Weekend at Bodie to Start SoFoBoMo

If you’ve been following my tweets, you’ll know that I spent this past weekend in the Eastern Sierras, primarily at Bodie State Historic Park.  What a great weekend to be out there!  The weather was in the upper 60’s to low 70’s, the wild flowers were blooming, and it was just nice to get away from the Bay Area for a while.

Road to Bodie

Road to Bodie

The primary purpose of my trip was to start my SoFoBoMo month long project, Reflecting on Bodie.  I’ve been asked by many people what is SoFoBoMo and why do it.  The concept is simple: within one month capture a set of photos, process them, layout and publish them in a book (PDF file).  SoFoBoMo was started a few years back by a few photographers as a individual blog project.  This year the group was formalized and an improved web infrastructure was put in place to support SoFoBoMo moving forward.  As for ‘why do it?’, the real purpose for me was a public commitment to create a photo photo project and create a finished artifact (the PDF book).  Deadlines always help focus one’s energies.

If you’ve never been to Bodie, it’s an old mining ghost town in the middle of the high desert, elevation of about 8200 feet.  At it’s height back in the late 1880’s, the town was about 10,000 people.  In the 1940’s it was essentially abandoned by it’s last remaining residents.  So there it sat being preserved by the freezing winters and the hot summers, many of the buildings and rooms still contain items left behind by their previous occupants.  It was eventually handed over to the state of California in the 1960’s and made into a State Historical Park.  Now it is maintained in a state of arrested decay for future generations to catch a glimpse of California history.

A number of years ago, during my first visit to Bodie, I had the idea of a rather unique way to photograph Bodie.  The idea sat in my head and over the years and I haven’t come across anyone who presented Bodie in that manner.  This year’s SoFoBoMo became the structure I needed to turn that photo project idea into a reality.

This weekend I spent two days at Bodie collecting the raw photographic material I need for my project (minimum of 35 photos).  Over the next 27 days I will be working on filtering down and processing the photos, coming up with the final set to tell the story of Bodie, and then laying out and finally publishing my PDF book on the SoFoBoMo website.  As I work through my journey I’ll post updates with progress and tidbits of what I’ve learned to date.

On that note, a few of the key items from this weekend’s photographing:

  • Always review your photos as you work through your idea.  After day one, I noticed that I tended to capture images in the same manner.  With that in mind I was able to adjust my vision on day two which should add more variety in the final book.
  • Even when having a pre-visualized plan, pay attention to your current environment and adapt along the way.  I was able to enter the park before sunrise as part of Bodie Photographer Day on Saturday.  My plan was to capture a nice sunrise vista of Bodie (thinking cover shot).  As I made my way through town to my sunrise location, I noticed that the pre-sunrise lighting conditions for some of the buildings worked better for what I was trying to accomplish.  I ended up grabbing a quick sunrise vista shot but then re-focused my image capture quicker than I originally anticipated.
  • New equipment may not always work out the way you intended…but don’t give up on it, experiment to find the value for your use.  I rented a Canon 24mm Tilt Shift lens specifically for this trip.  My expectation was to help straighten the buildings that were the focus of my photos.  The reality was that I wasn’t able to photograph most of the buildings straight on which minimize the ability for the lens to do it’s tilt magic.  However, the shift capabilities became invaluable for getting the best possible shots with minimal interference.  The tilt help a bit to take the edge off the building perspectives, but in the end I used this lens in a much different way than expected.

I won’t be posting any photos until the book if finished (at least not any that will be in the book).  But I’ll keep everyone up to date on my progress and look forward to your thoughts!

3 Replies to “Weekend at Bodie to Start SoFoBoMo”

  1. The book sounds terrific and a significant project.
    Very intrigued to see how you decided the best use for the tilt-shift lens.


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