Bodie – California Ghost Town – Wheaton and Hollis Hotel – Sunset

The Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town.

Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. The town is named for Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown.

Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.

Access

  • Winter hours 9am to 4pm (November 4th to April 15th)
  • Summer hours 9am-6pm (April 15th to November 3rd )

In the winter, you may need a snowmobile to get in. The road is not plowed.

The only access at sunrise, sunset, and the interiors of the building is by permit. The cost is steep. My wife Liz and I went on a photography tour at $800 a pop.

The tour gave us access at sunrise, sunset, and the interiors of the building at mid-day. We went with Jeff Sulivan. Michael Frye also does tours at Bodie.

I was not that interested in instruction. Rather, I paid for access. If you need help, and many did, the instructors are there.

Jeff Sulivan did help me light paint an image at night that I may not have gotten correct on my own accord.

These tours are worth it, especially if you need tips and guidance.

Feature Image Details

I used Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera coupled with a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens. This is a straight-up image.

It’s not easy to explain precisely how a tilt-shift lens works unless you have seen the movements of an old large-format camera that could tilt or shift the focal plane while keeping the camera fixed.

It’s easier to describe the effect. When you point a camera up to take a picture of a tall object, the edges point in. The tops of trees and tall buildings appear to bend to the center of the image. The shift function provides a range of correction to prevent this undesired artifact.

We got lucky. There were good clouds at sunset. Then in the evening, for night photography, there were no clouds at all.

There were about a dozen on this tour with a couple of instructors. I was off on my own for this shot. I am certain I am the only one who captured this opportunity, but I do not know what I missed elsewhere. Light like this seldom lasts long.

Photography Notes

  1. For the interiors, you need wide angle lenses. The wider the better.
  2. I heavily made use of a Canon 11-24 F4.0 L lens often at 11mm.
  3. My second most-used lend was the 17 mm Tilt-Shift lens, for perspective control.
  4. My third most frequently used lens was a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens
  5. For details, I used a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens but I could easily have gotten away without it.

You get the idea: wide angle.

Eastern Sierra Area

  1. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunset for my favorite Mono Lake image of the trip.
  2. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunrise
  3. Panum Crater Shadows, Eastern Sierras
  4. Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California – Milky Way
  5. Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California
  6. Bristlecone Pines – Patriarch and Schulman Groves – Milky Way – Inyo National Forest – California

Equipment List

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This is just the beginning of my Bodie series. Much more coming up.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Bristlecone Pines – Patriarch and Schulman Groves – Milky Way – Inyo National Forest – California

The term Bristlecone pine covers three species of the pine tree (family Pinaceae). One tree is over 5,000 years old (think 3000 BC) making it the oldest living thing on the planet. They grow in harsh conditions, at high elevations in areas with little rainfall, where hardly anything else grows. The bristlecone pine is extremely drought tolerant due to its branched shallow root system, its waxy needles, and thick needle cuticles that aid in water retention. In good soil, it will quickly rot.

The wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. The tree’s longevity is due in part to the wood’s extreme durability. While other species of trees that grow nearby suffer rot, bare bristlecone pines can endure, even after death, often still standing on their roots, for many centuries. Rather than rot, exposed wood, on living and dead trees, erodes like stone due to wind, rain, and freezing, which creates unusual forms and shapes.

The bristlecone pine has an intrinsically low rate of reproduction and regeneration, and it is thought that under present climatic and environmental conditions the rate of regeneration may be insufficient to sustain its population. Many bristlecone pine habitats have been protected, including the Inyo National Forest’s Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California and the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

These images are from the Patriarch and Schulman Groves in the Inyo National Forest. The visitor center is in the Schulman Grove, and the road is paved all the way. The Patriarch Grove is 1,000 feet higher, unpaved, and very slow traveling, It takes about an hour to go 13 miles. The most important things are to have good tries and drive slow.

Feature Image Details

I used Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera coupled with a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 16mm. It’s a composite image. The Milky Way was taken separately but this is the correct position of the stars.

I use an iOptron start tracker to take long exposures without the stars blurring. The camera slowly rotates with the stars. I have a second EOS 5D Mark IV Canon body with Canon’s low-pass filter removed, invalidating my warranty, but granting me an extra stop of light. With the iOptron star tracker, I can easily take 2-minute exposures without the stars blurring. The end result is milky way images with far more stars than the naked eye can see.

But if you are tracking the stars, the land is blurry because it isn’t moving. One needs to blend images if using a star tracker.

These images were taken on September 9 and 13.

In late August and September, the Milky Way is nearly vertical. The core of the Milky Way is visible only for a short time after sunset this time of year.

In April, the Milky Way takes on a rounded appearance and is visible only very early in the morning (think 3AM or so). In summer the Milky Way is diagonal.

The core of the Milky Way is not visible from October through February.

The Feature Image is from the Patriarch Grove. The next image is from the Schulman Grove.

Both images were taken right at or just after sunset. I use Photo Pills to place the position of the Milky Way correctly.

General Tips

  1. Literature says you need a high clearance vehicle to get to the Patriarch Grove. You don’t. You do need good tires and patience.
  2. Expect to take an hour to go about 13 miles.
  3. The elevation at the top is 11,000 feet. It can be 90 degrees forty miles away and 50 degrees at the top.
  4. Expect wind, especially at the  Patriarch Grove.
  5. The sun dips behind mountains at least an hour before official sunset. Get to the top early.

Photography Notes

  1. I did not photograph the largest trees. Rather, I selected trees that I could easily isolate against a clear sky.
  2. I use the term “easily isolate” loosely. These trees are moving in the wind. It takes a high ISO and proper exposure just to counteract the wind. And it can be a real pain in the ass masking out branches and needles even if you do stop the wind motion. Expect to spend a lot of time on images like these if you adopt my technique.
  3. In high wind conditions, it is not realistically possible to get a sharp image of the trees and the stars in one shot with normal techniques.
  4. To combine images like I did, you do need to be proficient at masking techniques.
  5. At 11,000 feet the air is very clear. This is a dark sky area. Take Milky Way panoramas and learn how to blend them.
  6. I used video lights to help light both images.
  7. Mars produces a nice starburst at F4 exposed for 1.5 to 2 minutes.
  8. Milky way detail at F4 and ISO 1600 is far better than anything you can get with normal all-in-one-shot techniques.

Mono Lake – Eastern Sierra Area

  1. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunset for my favorite Mono Lake image of the trip.
  2. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunrise
  3. Panum Crater Shadows, Eastern Sierras
  4. Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California – Milky Way
  5. Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Coming Up: The Ghost Town of Bodie.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California

The Chemong Mine, founded in 1909, is located near the ghost town of Masonic, CA. It was torn down and rebuilt three times. The structures were eventually abandoned in 1939. By the 1950s the nearby town of Masonic was abandoned also, leaving Chemung to fade quietly into the dust.

Feature Image Details

I used Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera coupled with a Canon 11-24 F4.0 L lens at 11mm for 1/320th of a second at F16, ISO 800.

Additional Chemung Mine Images

 

 

If you are visiting the Mono Lake area and the ghost town of Bodie, this ghost town is right in the area and worth a visit. Unlike Bodie, there are no hour restrictions. At your own risk, you can enter the buildings.

Bodie is far better preserved and there are many more buildings. But the hours at Bodie are restricted and you can only enter the buildings on a private tour.

Starburst Tips

To produce a nice starburst effect, position the sun so that it is just peeking out the edge of an object. The light bends around objects as well as the diaphragm blades in the lens.

Tree branches work well and are my typical object. In this case, I use the beam of a ghost town building.

The Canon 11-24 mm lens produces an exceptional starburst.  The number of rays is lens-dependent, more specifically, diaphragm dependent. An even number of diaphragm blades in the lens will produce that many rays. An odd number of diaphragm blades will produce double the number of blades.

Both of the above starburst images were taken with my Canon 11-24 mm lens which has 9 diaphragm blades, thus 18 rays in the resultant image, some obscured by clouds.

Mono Lake Area

  1. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunset for my favorite Mono Lake image of the trip.
  2. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunrise
  3. Panum Crater Shadows, Eastern Sierras
  4. Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California – Milky Way

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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  2. Economics: MishGEA

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Coming Up: An Ancient 5,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine forest followed by the Ghost Town of Bodie.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Chemung Mine – Ghost Town – Masonic California – Milky Way

The Chemong Mine, founded in 1909, is located near the ghost town of Masonic, CA. It was torn down and rebuilt three times. The structures were eventually abandoned in 1939. By the 1950s the nearby town of Masonic was abandoned also, leaving Chemung to fade quietly into the dust.

Feature Image Details

I used Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera coupled with a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 16mm. It’s a composite image. The Milky Way was taken separately but this is the correct position of the stars.

I use an iOptron start tracker to take long exposures without the stars blurring. The camera slowly rotates with the stars. I have a second EOS 5D Mark IV Canon body with Canon’s low-pass filter removed, invalidating my warranty, but granting me an extra stop of light. With the iOptron star tracker, I can easily take 2-minute exposures without the stars blurring. The end result is milky way images with far more stars than the naked eye can see.

But if you are tracking the stars, the land is blurry because it isn’t moving. One needs to blend images if using a star tracker.

These images were taken on September 12.

In late August and September, the Milky Way is nearly vertical. The core of the Milky Way is visible only for a short time after sunset this time of year.

In April, the Milky Way takes on a rounded appearance and is visible only very early in the morning (think 3AM or so). In summer the Milky Way is diagonal.

The core of the Milky Way is not visible from October through February.

Additional Chemung Mine Images

If you are visiting the Mono Lake area and the ghost town of Bodie, this ghost town is right in the area and worth a visit. Unlike Bodie, there are no hour restrictions. At your own risk, you can enter the buildings.

Bodie is far better preserved and there are many more buildings. But the hours at Bodie are restricted and you can only enter the buildings on a private tour.

Mono Lake Area

  1. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunset for my favorite Mono Lake image of the trip.
  2. Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunrise
  3. Panum Crater Shadows, Eastern Sierras

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

You can also follow me on Twitter! I have both an economic forum and a photography forum.

  1. Photography: MishMoments
  2. Economics: MishGEA

MishMoments is a subset of MishGEA. Those interested in photography only should follow MishMoments.

Coming Up: An Ancient 5,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine forest followed by the Ghost Town of Bodie.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Panum Crater Shadows, Eastern Sierras

Panum Crater is an obsidian glass volcanic cone that is part of the Mono–Inyo Craters, a chain of recent volcanic cones south of Mono Lake and east of the Sierra Nevada, in California, United States. Panum Crater is between 600 and 700 years old, and it exhibits all of the characteristics of the textbook rhyolitic lava dome.

If you are visiting the Mono Lake area, Panum Crater is just a couple miles away from the main Mono Lake tufa formations. It’s a short, scenic, uphill hike, that I would rate it as easy.

Feature Image Details

I used a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 40mm, ISO 200 for 1/100 second at F16. This is an easy shot. You just need a tripod and a camera with a timer.

This image is from September 11, 2018, at the top of the volcanic cone. The shadows would also be the same on April 1, mid to late afternoon (10 days before and 10 days after the equinox).  Anytime within a couple weeks of those dates would likely have similar shadows.

This crater was a side trip hike that we took twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The afternoon is best for shadows like these.

We visited Mono Lake 10 times, 5 at sunrise and 5 at sunset over 10 days, not necessarily on the same days.

Mono Lake Area

  1. Please see Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunset for my favorite Mono Lake image of the trip.
  2. Also see Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunrise

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mono Lake, California, Eastern Sierra, Sunset

Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda lake in Mono County, California, in the Eastern Sierras. The lake formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in an endorheic basin. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. These salts also make the lake water alkaline.

Mono Lake has two major islands, Negit Island and Paoha Island, plus numerous minor outcroppings.  Among the most iconic features of Mono Lake are the columns of limestone that tower over the water surface. These limestone towers consist primarily of calcium carbonate minerals such as calcite (CaCO3). This type of limestone rock is referred to as tufa, which is a term used for limestone that forms in low to moderate temperatures.

This desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp that thrive in its waters, and provides critical habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and alkali flies. Historically, the native Kutzadika’a people derived nutrition from the Ephydra hians pupae, which live in the shallow waters around the edge of the lake.

When the city of Los Angeles diverted water from the freshwater streams flowing into the lake, it lowered the lake level, which imperiled the migratory birds. The Mono Lake Committee formed in response and won a legal battle that forced Los Angeles to partially replenish the lake level.

Tufa Types

  • Lithoid tufa – massive and porous with a rock-like appearance
  • Dendritic tufa – branching structures that look similar to small shrubs
  • Thinolitic tufa – large well-formed crystals of several centimeters

The tufa types vary interchangeably both between individual tufa towers but also within individual tufa towers. There can be multiple transitions between tufa morphologies within a single tufa tower.

The above is pieced together from Wikipedia.

Feature Image Details

The feature image is a panorama composite of five overlapping images stitched together shortly after sunset.

I used a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 17mm, ISO 100, for 3.2 seconds at F16 with a circular polarizer to increase the shutter time.

The polarizer was a purposeful error that took hours to correct in Lightroom and Photoshop. I should have used neutral density filters, and I have several, but I did not have them with me that evening. After considerable effort with Lightroom adjustments, I was able to get the look I wanted. The 3.2-second exposure did smoothe out the water as I wanted.

Polarizers have an uneven effect on blue skies and stitching multiple images together compounds the problem significantly.

Polarizer Tips

People misuse polarizers. I generally do not use them on sunny days, especially if I have a lot of sky in the image. Why? The polarizer will darken the sky in a very non-uniform manner that is hard to correct even in Photoshop. I used them on this occasion as a last resort.

I often use polarizers on cloudy days and did so on these images. Here are more images from the glen.

Additional Images Before Sunset

The interesting thing about the above image is the Godbeams are in the opposite direction of the sun. You can verify my statement judging from the bright light hitting the distant background. Prior to this, I had only ever seen Godbeams looking towards the sun.

These Godbeams are actually called Anticrepuscular Rays. Looking towards the sun, they are called crepuscular rays.

There were two other photographers at this location before I arrived. It severely limited my composition choices. For the above image, one photographer agreed to move long enough for me to grab that shot.

I could not get as much foreground in the feature shot as I wanted because another photographer was in the way most of the time.

Be first!

All of these images were taken within a 20-minute or so window.

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Death Valley: Badwater, Salt Polygons, Devil’s Golf Course

Death Valley National Park is a phenomenal study of erosion, weather, geology, sand dunes, salt formations, and huge spring wildflower blooms on rare occasions.

This post covers the Badwater Basin Salt Flats.

Badwater is the lowest point in the US, 282 feet below sea level.

The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world. Salt flats are too harsh for most plants and animals to survive, yet are quite fragile. Delicate crystals are easily crushed and the relatively thin upper crust of salt can break through to the mud layer below, leaving tire tracks and even footprints. For this reason, vehicles are prohibited off established roads in Death Valley.

Feature Image Details

Badwater, shown below is the popular stopping spot. You can explore salt polygons at Badwater, but they are trampled flat. To find good salt polygons, you need to park a mile or more away and walk out over some uneven but walkable terrain.

Badwater Sunrise

Badwater typically has a small pool of obviously undrinkable water. The white on the ground is salt. The white in the mountains is snow.

Devil’s Golf Course

Imagine trying to play golf on that surface. The salt is razor sharp. If you fall you will get cut with salt injected straight into the cut.

The above image is the Devil’s Golf Course at sunset with a Canon 14MM F2.8 L Lens. I now recommend the Canon 11-24 F4.0 L lens as a new replacement for the 14MM lens. It is the best wide angle zoom lens in the world. Period. Yes, it is very expensive. It is sharp in the corners, little or no astigmatism, or other common zoom lens flaws. At 11-24 MM it is the widest zoom lens around and it is sharp.

These images were all taken at sunrise or sunset, in the Badwater Basin area.

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

If you missed them, please check out my previous articles.

  1. Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon
  2. Death Valley: Dante’s View Sunrise
  3. Death Valley: Artist’s Palette
  4. Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Sunset

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock