Located in the middle of nowhere just beyond Mono Lake, California outside of Yosemite National park is Bodie Ghost Town, or what is officially known as Bodie State Historical Park. Bodie became an official State Park in 1962 and is not administered by the Bodie Foundation which uses the tagline “Protecting Bodie’s Future by Preserving its Past”. And it’s a great tagline too. It certainly got my attention as it is really what my photography is all about.
Bodie Ghost Town has a huge historical background and you can read it at length if you so desire on the dedicated Wikipedia page found here. And before you visit, I suggest you not only read that but also check out the official California State Parks page on Bodie found at this link. Along with some shooting tidbits found on this page you should have quite an enjoyable trip.
The first thing you should know is that the park opens at 9am. Try to arrive 30-45mins early as there will be a line. This park receives roughly 200,000 visitors a year and is quite busy on a steady basis. The park takes CASH or CHECK ONLY so be prepared. Current rates are $5 per person, $3 per child (1-17) and infants under 1 year are free. The park is located northeast of Yosemite about 13miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road which is a lightly maintained dirt road. ANY 2WD vehicle can make this trek but take it slow as it is a washboard in areas. Only an experienced motorcyclist should attempt the road though, as a couple dumped their Road King right in front of us on the way out and they were taking it easy. Luckily no one was hurt but the bike was pretty damaged from the spill. Use caution, be respectful and courteous on the road.
The very first thing we did after we got parked was to head to the furthest part of the park. While the wave of tourists just ran to the first building they saw, we wanted “Ghost Town” photos and those generally do not have people in them. By heading to the furthest side of the park first, then working our way back, we were able to accomplish this for the most part as “the wave” moved in the opposite direction. There will always be a few “Walking Dead” you will need to shoot around, that’s the fun part right?!?Sony a7rII coupled with a Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 lens. I did shoot HDR to capture the wide range of light found at Bodie Ghost Town. I did make good use of the amazing autofocus capabilities that you can get from the combo. This allowed me to “focus” on creativity and less on the settings and camera itself. For me, this is the greatest feature on the Sony a7rII, as it allows me to be more creative with my shooting.
Most all of the building with just a few exceptions are blocked from interior exploration (as you can see above, you can still shoot through the windows, although not optimal). This is understandable from a preservation perspective. Some buildings like the church and a few other buildings though are fully open for you to check out and photograph. Bodie Ghost Town also offers a special tours of some of the other restricted interiors (at a special permit rate), a tour of the main mill, that is mostly still in tact. They also feature night tours for star gazers and ghost hunters if you so desire. I would have liked to spend more time here at night and done some light-painting and creative strobe work with some of the structures. I will definitely make another visit to this amazing historic place. My fellow photographers and friends Erin Riedel and Sharlea Taft spent about 6 hours on the grounds and really only got to explore about half of it. You definitely need 2-3 of these 6 hour days to take it all in. Most great places warrant a return though and Bodie Ghost Town is definitely one of them!
I shot a lot of fun photos this day, if you want to see them all, maybe purchase a small print or two, please check out my gallery at this link. Feel free to share this article on facebook or wherever, it’s always appreciated!