Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Bodie Night Photography Workshop: September 22 Results

There were dramatic storm clouds building in the afternoon as we scouted the town for interesting night shots.  By the time we assembled at the front gate to start our session, there were columns of rain falling all around the town from the larger, darker masses of clouds.  Lightning flashed behind us, to the south, followed shortly by the loud crash and rumble of thunder.  The lightning was close... After all this planning, would be get rained out, or would we be forced to take shelter from the bolts or lightning?  A lightning strike can exceed 100 million volts and 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit... if these dry, old wooden structures are still standing, the town must have a good network of lightning rods to direct the energy into the ground.

As we assembled our gear, we made adjustments to what we'd wear and carry to account for the possibility of rain.  Sure enough just as we started walking into the town the rain started coming down.  It was only 45 minutes before sunset, so the light was fantastic, illuminating portions of the town in warm light, and creating rainbows to the northeast.  

The rain continued intermittently until sunset, then stopped as the twilight "blue hour" started.  The clouds started breaking, revealing the moon, which had already risen that afternoon.  The clouds were backlit by the moon during blue hour, providing a subtle and diffuse light on the landscape beneath the dramatic clouds.

The clouds dissipated very quickly as twilight gave way to night, so we shed our damp rain gear and bundled up for night.  I changed out of some wet clothes only to drop a gallon of water while refilling my water bottle, only to launch 1/4 of that gallon all over myself and my camera as I caught it on the way to the ground.  I was clearly destined to go back out and shoot wet!

A few photographers started interval timers on extra cameras at the Bodie Methodist Church to shoot star trails and timelapse sequences, then we headed up to the Standard Mill for some shots up there.  The moon was now clear of clouds and illuminating the landscape nicely.  On the way back down to town, many workshop participants stopped with my co-instructor and Nikon expert Lori Hibbett at the Bodie Schoolhouse to practice shooting star trails.  I took the rest one building down to the Wheaton & Hollis Hotel to light up the inside from a side window.

Once people had the hang of star trails, many dispersed around town to find their own subjects.  I met some people over at the old 1937 Chevy for some light painting more star trails. It was definitely handy that Lori and I could be two places at once, so we never experienced that nightmare workshop scenario where 8-10 people try to crowd around one subject (or simply lining up and ignoring the importance of having something interesting in the foreground of your composition)!  

The seven hours we have in the park after it closes goes by incredibly fast, so it's good that we've been visiting the park for years and many shot concepts worked out well ahead of time.  We've shot multiple night sessions in Bodie now under full moon, partial moon and no moon conditions, so we have the night considerations pretty well down as well.  A couple of "classic" night views are developing, but we have enough new night shot concepts in mind to keep both of us busy testing them for many more workshops. I hope that you may have the opportunity to join us sometime.

P.S. - As I write this, two slots for our upcoming workshop this Saturday October 6 have unexpectedly opened up.  I've restored the PayPal registration button in the right margin here on this blog at  Hope you can join us!  Read down a few posts on this blog to see images from our June 2 night session at Bodie.