Goldrush Town Bodie State Historic Park, 15 September 2017

In September 2017 I visited California with my wife, to see some of our closest friends and to photograph some of the most diverse architecture, scenery, landscapes and people I've ever seen. The good people at Fujifilm UK were kind enough to lend me their digital medium format camera, the GFX50S, and a couple of fantastic lenses. I'm putting together a series of blog posts that look at some of the places I visited. If you like what you see, please give my Instagram and Facebook pages a like/follow, as I'll be posting more recent content on there over the next while.

This post looks at a trip to Bodie State Historic Park, in Bodie, California. The park once served as a booming gold mining town during the California gold rush of the 1800s, and is now a ghost town, set deep in the hills and uninhabited for decades. It lies just off the 395 highway, heading south from Lake Tahoe, near to the Nevada border.

Bodie, situated on the right, 13 miles east of the 395 highway. What they don't tell you is that you have to drive up a pretty hairy dirt track, because the paved road suddenly stops, without much warning.

After paying in and parking up, we were immediately struck by quite how remote we were, and started exploring the town. It was much cooler here than other spots on our trip but that meant trekking around the town on foot was easy enough.

The most iconic building on the site seems to be the old church, and I was drawn to it immediately. It made for a fascinating photographic subject, reminding me simultaneously of old westerns and of the sort of buildings used by Godspeed You! Black Emperor in their live show projections, and within their album art. I spent a few minutes just staring at the church before I started photographing it. The hugely detailed files from the GFX gave me tonnes of flexibility and I really loved how the texture of the wood grain came out. They were all shot with the 32-64 f4 lens - the wide end of this lens proved really useful for showing off the scale of the place. Here's some of the results, below:

Dotted around the rest of the site were a variety of different buildings, some of which were in a state of disrepair. As usual, I found this pretty interesting in terms of composing images, and again the wide lens was great.

The main building towards the back of the town is an impressive sight, towering over all the smaller, residential buildings. I really loved the colour of it, against the tonal greenery and bright sky.

Looking closer into some of the buildings, it was easier to see the 'arrested decay' of the site - interiors remain preserved and relatively unchanged from their past. I loved shooting these with the intention of making monochrome images which couldn't be separated from their original era.

Probably the coolest thing about being here was realising just how far away from regular, 21st century life we were. It felt so far removed from anything I've seen before, and being nestled in the hills only made it more interesting as a photographic subject. The four people below appeared high on the hillside, from where I was standing, and I couldn't help but take their photo.

After we left to continue our drive down the 395, we stopped at a vista point overlooking Mono Lake, only to find a fence covered in stickers which summed up the journey:

A fascinating look into the past, and well worth going off the beaten track to find and explore.

It's no secret that GY!BE are my favourite band to edit my photos to, but they seemed even more appropriate as an accompaniment to this particular editing session. This closing track from their newest LP is some of the strongest material in years and the Morricone-like vibes of the guitar work nails that spaghetti western aesthetic.

Created By
Mike Andrews

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