Light, lines, and reflections… Bodie State Historic Park, California, USA

Sun rays through the wooden head frame and rusty man lifts, Bodie SHP, California, USA

Morning is Breaking
The sun peaks over the Bodie Hills and through the Red Cloud Mine head-frame and man lifts.
Bodie State Historic Park, California, USA


Dark. Completely dark – but for the stars overhead – and cold.

And early!  Way too early.

It was 5:15am in California’s Eastern Sierras. A small clutch of cars and a congregated group of people with their hands shoved deep in their pockets, huddled against the kind of piercing cold that only a dry climate can produce in high summer, were stopped at the entry to Bodie State Historic Park,

It was 14 miles (three of them unpaved: rough and bumpy) from the nearest tiny town, and we were waiting for a Park Ranger to arrive and grant us access to the grounds. On the third Saturday of every summer month, the Bodie Foundation gives people the opportunity to photograph the Californian gold mining ghost town of Bodie in the early morning light (for a fee).

Rusty bits of machinery and an old wooden head-frame in dawn light, Bodie SP, CA, USA

Head Frame and Machinery
The first sights, once we are out of the car park, are old bits of mine machinery: rough and textured in the pre-dawn light.

This early access allows photographers to wander around the almost-empty town before the “tourists” arrive at the official opening time of 9:00am. For me, it was a chance to try out the new tripod I had bought especially for the occasion. Tripods are a handicap rather than an asset on the kind of travelling I usually do, so this was a rare opportunity to practice shooting with one.

Rear of the Metzner House in pre-dawn light, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Pre-Dawn over Bodie
What is left of what was once a thriving (and nefarious) mining town is preserved in a state of “arrested decay.”

A purple pre-dawn sky over the ruins and outhouse of the Quinville House, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Bodie Ruins
The ramshackle nature of Bodie reminded me of Sweethaven, the town that threatens to fall into the sea in the 1980 film “Popeye“.

Old wooden Methodist Church church and outbuildings under a purple pre-dawn sky, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Methodist Church
Built in 1882, the Methodist Church is the only church remaining in town. The last service was held here in 1932 when the town was already in serious decline.

Named for Waterman (William) S. Body who found gold in the hills here in 1859, Bodie grew to be a town of 10,000 by 1879. The two churches were no match for the 65 saloons and rugged lifestyle; Bodie soon became known as the “most lawless, wildest and toughest mining camp the far west has ever known”. Robberies, stage hold-ups, street-fights and even murders were almost-daily events.

Bodie’s heyday was short-lived: by 1881, mining declined and homes and businesses were abandoned. Fires in 1892 and 1932 destroyed much of the town. Although it has been referred to as a “ghost town” since 1915, Bodie still had a total of 120 people at the 1920 US Federal Census, and has never been completely abandoned: dropping to three residents in 1943. Today, some of the California State Park rangers live on site, and we had to shoot “around” a modern white vehicle that was parked in plain view.

Some wooden Bodie houses, nestled in the Bodie Hills, in the morning sun. CA USA

Sunrise over Bodie
Some of the 110 remaining buildings in the morning sunlight.

Street view of the Bodie Sawmill ruins and other buildings, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Bodie Sawmill
Remnants of old buildings give us some insight into the workings of the town.

A look through the front window of the JS Cain House at a collection of old bottles, Bodie SHP, CA USA

JS Cain House
Looking through the windows to see what old wares have been left in the dilapidated buildings is part of the Bodie adventure.

A swallow high on a power wire, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Bird on a Wire
Swallows are some of the many birds who make Bodie their home.

Sunburst over fields of grass and sagebrush, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Sunbeams and Sage
As the sun warms up the landscape, the wonderful smell of sage grows stronger.

View of Bodie buildings and rusted machinery, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Buildings and Machinery

Wooden wagon with rusting wheels in the grass, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Bodie Wagon

View through a Bodie window of a dressmaker

Through the Windows
Smeary shopfront windows hide a treasure-trove of old wares.

Old Gas Station and Dodge Graham, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Gas Pumps and Dodge Graham

View inside and old building with a piano and chairs, Bodie SHP, CA USA

A Music Room

A small brown bird on a fence post, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Young Blackbird

Environmental portrait: A female California State Park Ranger washes a window, Bodie SHP, CA

Ranger Aleta
A ranger talks about Bodie’s history, while cleaning the schoolhouse windows.


Education: A Window on the World
Light and reflections through the schoolhouse windows.

Little wooden cottage with a fence covered in green vines, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Cottage Fence

Bodie Hills

Bodie Hills

Rusty Pipes in sage and grass, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Rusty Pipes
Bodie is a genuine ghost town: bits of rust, glass and broken wood are everywhere!

Landscape: Wooden shack with an old green pickup, Body SHP, CA USA

Bodie Truck

Diagonal stripes of light through the gaps in the wood of a ruined barn, Bodie SHP, CA USA


Looking through two Bodie house windows, a tourist and buildings on the outside; Bodie SHP, CA USA

Through the Frames

View through two Bodie windows to two tourists on the other side, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Through and Back

Diagonal stripes of light through the wooden boards of a ruined Bodie house, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Lines of Light

Reflections in the glass windows and doors of the Wheaton and Hollis Hotel, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Hotel Reflections
Patterned reflections in the front of the Wheaton & Hollis Hotel.

Three large rusty pipes in dry grass and sage brush, Bodie SHP, CA USA

Leading Lines
Some old pipes in the grass lead the way back to the car park.

Text: Happy RamblingBy eleven o’clock, the sun was high overhead, and the air was radiating heat.

It was time to leave the site to the tourists, armed with their guidebooks.

And the ghosts.

Happy Rambling!

Photographs: 20July2013

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