“Goodbye God, I am going to Bodie” with the Fuji X-Pro1 & Fuji X100S

It is hard to describe what draws us to places like Bodie. Maybe it is the beauty of the forgotten and rusty; maybe it is the dark history or a search for ghosts of the past. One thing is for sure – after documenting all major ghost towns of the West over the last few years we couldn’t be more pleased. Each ghost town provided us with great history lessons, unforgettable adventures and beautiful imagery.           

 After visiting Sandon, Cody, Shaniko, Antelope, Elkhorn and Garnet, it was time to set our sights on Bodie – the largest and most popular ghost town in North America. Its reputation preceded it. Quoting from the diary of a girl who was taken to this infamous town: “Goodbye God, I am going to Bodie.”

Bodie got its name from Waterman S. Body, who discovered gold in 1859 and started yet another gold rush. At its peak, the town had a population of 10,000. While most mining towns of that time couldn’t be mistaken for their elegance and law-abiding citizens, Bodie gained an especially bad reputation. Killings, fires, fights and robberies combined with 65 saloons offered all sorts of relaxation to stressed miners.  

Initially, we really wanted to visit this famous ghost town before sunrise but it wasn’t possible. The park gates usually open at 9:00 AM and there is only one opportunity per month when photographers are allowed to arrive earlier. We had just missed this date and we couldn’t wait another four weeks.

With no other choice we decided to get there at the regular opening time. Upon our arrival we encountered sunny blue skies, not what we would envision for ghost town atmosphere. However, with the weather forecast warning of thunderstorms, we decided to wait for some clouds to arrive and save the day. First, we walked around the town and tried to find the best spots then we worked on composition and observed the light. After about two hours, there were still no clouds in sight. It was hot and we were tired so we decided to rest in the car for a bit. When we woke up, the blue skies had gone and clouds were rolling across the hills. As we started taking photos, the skies got cloudier by the minute.

After wandering around with our cameras for about an hour and a half, we could hear thunderstorms so we raced to the car just as the rain started.

It was a pity we couldn’t photograph Bodie at sunrise but our wait for cloudy skies paid off. See for yourself.

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2014 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

19 thoughts on ““Goodbye God, I am going to Bodie” with the Fuji X-Pro1 & Fuji X100S

  1. I can understand the comments about artificially maintaining these places, but in purely photographic terms these images are very evocative. I can just imagine the sounds of the odd gun-shot, drunk miners being sick behind the bar and the local prostitutes trawling for business! What a place it must have been!!

    Superb photography as normal too, thank you!

  2. Pingback: miXed zone: Projet 192, X-T1, Fuji’s imaging division still loosing money (but less than before) and more! | Fuji Rumors

  3. Beautiful, evocative images of the Continents lost labours. Would be good to view them against a background of the natural acoustic in which they were shot. Occurs to me that each of your ghost towns need a dedicated song, or other musical remembrance, much as the forests of Finland are so embraced in the music of Sibelius. I am sure you have some musician friends who could conspire in this adventure!
    If you have the chance to visit Russia you will find many villages and towns struggling to maintain their life and vitality, with local self help groups struggling together to preserve their church, for instance. I think you would both make a wonderful picture essay there. But don’t forget the acoustic-)
    Congratulations and thanks to Olaf and Kasia.
    Terry

  4. Olaf and Kasia,
    Thank you for posting these! Your Blog images are gorgeous ! (I’m desperate to go to Africa!)
    I’m also curious about the settings; can you do a post some time about that topic- jpg/pp ?
    I have photographed Bodie with Canon gear (we live near Sacramento) but have not had the opportunity since acquiring my XE-2…
    Waiting for the 10-24 to arrive! I want to take that combination to Bodie in the Spring!

    As to the topic of commercialization, Bodie has been held in a state of “arrested decay” and the State Park service does what is necessary to preserve the buildings from falling! I think they do a very good job considering the budget they have to work with…

  5. Olaf, your photos and website are an inspiration to me and this set from Bodie keeps up the high standard. I can’t wait for my X-T1 to arrive so I can see if the photos I visualize with it can be realized on screen and in print.

    Kasia, your photos of African women and children made me catch my breath. I photographed some Kenyan children and I liked some of the shots, but your work makes me realize I have a long way to go.

    Thank you both for what you are doing for us.

  6. Been to Bodie once and it’s not what i expected it to be,it’s “not” how it was claimed to be,majority of the building were built over the(recent) years and made to look older,most are freshly built and the “abandoned” vehicles were brought in and placed strategically to create the “old,abandoned” feel but made a lousy job at it.It’s a sham to lure tourists under the guise of “abandoned mining town”It is NOT!they might as well put a sign “Hollywood studios”.

    • Anton,

      You are partially right. Indeed, Bodie is the most commercialized of all western Ghost Towns. This is one of the reasons why we visited Bodie last.

      However, you have to keep in mind that almost all major Ghost Towns are located in very cold places with difficult road access and highly destructive environmental forces. For example, the road to Garnet was extremely rough and a trip there almost ruined our car’s suspension. As a result, there are not that many tourists visiting it.

      We noticed that less popular Ghost Towns, which are “pure” and left alone (like many in British Columbia’s Kootenay region – Gerrard, Zincton, Cody) are 100% gone. We couldn’t find even one structure standing in some of them. Others, like Elkhorn in Montana, had some structures but they were in a very bad shape. On the other hand, towns partially rebuilt by locals, are truly magnificent.

      Going back to your point. In order for people to see and enjoy those places, they have to be preserved (but you need money for that). I spoke with people working in Bodie and they told me that very rough winters require constant repairs and rebuilding. Fortunately, Bodie is well known and there is some support coming from tourists (I find your phrase “Hollywood Studios” inaccurate and not fair).

      If you want to have 100% organic Ghost Town experience I would recommend the area near Shaniko in Oregon or Montana’s Ghost Towns, for example Garnet and Elkhorn. Or you can go totally wild and venture into Kootenay Mountains in British Columbia. However, after a while you may long for a more “civilized” Bodie.

      Thank you for visiting and sharing your views.

      Olaf

  7. Bodie is awesome. I used to live very near there. I really enjoy burning B/W Infrared film there. A “must visit” location.

    Russ

  8. Pingback: “Goodbye God, I am going to Bodie” with the Fuji X-Pro1 & Fuji X100S | Olaf Sztaba › By TOMEN

  9. The clouds make these pictures even more spectacular. Thank you for sharing you and Kasia’s beautiful photography! Were all of them shot with the 14mm Fujninon? Have you tried shooting with the EX2 and if so, how do you feel it compares?

    • Annalisa,

      Thank you for stopping by. Yes. the majority of photos were shot with the Fujinon 14mm F2.8 lens – one of my favourite.

      Kasia have some experience with the Fuji X-E1 and she enjoyed it a lot. It is a very capable camera. However, we haven’t had a chance to play with the Fuji X-E2.

      All the best,

      Olaf

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