As promised, here are some of my recent photographs from Bodie. Bodie, if you’re not familiar with it, is just north of Mono Lake, and is billed as the best-preserved ghost town in the United States. Bodie is now a state park, and a very interesting place to photograph, but it’s usually only open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., which means you can’t photograph it during the best light of the day, much less at night.
A few years ago I was able to photograph Bodie on a moonlit night with Lance Keimig and Scott Martin during one of their workshops. Then, earlier this summer, Claudia and I went to Bodie on one of occasional evenings when the park stays open until 10:00 p.m. This was a moonless night, but since it didn’t get completely dark until about 9:00 p.m. that left only an hour for true night photography. It was still fun, but much too short.
Luckily I would have another chance soon. We had managed to secure a hard-to-get permit to take a workshop group there at night, and added that evening to my Starry Skies Adventure workshop. We had so much fun there with the group. This time we were able to stay until 1:00 a.m., but it wasn’t long enough!
Here’s a selection of both daytime and nighttime images from those recent trips to Bodie. I tried many different ideas, but had to leave other ideas still percolating in the back of my mind, as I just didn’t have time to execute them all. I think there’s so much potential there for creative lighting of both interiors and exteriors, and working with reflections in the old windows. I certainly look forward to going back. If you haven’t been to Bodie, I highly recommend it, even during the middle of the day. And if you get a chance to go in the late afternoon or at night, take it!
— Michael Frye
Related Posts: Bodie at Night; Starry Skies Adventure Workshop; Photographing the Milky Way
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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
Thanks again, Michael, for the invaluable (yet free) combo of tips, insight into your thinking, planning and technique. Loved reading how you did all this.
My own favorites: the window with bottles and glass reflections; the room interior at night lit by flash on stands outside the windows (!), and the abandoned truck, with the careful lighting, that somehow still looks almost natural (except that you wouldn’t encounter this in real life). A lot of impact. Your lessons represent, for me, the best of the Net.
Thanks so much for all the kind words Andrys – glad you enjoyed theses photos!
Yum! You certainly know how to wow me with your talents, compositions, and cleverness. I love how you staged each photo to bring out ghostly emotions, the wild, wild west, and memories of my first visit to Bodie with my grandfather (who was a well-known Mojave Desert Rat back in the day).
The Swayback building photo is amazing and probably my favorite. Something about the texture of the interior photos remind me of a Rockwell painting and all the photos seem to have a 3D edge to them. (now you know why I’m a pure amateur, lol)
Never thought about it before but I just now followed you on Twitter. 🙂
Thanks very much Ann for the comments and the follow. 🙂
Many years ago I discovered the usefulness of an inexpensive collapsible rubber lens hood while photoing through a window of the Boone Store in Bodie. One of those has been part of my kit ever since. You can reach forward & press the rubber hood flat against the window to eliminate reflections.
I was recently fortunate to participate in night workshop in Bodie and then have access to building interiors in the day time later. You’re absolutely right about it being a great photo op, well worth the price.
Thanks for the tip Bruce. David Hoffman also mentioned this to me. I’m sure I’ll get one of those lens hoods before I go back to Bodie. I’d like to get access to the interiors also; maybe we’ll add that to a workshop next year.
Wonderful photos of Bodie! I especially like the one of the bottles through the window. Excellent; it’s a Bodie shot I’ve not seen before. The one of the Milky Way over the bowed roof is great, too. Collapsing under the weight of the galaxy! One of these days I’ll get to Bodie. Thanks for the inspiration, Michael.
Thanks very much Bev!
Very clever way to illuminate the headlamp of car that doesn’t even start.
The nighttime interior shot is inspired (and executed with excellence.)
Thank you Durwood!
I like all the clever ways you’ve used light here. Not sure which is my favorite. I think this works well as a group, especially seeing the way the mood changes from the naturally lit interior to the one with the neat flash work. Inspiring as always!
Thanks very much Vivienne!