Miller house at night, Bodie State Park, CA, USA

Miller house at night, Bodie State Park, CA, USA

I’m sure many of you have visited Bodie, the amazing ghost town just north of Mono Lake. Last week I was privileged to join my friends Lance Keimig and Scott Martin for a night photography session there. Lance has been taking workshop groups to Bodie during his night photography workshops for many years, despite the difficulty in getting permits to take groups in at night. This year it was even more difficult to get access—in fact we learned that Lance got the only permit granted this year.

I gave a short presentation to the workshop group in the afternoon, then we headed up to Bodie in the evening, arriving at dusk as the moon was rising. Being in Bodie at night was a great experience. It was a little spooky, but beautiful.

Night photography offers wonderful opportunities to be creative. The low light allows you to use long exposures to record movement, add your own light, or move objects during the exposure—including the camera.

Bodie, of course, has lots of great subjects for doing all these things, but at first I found it difficult to find the right subject and composition. When faced with a new situation it sometimes takes awhile to find your bearings. Eventually I found the composition shown here, in the often-photographed Miller House, and captured an image I’m reasonably happy with. I tried various techniques to light the chairs and interior. This version includes light from two different flashlights, as well as moonlight spilling in through the window, and a lamp illuminating a window in another building. (Some of the park staff actually live in Bodie, so this light came from one of the staff member’s houses.)

We had a great time, but it was too short—the permit lasted only four hours. I could easily have spent four nights there. I hope I’ll get a chance to go back some day.

Lance and Scott have a new book, called Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark. It’s really well done, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in night photography.