mining town in “arrested decay”. That means that they don’t help prevent the decay of the town, but they don’t help it either. If you want to see an old gold mining town, Bodie is the place to visit.
On a warm spring day, I spent an entire day exploring as much of the site as I could. While they have blocked off a lot of the buildings from entrance, you can still get some good vantage points from which to shoot from. The screen they use to cover the windows, is at least four inches square.
In the old bank building, they still have most of the brick vault and the original door to the safe. While it is inside of the brick building, there is enough room near the entrance to position a flash and the camera to get some interesting shots.
I liked the ornate painting that they used on the door and the simplicity of the combination lock and handle. I can imagine the bank manager opening the vault at the beginning of the day to get the money for the teller and locking it up every night after placing the deposits inside. If only it could talk.
Jedediah Smith SP Leaves
Jedediah Smith State Park is probably one of the most beautiful places in the state. You can’t walk around a tree without another amazing image presenting itself in front of you. Fallen trees with fungus growing out of the trunk, ferns and endless green, huge redwoods. You even get a shot if you just look up.
These leaves were back lit by the gray overcast sky. The branches dark in contrast and dividing the image into it’s different parts. Seriously, I couldn’t take a bad picture if I took my time and looked around. This is one of my first serious image taken with a DSLR and still one of my favorites.
If you have a chance to stop by Jedediah Smith SP, don’t hesitate, do it. You won’t be disappointed.