Bodie in the Snow, Part 1

Heavy snow squalls punctuated my second day at Bodie. Although the wind, the cold and the snow made for a very uncomfortable photographer, the quality of the light was amazing. I took more photos this day than I did any other day of this trip. I have worked through almost half of the day’s photos now, so I thought I would post a few of them. A couple of these seemed to work best when set up to look like old photos…

Sing with the Organ
Parched Planet Earth
Ebenezer's Room

Some worked well as straight-up Black & White conversions (notice the horizontal snow in most of the outdoor shots)…

An End To Gardening
Lean Into The Wind

An interesting door-latch that I want to add to my “Complications” portfolio…

Loop and Spike

I treated a number of photos with a combination of solarization, Black &White conversion, colour overlays and then painted some of the original colour back in.

Bodie Road
At The Top Of The World
Guest Room
Garden of Snow

This last photo from my Part 1 post is my favourite shot of the entire trip. It is an HDR composite taken through a window from outside the house. The sensual colours, the soft light… I love it!

Blue Kitchen

Burning the old year to make way for the new!

I thought I would take a break from my postings of photos from my trip through the US Southwest and show something more current. I will probably be back with another post of Bodie photos by Christmas… I am still working on some of them.

Each December 21 in Kensington (a small bohemian neighbourhood in downtown Toronto) they celebrate the solstice with a bit of street theatre, a walking parade of lights, some music in the street and burning a large cardboard figure that represents the old year. It is usually well attended and a lot of fun. I dropped in on it last night, but unfortunately, due to the high winds, they had to cancel the parade and the ritual burning. But in spite if the bitter winds, the crowds were there, the music was there and the street performers were there. The party was on!

The crowd is gathering.

The musicians were having a ball, in spite of frozen fingers. I like the way the highlights from their instruments dance across this long exposure.

Anything to stay warm!

As the party wound down, some people retired to nearby restaurants and stores to carry on their conversations in more hospitable surroundings.

Tropical oasis.
The conversation.

As I left the area, I passed by a hat store that was still open, their hat display in front of the store covered in snow. The patterns and colours caught my eye. (As well as seeing a little irony in the snow-covered hats.)  The original photo was very busy, with a lot of distracting detail in the background. I played around with it a lot to allow some of the complexity shine through, while masking the distractions. I ended up solarizing it in B&W, adding some colour with a colour blend, then painting in some of the darker hats and the shadows between them from a version of the original layer. Here is what I got:

Outpouring of Hats.

My day at Yosemite.

I started this day before dawn (my body was still on Eastern Time), with a clear sky, but a gale force wind. I thought I might just get blown off the mountain-top at Bodie, so I opted for a side-trip to Yosemite Park instead. It is about a two hour drive through the Sierras from where I was staying at Lee Vining. Besides, I had OD’d on old buildings and ghost towns over the past few days, perhaps channeling a little Ansel Adams would recharge my batteries. It was kind of hazy in the Yosemite valley, so I actually ended up spending more time feeding my soul with the incredible beauty of the area than I did taking photos. Towards the end of my day there, I took a walk along the Merced River and felt moved to take a couple of pictures.

Along the Merced

At this spot in the river, El Capitan is right in front of me. It was too much for my little APS-C sensor and 17-55 lens. So I took 16 shots in a 4×4 grid, and let photoshop try to put them together. I think the software did a pretty good job:

El Capitan, from the banks of the Merced River.

On the trip back to Lee Vining, I ran into a snowstorm. (I traveled to the Southwest for this?!) The results of the snow at Mono Lake were actually quite beautiful… and the clouds were amazing.

Cinder cone and sunbeam.
Sugar-dusted tufa.

I revisited the abandoned shack on the edge of town (a shot of the interior was in my last post)… a little snow and cloud made for a much better photo!

Any Refuge

Bodie, CA

Bodie. I had no idea just how many buildings were here when I decided to swing by for a look-see. There is so much here, I just didn’t know where to start. I ended up spending the first afternoon here shooting the “big” shots… whole buildings, lots of horizon, some interiors. It wasn’t until the second day that I was able to get down to the detail shots that make up so much of my photography. This post shows some of my shots from day 1. This first one is actually taken just outside Lee Vining, the nearest town to Bodie. A wonderfully dilapidated old shack at the side of the highway, with the Sierras in the background.

Room with a view.

One of the many homes still standing in Bodie…

Whispering grass at the door.

A home across the street from the church is used by the Park Rangers…

In the shadow of the church.

In one of the homes was this green kitchen. I loved the soft pastels, the way the light came into the room and the thick layer of dust on everything.

Green Kitchen

As an experiment, I tried processing the Green Kitchen as a fairly severe B&W… I miss the pastels, but the lines are really nice! I am not sure which of these two I prefer.

And The Cupboard Was Bare

The last shot I`ll post from this day is a heavily-worked image of one of the old car bodies that lay about in Bodie. I solarized this one with a curve that looked like this:

Then I blended in some colour to the background and as a final step, painted in some of the original layer colour (using blend mode: color) on the car body.

Low Rider

Cerro Gordo

Perched high on a mountain overlooking the Owens Valley in California is the old silver mining town of Cerro Gordo. It is pretty much a ghost town now, the only resident is the owner of the town, Mike, and his dogs. If you ever find your way to Cerro Gordo, be sure to check in with Mike first… after all, he does own the place. Besides, he is a wonderful host… willing to share the history of the mine and the town… and photographer-friendly. Some of the buildings have been maintained by Mike. Walking into these buildings is like stepping onto a 1890’s movie set. The hotel is one of these well-maintained buildings. The photo “Aces High” was of the card room in the hotel.

Aces High

Other buildings are being left to the will of the elements. The photo “Hot Stove, Mountain View” is a reflection in the window of one of these buildings.

Hot Stove, Mountain View

Rhyolite, Nevada

I did a driving tour of the U.S. Southwest last October, circling from Las Vegas through eastern California, crossing Nevada into Utah, going south into Arizona then west along much of the old Route 66 back into California before returning to Vegas. While I did manage to hit a few of the more scenic tourist hotspots like Death Valley, Yosemite and Monument Valley, my real focus was on the remains of the old abandoned mining towns that are scattered through the mountains. I took nearly two thousand photos on this trip. It has taken me until now to work through them, find the gems and decide how to present them. I will put them in a series of posts over the next week or two. Included will be those shots I’m adding to my portfolio, as well as some I find interesting and fun (but not portfolio material).
The subject of this first post of the series will be Rhyolite, Nevada. This first shot is actually of a mine that was a few miles south of Rhyolite, on Chloride Cliff Road. I thought that the banding in the mountains there was just spectacular.

Chloride Cliff

There was a derelict auto at the side of the approach road to Rhyolite. I quickly went through a mental checklist: Is it rusty? Is the paint faded and chipped? Is it dented? If yes, grab camera! Gotta love those desert wrecks.

Parked with a view of the Amargosa Desert.

Most of the buildings in Rhyolite were just empty shells. The General Store was an exception.

General Store

The old schoolhouse must have given the students a wonderful, but distracting view of the desert. I used the old doorways and windows to frame a contemporary view of that same desert the students used to look out upon.

Schoolhouse Daydreams

Apparently Rhyolite was an important place in it’s heyday – there were two railways that came into town. Up near the old train station was a badly weathered caboose that I couldn’t resist.

Union Pacific Red

Easily the most impressive building in town is the old bank building. It was once three stories tall, although now much of the shell has crumbled. A finger of the third floor facade remains. As dusk was falling, I was able to maneuver to get the ¨finger¨ to point to the moon for this final shot from Rhyolite.

Point To The Moon

Feeling lucky today?

Does luck play a role in capturing that “perfect” moment in a photograph? You know the kind of moment I mean… when the shadow of a cloud is just right… or perhaps when a ray of sunshine breaks through the overcast and hits the subject of your photo? For me, the answer is yes – sometimes.
Generally, I feel that I make my own luck by continually practicing my craft. This improves my ability to anticipate those “perfect” moments and if I take enough pictures, I improve the odds of having camera in-hand when one of those moments comes along.
A couple of years ago I had one of those moments that led to one of my favourite photos. I was traveling a rural road through Eastern Ontario and had stopped to take some shots of an abandoned farmhouse.

Farmhouse, from the gate.

I changed to a long telephoto lens to pick out some of the interesting details of the building. It had a sheet-metal roof that had rusted into most interesting patterns of colour.

Red roof

Moving in closer, I started to take a look at the doors and windows. (Looking at my portfolio, you can see I have a thing about windows and doors.)

Front door
Side windows

Taking one more shot of the side windows was when good luck struck in the form of a startled bird. Look in the upper left of the photo below to see it.

Good luck shows up.

In a perfect world, I would have caught the bird in the centre of my frame with my telephoto at max zoom. But the world I live in isn’t like that, so I had to work with what I had. With a heavy crop I was able to simulate the zoom in post-processing. This left me with the essence I wanted: a splash of bright colour and a powerful diagonal line with the diagonal reinforced by the gesture of the bird and the shadow on the side of the house.

Black Bird