There’s something about once thriving towns of the old west that leaves a lot to the imagination. The town of Bodie is no exception. Hidden back in the throws of the Nevada Sierras about an hours drive from Lee Vining near Mono Lake, it’s definitely worth the drive. A couple years ago while visiting Mono Lake, I attempted to go to Bodie by following an internet lead and even got to the exit from Hwy 395. As I made the exit, I drove for about a mile into an area that just didn’t quite feel right. It was a single lane each way, very windy roads – it just didn’t feel like I was going in the right direction, plus is was getting late
in the day (this was an after thought to visit). So, I turn around and had always wondered how and where to go to get there.
While planning a photo junket with a few friends, we decided to do a bit more research and committed to finding the place. We even found that we were going to be there during the same weekend as their monthly “Photographers Day”.
This look promising. We signed up, got directions and off we went in search of the one largest (now) Ghost Towns of the old west. From my understanding, by the late 1800s the population had grown to about 10,000 people. And, like most towns like these, it was a mining town (gold that is). With around 16 surrounding mines to support this new community, like most booming towns, there were the usual General Stores, several (several) Bars. With Bars and Miners, bring the oldest
occupations in history … Prostitution. Many Brothels serviced the Miners that even had a Wells Fargo run. Alcohol consumption wasn’t the only “devices” to get lost in as there was a fairly large Opium section of town as well. Opium? Yes. Does that mean there were Chinese there too? Yep. Apparently, there was a pretty large population of Chinese who likely “worked” the gold mines. Many history books (the ones in school) downplay if any mention at all about how much influence and contribution the Chinese had in building the West (of the United States), but then again, every country has their own propaganda in history don’t they?
This day allowed us to be on the grounds an hour earlier before sunrise and an hour after sunset and everything in between. This means we had to leave our place in June Lake at 3’o dark 30. What this essentially means is that you can do pretty much anything if you pay. It was $100us to
do this, but I figured, what the heck, the before and after shooting in the park was worth it and plus, Bodie itself is totally self-funded as they don’t receive monies from the Federal Govt. for support and sustainment – I’m sure my $100 goes a long way into preserving and maintaining the park for future visitors to experience (day fee is only $5). Shooting the early morning was nice as the cool colors of the morning turned into warm hues as the sun began to show itself over the surrounding hills. Although we could’ve stayed in the park to continue shooting, midday isn’t the best lighting, so we headed back to town for breakfast and back to our hotel for a quick crash … that’s what Landscape Photographers do, wake up at un-Gawdly hours, shoot for a few, then crash
midday only to re-emerge during the end of the day and into the wee hours of the night. Going back to Bodie for sunset was nothing short of spectacular. With everybody else having the exit (the park), we now had free run of the place for a
couple of hours. As the sun lowered itself, the colors were absolutely brilliant! The sky turned a deep blue, then purple all mixed with raging orange at the same time – it was a magical hour or so. You had to, like most landscape photography events, act fast, have a plan, stick to it and be willing scape it altogether if something else fancies you better. The main thing is having that plan as a guide so you don’t waste time. Why? Because the light doesn’t last long. It could last 20 minutes, but most will only last 1 or 3 minutes and its gone.
Would I go back? Yes! I might consider going with a photo tour group that’s organized by a professional only because he knows the area like the back of his hand and truly understand the best times and locations within the park as well as the best celestial occurrences as well. Yes, it can get that technical to the right shot!