Tuesday, November 27, 2018


It was 1978 that I decided to do a weekend photo-excursion to the ghost town of Bodie. Mind you this was pre-internet, pre-cell phones and with only a general idea of weather conditions—and no idea of the specific weather there in Bodie—I took off in early December in my ’73 AMC Hornet hatchback for a photo-adventure! I was a brash 28 year old that always took my solo vacations in November or December to avoid pesky tourists getting in my way. 

I got a late start and did not expect my car to be affected by the altitude (8400 feet), so I did not get to the entrance road to Bodie until dark. Not to be deterred I forged ahead on the unimproved dirt road, but not without incident. I mean that road was bad… It was not the usual dirt road—you know graded and such! Nope, it was very rutted and rocky and my AMC Hornet was a low slung sedan—not exactly an off-road vehicle.Slowing to a crawl did not save me when one front wheel dropped into a rut and the front end slammed down causing the engine to impact a big rock. The racket my engine made after that sounded like a giant chain saw was attacking my car! I kept going; nothing was going to stop me. I finally reached a parking lot, of sorts, eager to stop the horrendous racket my car was making, I stopped for the night. It was so dark I couldn’t tell if I had actually reached Bodie. So, I unrolled my sleeping bag in the back of my hatchback and camped-out. You should also know that I am 6’2” and yes, Now I know that camping is not allowed in Bodie, but back then—who knew?

I woke up to bitter cold—there was ice on the inside of my windows and the glass hatch back. Hey, it’s 8400 feet in December—I was lucky I wasn’t snowed-in! 

So, on to my photographic goals here. I did not want to do the usual Black & White thing so many fine-art photographers do. I planned on only using Kodachrome 64 slide film and to experiment with my new Spiratone, Colorflow, filter.

And this was my primary subject…
The Outhouse
I had seen another photographer’s work at this area of Bodie and I wanted to photograph these building before they fell down. Note:  Since then the park service propped these structures with timbers trying to maintain them in what they call a “state of arrested decay”!

My style back then was: If I’m going to use color go all-in (Kodachrome or Ektachrome Infared) and produce something different even if it goes surreal. I guess I was ahead of my time; that’s why I like digital, Photoshop ACR, and NIK so much—there are no longer any limits!

The Evolution of this image:
  • Exposed on Kodachrome 64 with the Spratone, Colorflow, filter. That filter was a red/blue gel coupled to a rotating Polarizer. As you rotated the polarizer it would vary the intensity of the colors.
  • Cropped the image to a tight vertical. The original was a horizontal showing a line of buildings.
  • Now, forty years later, I decided to tone down the effect by putting the original image into NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 to alter my colors making the buildings a little more realistic, but with a really surreal sky!

Here’s the original image…
The Outhouse Original
The original here was a winner in the PPC (Professional Photographers of California) State Competition. I titled it: California Fixer-Upper. It went on to the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) International Competition winning a merit in the General Collection in 1999. It was one of the final merits I needed to earn my PPA Masters Degree.

In Part 2 I’ll show and talk about the digital edits I’ve made on other old film images from Bodie and about what happed to my car….’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site:  http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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