Unplanned visit to a ghost town

November 2011:  We were in Reno, combining work-related travel and a family visit.  I had the bright idea to drive down to Mono Lake to shoot the tufa formations in the dawn light.  We left our hotel at "zero-dark-thirty" and headed down US395, but it soon became apparent that we were going to be too late for sunrise.  When we arrived the tufa formations were bathed in harsh morning light against a cloudless blue sky -- not exactly optimal for landscape photography.  The image below is indicative of the conditions and only partly rescued by conversion to B&W.

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On the way to Mono Lake I had seen the turnoff to Bodie.  I remembered reading that that Bodie is a ghost town -- an abandoned gold-mining town located above 8,000 ft elevation near the Nevada border.  Founded in the late 1800s as a "company town" for the Standard Mine, Bodie was abandoned when the mine closed in the 1940s.  It is now kept in a state of "arrested decay" as a California State Historic Park.

We decided to check it out on our way back to Reno -- a detour along 10 miles of winding mountain road, the last 3 miles of which are rutted gravel (no doubt voiding our rental car contract).  The view of Bodie on approach is pretty desolate:  the dark brown of unpainted wooden buildings and rusty corrugated metal sheets against the lighter brown of the treeless eastern Sierra landscape.

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It was a cold November Monday, and there were fewer than 20 people there when we arrived.  The light was even less forgiving than at Mono Lake, but I nevertheless was able to find a number of exterior and interior subjects to shoot.  The exterior shots were garish unless converted to some sort of monochrome, and many of the interior scenes, sometimes shot through window glass, required HDR processing of multiple images to capture the wide dynamic range from deep shadows to brilliant light streaming through windows.  My favorite images from this trip to Bodie can be found in this gallery.