What to make of Bodie?

The Cain House Past
The Cain House Past by I Nancy, on Flickr

There are advantages and disadvantages of being married to a raving railroad fanatic. The advantages is that he loves an adventure and anything involving trains and railroad history. The disadvantage is that, even when you are on an Eastern Sierras fall color trip, the historic gold-rush town of Bodie, just north of Mono Lake, is one of the first stops on the trip. Go to Bodie, go directly to Bodie, do not stop and take pictures of the flaming mountain scapes on Conway Summit, do not dally in the yellow and orange Aspen forests or creekside on the many canyons and creeksides, do not collect 200 photographs.

But the weather was incredibly photography friendly for our afternoon jaunt to Bodie and my husband drove the dirt roads which, though shaken and rattled, our trusty silver Prius managed just fine.

As I walked the streets I started my visioning process, a process I learned through the writings of David DuChemin’s Within The Frame series. David talks about creating a mental checklist of all the things you feel and observe at your photographic location. Bodie is an odd town and a microcosm of California’s gold-rush history. One of the largest and most successful gold mining towns in California. At it’s height, around 1880, it had a population of ten thousand people, hundreds of saloons, and was renowned for its lawlessness. It is a town of bitter winter cold and dramatic summer heat. The boom was short lived and began a stead decline from 1881. In 1932 a fire, fabled to be started by 2 1/2 year old “Bodie Bill“, destroyed over 90% of the town.

It was cloudy enough to provide that big softbox-in-the-sky effect but with just enough patches of blue texture to capture dramatic patterns. The builds have an undisturbed patina and in a state of “arrested decay”. I wanted to capture the notion of Bodie still inhabited with each building alive telling the stories of its dramatic past. With a wide-angle lens, and some judicious HDR,  here is my approach to breath life into these structures so that they can tell us their story in their own words.

No Sermons Lately
No Sermons Lately by I Nancy, on Flickr

Woodie Showcase – Time warp

Woodie Showcase
Woodie Showcase by I Nancy, on Flickr

Life doesn’t always give me opportunities to shoot street photography, sometimes I have to settle for car shows or nature.

This image was taken at the Santa Barbara Southern California Woodie show and as I continue to look at this image, I think I want to go back for more. These vehicles have so much character. Here I wanted to take you back in time. You are in the back seat, necking if you will, but something is not right. What are all these woodies doing staring back at. You are caught in a time warp.

Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills, originally uploaded by I Nancy.

There are always surprises lurking in your past photos. This image taken December 2010.

This was from a sunset outing in the Alabama Hills with my good friends Jerry Koenig, Connie Wade and Mike Sugar. The light was quite low and I was a bit worried about being able to capture the images I wanted. When I think back, however, this is the perfect lighting for this location.

Over and over we hear the admonition to look for good light. What is good light? I had always thought of good light as interesting light, and interesting light was something that created highlights and shadows. In this situation, however, the good light was flat light. The rocks themselves provided all the texture I needed and the sky, well, talk about a gift. Previously, I have only been at this location during dawn and after dawn. At dawn you are fixated on pointing your camera west-ward to get just the right light on the lower Alabama Hills and the Eastern side of the Sierras, like the image below. However, once the sun is up, as you can already see in this image, the shadows begin to form and, with nothing to diffuse them, they create problematic obstacles in this rocky landscape. This image above, however, was taken after the sun went down. It turns out, all  I needed was the contrast of the rocks to the sky to make this area sing.

Lone Pine Peak

Ready to Ride

Ready To Ride
Ready To Ride by I Nancy, on Flickr

In mid January my buddies and I set out for Death Valley. Between Los Angeles and Death Valley are the Trona Pinnacles and between Trona and Death Valley is ghost town of Ballarat. In the 1960s, Charles Manson and the “Manson Family” of killers moved into a ranch south of Ballarat and this truck is said to be theirs.

In contrast to my images in Keeler, where I choose to illustrate the decay with gritty B&W, here I chose to amplify the character of this town with wide angle and gaudy HDR. It was a beautiful day with a scrim of clouds. This truck called to me as I spent most of the time we visited here working to capture its unique character.

A Parting Glance at Camp Keeler

Camp Keeler #14
Camp Keeler #14 by I Nancy, on Flickr

A final glance back at the derelict Keeler Camp. I’ve created a set of 14 images which hold together in theme and processing which you can visit on my Flickr site. I hope to visit again and get some new angles and different season. Perhaps a spring-time visit will bring green grasses and wildflowers to the scene?

Some more images of other parts of Keeler will be heading up soon.

Camp Keeler Series

Camp Keeler #1
Camp Keeler #1 by I Nancy, on Flickr

Keeler California, located on the east shore of Owens Lake, population was 66 at the 2000 census. Home of the Cerro Gordo Mines, one of the richest producing silver, lead, and zinc begining in 1866 and peaking in the early 1880s. Silver from the mine was smelted in the town of Keeler and floated by steam boat across the Owens Lake. Ownen’s Lake is now a dry lake-bed and Keeler a decaying town.

But there is a sense of humor in Keeler where Norm Hoffman built his homage to the Lake on a plot of land which was once a lake side property before 1924 when Mulholland’s  Los Angeles Aqueduct bleed the lake dry.

I have visited Keeler twice now and hope for a few more visits. There is a wide variety of new and old. Everywhere cars and trailers in various states of repair and decay. Recently, instead of peppering around an image here and an image there, my goals are to create small focused studies. Here is the opening expose for my  full set of images entitled Camp Keeler.

Camp Keeler #2
Camp Keeler #2 by I Nancy, on Flickr

Salt Flat Reflections – Badwater Basin

Salt Flat Reflections
Salt Flat Reflections by I Nancy, on Flickr

This is one of those images that I knew would be included in my portfolio the minute I checked it on my camera’s screen. I’m glad there were no technical issues, I had been pretty good about being technically deliberate the whole weekend.

Salt polygons are one of the iconic images of Death Valley and for two days we had scouted the east-bank of Badwater Basin for the perfect spot. However,  due to unusually large amounts of rain this winter, most of the basin is flooded and the salt formations have dissolved under a foot of water. Badwater wasn’t a complete disappointment however, the sunset that night was spectacular and was reflected north and south of the usual vantage points (images will be processed and posted in a future post).

On our last afternoon we were debating where to spend our last sunset. There were unfortunately no clouds in the sky, it would be a relatively tame night. Should we return to Devils Golf Course? Will the Cornfields have good light? Salt Creek was on our mind and unexplored. We wandered into the Furnace Creek visitor’s center to try to get some clarity. The ranger there talked about Desolation Canyon and a few other places and then offhandedly mentioned “if you want to see salt polygons, you can find them off of West Side Road”. We were there! We scouted during the day, and snapped a few in the  too bright light and formed our plan to return later.

We arrived in time to watch the sun go down in the west lighting up the mountains to the east. I had found this leading line of rocks heading into the water and lo and behold, a beautiful golden reflection of the mountains. Tripod was set, careful f-stop for full depth of field, live-view (for mirror lockup), and click-click, two for good luck. These conditions held for no more than 15 minutes, the glowing rim growing then shrinking. A bit more time in the afterglow but these I were the ones I knew I’d remember.

Salt Delta
Salt Delta by I Nancy, on Flickr

More images from Death Valley