Thursday, June 11, 2015

Exploring a Ghost Town at Night: May 24

Main Street Bodie under moonlit clouds
After our last sunrise and interior access session at the old mining ghost town of Bodie State Historic Park on Memorial Day Weekend, we headed out for lunch and rest before we'd return at 6 pm for sunset and night access.  The park isn't open at night, but we had an arrangement with the Bodie Foundation to provide funds for the park's preservation of buildings in "arrested decay", so they provided monitors to accompany us around town after hours.  

Rain showers were moving through the area throughout the afternoon, and we had varying degrees of cloud cover for our first two hours in the park. At 7 pm big, puffy clouds looked like they'd let some sunset light through about an hour later.

At 8 pm however, it started to rain.  Hard.  This was right when we should be out shooting sunset, but we had to take cover in a meeting room.  We watched an informative video on Bodie, but that wasn't what we were there for, so watched to see if the rain would subside.

Fortunately Bodie is located in a high desert ecosystem, and much of the 0.7 inch average precipitation for May falls in a storm or two, like the one the night before.  Other rain events are just a passing shower, and the cloud which had dumped on us had moved on by 9, and we went back out for amazing blue hour light.  The clouds were still moving fast, and they blurred in the sky as we set our cameras for 30 second exposures at Bodie's Methodist church, built in 1883.  There wasn't much light on the landscape, but a little light painting on the church helped that show up nicely. 

The moon was nearly a quarter moon, so as the clouds began to break up, it was backlighting them as the stars started to peek through.  We went to Bodie's classic, rusty 1937 Chevy and did some light painting to give it a little extra character in the moonlight.  People say that it may be the most photographed car in the world.  It is certainly the one that I have photographed the most!  The clouds started to break up as we were shooting the Chevy, so we decided to go see how conditions were after the rain down on Main Street.

We walked down Green Street to Main Street, and found that the puddles we had seen earlier in the day had been refreshed by the passing storm.  You don't find standing water in the high desert very often, and it doesn't last long, so we were lucky to have just followed a passing storm, twice now in the same day!

We captured a variety of buildings in various puddles, and the sky gradually cleared and showed more stars as the moon neared the horizon.  We moved to capture the green truck downtown, which I understand is a 1940 Ford commercial vehicle, before starting to head back towards our gear and our vehicles.  With the moon now out of the sky, many of the participants had time for one last shot of the Milky Way by the mining headframe up by the parking lot before we hit the road.

Having started the drive to Bodie at 3:30 am to get there by 5, I had some coffee at 10 pm to keep energized, but now I was too tired to sleep, so I just drove home, arriving around 2:30, 23 hours after I had left.  

It was a long day, but we enjoyed two of the best and most interesting special access sessions that I've experienced, in the 20+ that we've arranged over the past 4 years.  They just keep getting better the more we do it.  I can't wait for the four more dates we have scheduled in Bodie from June through October this year!

I didn't have room to include all of the photos that I wanted to show you in this blog post, so I'll be publishing more via DripThat, a new app and community which facilitates the telling of stories through pictures, video and text.  You can find the DripThat app in the Apple App Store (, and you can connect with me in the community to see more of my photos from my road trips:

Shooting Bodie's Wheaton & Hollis Hotel and reflection

This information is on behalf of dripthat.