Photographing the Bodie Ghost Town

The "bottle house"

The “bottle house” (the second most photographed building in Bodie)

While we were in Bishop, CA a couple weekends ago, we made the long drive up to Bodie, north of Mono Lake and Lee Vining.  This ghost town is a favorite location for photographers and tourists, alike.  Bodie is in a state of “arrested development” (which means the Park Service buys a bunch of old junk and throws it around the old buildings).  There are interesting subjects around every corner with many iconic California shots and opportunities to create your own vision.  Plan to spend at least half a day driving there and exploring.  Here is how.

The two main activities are photographing the exteriors of the buildings and looking into almost every window to find interesting interior shots.  Here are some of the better exterior subjects.

Where or where to start?

Where, oh where to start?  This view is looking back down the hill toward main street with the schoolhouse on the right.

The church is probably the most photographed building in Bodie

The church is probably the most photographed building in Bodie

An outhouse near the church

An outhouse near the church

The Fire House

The Fire House

There are many more popular buildings like the General Store, Hotel, and Barber Shop.

When you look into the windows and open doors you will find many interesting subjects.

Mary working the front window of the general store

Mary working the front window of the general store

Beauty products in the General Store

Pharmacy products in the General Store

Books in the School House

Books in the School House

A haunting look into one of the houses

A haunting look into one of the houses

Inside the Fire House

Inside the Fire House

Here are a few tips: Mary shot both color and infrared – infrared for the exterior shots and color for the interior shots.  I shot color all day long and made many bracketed photos for HDR.  I also planned to turn the color raw files into black and whites and this all turned out pretty well.  We were also lucky to have high clouds for the exterior photos and they also diffused the sun most of the day.

As always we carried our tripods and used them most of the time.  When trying to get close to the windows, hand-holding was often necessary.  If you have a UV filter, use it.  The sky is so clear and blue that you do not a polarizer.  Finally, I talked to an experienced Bodie photographer – he had a small bottle of window cleaner and a hand towel and was washing the windows as he shot…brilliant.  He also had a flexible rubber lens hood that he could press against the windows to keep out side lighting.  These lens hoods are cheap – we have a couple – and are perfect for this use.

You can easily spend 2-3 hours here.  My only complaint is you can not get in really early or stay late to get the best light.  I did see that they have one night a month that you can come and shoot late.  This is one of those “must do’s” for photographers.  Have fun.

See our blog for a complete plan to photograph the Eastern Sierra along CA 395.

To see more of our photographs, please go to www.pamphotography.com.

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4 thoughts on “Photographing the Bodie Ghost Town

  1. Pingback: Peter’s Favorite 15 Photos from 2013 | pamphotography

  2. Pingback: Photographing the Nelson Ghost Town near Las Vegas, NV | pamphotography

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