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The Ghost town of Bodie, California - Dan Heller

NOTE: this exhibit appeared in December 2000. Click here to visit the current showcase.

All other exhibits: Click here to access

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Storm Coming

A Storm builds up in the South, just as the sun drops to the West, lighting the jailhouse with afternoon warmth.



While only a few buildings remained in bodie, a tight shot can make them look like a busy town from the old West. The hotel, casino, and the museum/gift shop are all stacked together.


House in the Afternoon Sun

As the sun drops to the West, the hills create gorgeous shadows. A single house illuminates the textured hillsides, typical of the landscape at 8300 feet.


Falling Outhouse

As buildings succum to gravitational forces of Earth and Time, a good two-by-four keeps things in relatively good order.


Methodist Church

One of the best preserved buildings in Bodie, the Methodist Church is sometimes still used today for weddings. Talk about charming...


Dawn on the Ridge

When you climb to the top of the hills that surround Bodie (where the gold mines are), you find spectacular views of the surrounding Sierra Mountains. Here, the sun rises and illuminates those that butt up against Yosemite. A small tack room sits next to a pond that used to be the reservoir that gave Bodie its water.


1927 Dodge Graham

Sitting next to an old Shell Gas Station, it was unlikely that the owner of this old Dodge Graham was a Triple-A member.


Star Trails behind the Methodist Church

This 35 minute exposure (at f4) was taken a half hour after sunset to give a hint of light on the horizon to accent the spectacular and colorful star trails on a night with a half moon.


General Store

A 90 minute exposure (at f8) on a full moon can make any night shot look like day. The hard part is getting the interior lights to look good. Here, 30 minutes was exhaustively spent trying to illuminate the interior without getting the spotlight to "flare" into the camera lens.


Saloon and Gymnasium

f2.8, 17 minutes -- just enough time to illuminate the interior and let the moon light the exterior. Another minute, and the horizon light would have overexposed.


Old House

This old house nestled in nicely against the drama of a huge sky. A 30 minute exposure didn't give the star trails I was hoping for because the trails are shorter as you get to the North Star (center of the spin), but the sweeping clouds -- which had worried me earlier -- turned out to add nice texture.


Bed and Window

I like the atherial effect of blowing out the overexposed light in the windows for interior shots. Here, a monotonic view of a dust-covered bed next to a window.


Rocking Chair

The light effect on the wall focus attention on the solitude of this lone rocking chair, almost in pristine condition.


Tack Room

The "busy-ness" of this fully-stocked tack room is part of its turn-of-the-century charm. You can almost hear the harmonica playing in the background.


Roulette Wheel

This photo is a double exposure -- that is, two pictures were taken of the exact same subject. The reason for this is because the difference between the interior and the exterior light are too broad to get an accurate exposure in one shot. So, I took two exposures on the same frame of film: one for the interior, and the other for the exterior. In the first picture, I put a black panel over the Window to block the "bright" light, which left me just the roulette wheel and the rest of the interior. With a black rectangle on the film where the window was, I then removed the panel and shot the second exposure, metering entirely for the outside light. This had the effect of filling in the black square on the film where the panel was. Because it's so bright outside, the fast shutter speed properly exposed it, yet didn't leave enough time for that light to ruin the previously exposed interior part of the image. In fact, what it did do was provide just enough to highlight the wall, making the image look "complete."


Piano Keys

When the dust settles, details emerge. The nice overcast in the sky outside yields a nice soft light from the window to the left. A reflector on the right side fills in what would otherwise be black shadows.


Player Piano

Believe it or not, it's the spitoon next to the piano that first got my attention. Oddly enough, this was the only picture I took that included it!



These lamps are in the fire station.



These are the old fire engines and hoses used to actually fight fires! Their excellent condition is ironic, since it was a series of devastating fires that caused everyone to abandon the town over the years.



One of my favorite artifacts in Bodie is this old violin that was in the midst of being built.


Glasses and Science Book

Due to the close proximity of the camera to the subject, getting everything in focus required an aperture of f64 to get the necessary depth of field. In available light at that aperture, this had to be a 25 second exposure.

Note: For best viewing, set your monitor to High Color or True Color (Thousands or Millions of Colors on MacOS) and 1024x768 pixels. These images have been carefully prepared with a Gamma of 2.2 using the BruceRGB color space. This should work well with high-quality Windows monitors. If you are a MacOS user, set your Adobe Gamma control panel to "Windows Default" or, at the last resort, choose the sRGB calibrated profile in the Color section of your Monitors control panel.

Please note: All images featured in the The Ghost town of Bodie, California showcase are Copyright © Dan Heller, all rights reserved. These images are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and may not be used or reproduced without permission. For licensing and usage information, or to order prints, please contact Dan Heller at

About the Exhibit: The Ghost town of Bodie, California

Bodie is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the United States. Founded in the late 1800s during the Gold Rush boomtown era, the rugged and inaccessible town, situated at a high 8200 feet above sea level, grew to over 10,000 people before the mines went dry. After several devastating fires, people left Bodie, leaving almost all their belongings behind. The artifacts have been preserved over the years, giving us a unique and rare look back in time to the turn of the century era of the gold rush.

The boom in Bodie began in the mid 1870s and only lasted till 1882, although mining operations continued in some fashion or another until 1942. It was then that Congress passed the "Non-Essentials Mineral Act", which stopped any mining effort that was not directly benefiting the war effort. After the war, there were a couple of mining operations that tried to start-up again but with meager results.

Bodie is now a state park of California, and the exterior is open to the public. Interiors are only accessible by photo workshops. I've been there three times over three consecutive years.

The equipment I used are: Canon 1v (35mm) and a Hasselblad CW, Velvia and Provia "F" Film, a range of lenses, and reflectors. All images are photographed in natural light, except for the interiors of buildings during seleted night shoots (indicated in the captions).


About the Photographer: Dan Heller

Dan Heller is a freelance travel photographer, living in Marin County, California. He produces images mostly for companies that promote, sell and operate outdoor adventure travel and leisure trips around the world. While on assignment photographing people, landscapes and cultures for publication, he also sells stock photography and personal artwork. His work is exhibited on occassion in galleries, but his complete works are mostly seen on the Web at

Find photos of the Colorado Plateau in Land of the Canyons, the Photo Trip USA landscape photography guide book.  

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