“Have you ever been to Bodie?” The calls and emails have been coming in since my bud RC posted some of his images from his recent trip there with Bill Fortney’s workshop. Since we live not too far from the State Park, it’s a reasonable question. Until you head to Photography > The Bodie Series tag above and you see I have. I even wrote a book about the town (never published) and ran a workshop there for years in the early 90’s. But my relationship with the town goes back to 1900.
No, I’m not that old but at times you wouldn’t know it. My grandfather’s cousin was the superintendent at the Standard Mine from 1900-1902 which is why my family first started to come to the Eastside. My mom came to Bodie when she was a little girl when the town was still a inhabited town. So I grew up visiting Bodie before and after it became a state park to the present day. Back in the early ’90s when doing the workshop in Bodie, I was very fortunate to meet some of the surviving citizens of early day Bodie like the Bells. It’s not a real stretch saying Bodie is in the blood.
Naturally, photographers are interested in Bodie as a subject and for good reason. It’s a great subject even if you’re only seeing 15% of the town. The rest has been lost to fire and time. When it comes to photographing Bodie, my favorite time is in August when the summer thunderheads dominant the sky and in October when the light is spectacular no matter the skies. One of the photographic problems about Bodie is it is a state park so there are operational hours which aren’t really photographer friendly. Are there ways around this? Also, once in Bodie you can’t help but look inside the windows to an era gone by.
I’ve not ventured into a building in Bodie since I had keys to the town back in the early ’90s. To say things have changed is a vast understatement! I’ve been told but do not know for fact but you can pay a fee, in the hundreds of dollars and gain access to the town and interiors. The question many pose of me is, “Is it worth it?” Having a personal history with the town, to me I never turn down an opportunity to visit it. As a photographer, I don’t have the same response. When the end game is to capture a gorgeous images, Bodie is like any location where timing is everything. Light is great and there is no finer place then Bodie. When it comes to interiors, I simply don’t have a ying or yang to provide you. Back in the day, I spent all my time in the interiors shooting with scrims on the windows and a little flash fill. I’m told you can’t do that anymore which just leaves HDR to make the most of the light. You look at my parents photos of the interiors and than mine of the 90’s and than now and it’s changed a lot! I love Bodie and if you have the opportunity to visit it with your camera, do so! Just keep in mind it’s like any location, light is everything. And yes, there are ghosts in this living ghost town!