Photographing Bodie with an iPhone

Standard Stamp Mill, Bodie SHP, CA, USA Bodie iPhone Photography Workshops

Standard Stamp Mill, Bodie SHP, CA, USA

Two weeks ago our good friend Robert Eckhardt conducted another iPhone photography workshop for us. This time we were based in Lee Vining, and the workshop included two trips to Bodie, with special access to the interiors. It was so much fun.

I hadn’t photographed Bodie interiors in two years. Bodie endured two earthquakes in December of 2016, causing structural damage to some of the buildings, and knocking over bottles, shelves, and other objects. So no photography workshops were allowed into the interiors in 2017 while the park assessed the damage.


Monsoon Sunsets

Cathedral Range and reflections at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Cathedral Range and reflections at sunset, Yosemite. We huddled under trees for about an hour, waiting out a rainstorm, and were rewarded with this beautiful sunset.

Every summer we get periods of monsoonal moisture pushing up into California from the south, producing afternoon showers and thunderstorms. One of those periods coincided with our recent workshop in the Yosemite high country, and we got to photograph some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

On the second afternoon of our workshop we hiked over a ridge to an alpine lake basin. There were some thunderstorms in the area, but none were very close when we started our hike, so I thought we might stay dry – and we had rain gear just in case.


The Camera in Your Pocket

Carmel Mission, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Carmel Mission, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Even when a church or museum allows photography (as was the case here), a smartphone camera is less obtrusive than a big SLR.

Last month Claudia and I went to Carmel to assist our good friend Robert Eckhardt’s iPhone photography workshop. Robert is a highly creative photographer, a great instructor, and knows more about iPhone photography than anyone I’ve ever met. This is the second time we’ve done this workshop, and both editions have been really fun. Everyone (including me) learned a lot, and we had a great time photographing around Carmel and processing the images right on our phones.

Participating in this workshop made me reflect on how much smartphone photography has progressed in just a few years. Smartphone cameras have gone from novelty items to highly-capable devices, and a plethora of apps allow you to do just about anything imaginable to the photographs you take on your phone. (And some things that you would never imagine until someone makes an app for it.)


Sunbeams and Sunbursts

Sun setting behind Manly Beacon, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Sun setting behind Manly Beacon, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

We just returned from another workshop in Death Valley. The wind and weather in Death Valley always present challenges, requiring flexibility to adapt to the changing conditions. But this time, just to make things more interesting, Stovepipe Wells lost power during our stay. With high temperatures around 100 we definitely felt the lack of air conditioning. And simple tasks like charging camera batteries became difficult. But California Edison trucked in two generators, so luckily the most serious problems only lasted about 12 hours.

The power outage aside, we actually had very good photo conditions. Some wind just before the workshop cleansed the sand of footprints, and we had clear skies for our first two nights in the dunes. Then some clouds moved in, followed by a big sandstorm on our last night. Typical Death Valley stuff.


Inside Bodie

Green light, Wheaton and Hollis Hotel, Bodie State Historic Park, CA, USA

Green light, Wheaton and Hollis Hotel, Bodie State Historic Park, CA, USA

As I said in my last post, we had a great time in Bodie last week. On Tuesday morning we had a permit to photograph inside some of the buildings – a rare opportunity. These interiors are in a lovely state of decay, and it seemed there were wonderful compositions everywhere you looked. We had six hours, but could easily have doubled that without running out of subjects.

You have to be very careful inside the buildings. Everything is coated with a thick layer of dust, accumulated over decades, and even accidentally brushing up against a table with a jacket could mar that dust. These interiors are a museum – a dusty, decaying museum – and being inside the buildings is like being inside the exhibits.


Dodging the Walker Fire

Helicopter over the Walker Fire, Inyo NF, near Lee Vining, CA, USA, 8/16/15

Helicopter over the Walker Fire from Highway 395, last Sunday evening

Our Starry Skies Adventure workshop turned out to be a little more adventurous than we thought. Just before we left our home in Mariposa last Saturday to head for the workshop I checked the satellite photos online. The Rough Fire near King’s Canyon National Park had been sending smoke north, so I was keeping an eye on it. But my last-minute check revealed a new smoke plume just to the southwest of Mono Lake. Uh oh. Our workshop was based in Lee Vining, on the west shore of Mono Lake, only a few miles from that smoke plume.

I could see the smoke from this new fire on one of the Yosemite webcams. I found that it was called the Walker Fire, and that it had started the night before near Walker Lake, but I couldn’t find any up-to-date information about the fire’s size and location. When Claudia and I left home about 3:00 p.m. the Tioga Road (Highway 120) through the park was still open. But when we got to Tuolumne Meadows we found that the fire had closed the road between the eastern entrance of the park and Highway 395. What do we do now? We decided we had to drive around over Sonora Pass and check out the fire in person. That meant five extra hours of driving, and a long night ahead of us.