Bodie is perhaps the best preserved ghost town in the United States. It is located northeast of Yosemite off Highway 270 which is the best way to access it. Bodie has no services such as gasoline, food, or camping so be sure to gas up before you visit it. Bodie receives about 200,000 visitors per year, almost all between April and the end of October. Admission to Bodie as of 2020 is $8 per person for ages 17 and up. Bodie is open from 9 AM to 6 PM in the summer and 9 AM to 4 PM in the winter months (November 1 to March 17). A good source for current conditions is the Bodie Foundation. The Bodie Foundation also manages various tours of Bodie and also special events.
Bodies limited hours of operation make shooting at sunrise and sunset difficult. Fortunately three times a year Bodie stays open until 10PM. In 2020 the dates of the extended hours are June 27, July 25, and September 5 which should allow for sunset shots. On these three days special tours are also given. The tours require advanced ticket purchase and are not focused on photography. Another option is to take a workshop with a professional photographer. Several professionals now offer early morning or night tours of Bodie. A list of photographers who offer tours and their contact information contacts can be found at bodiefoundation.org/photo-workshops . In 2020 the only tours I could find include:
Alternatively you might be able to put your own tour together by joining with a few friends to keep costs down. Fees to create your own workshop can be found on the bodiefoundation.org web-page. For 4 people a nighttime workshop from 6PM to 1AM would cost $1050 total or $263 pp. A morning workshop from 6AM to noon would cost $800 total or $200 pp. Morning workshops include access to the interiors of some of the buildings not normally open to the public. The interiors of the Lottie Johl House, the Boone Store and Warehouse, the morgue (the one with the violin), the Wheaton Hollis Hotel, and the schoolhouse are all excellent subjects. The book "Great Ghost Towns of the West" by Tom Till and Teresa Jordan has excellent images of some of these interiors.
I find that close-ups of machinery, wagon wheels, cars, and interiors make for the best images of Bodie. The grand landscape shots do not work well for me due to the clutter present throughout the town. Most of the buildings in Bodie are closed to the public. Unless you book a tour you'll need to shoot interiors either through a wide mesh screen or through a window. If you are shooting through a window:
The Methodist church is the first building to the right you come to when entering the town. It is easy to photograph. A tripod will be needed as will a fish eye, ultra wide, or panorama head to capture the entire interior.
After visiting the church the next house you come to on the right is the Tom Miller House. It has the best preserved interior of the open buildings. Both the kitchen to the back left and the bedroom to the back right make very good subjects. A tripod and a wide angle lens are needed. An off-center tripod like the Gitzo explorer series makes it possible to position your camera very precisely. With this tripod you can easily place your camera right up against a glass window or through the mesh screen that blocks off the Miller house kitchen. The Miller house is very good late in the afternoon in October when just the kitchen table is lit. This image shot late in the day by JC Ritchie is magnificent. I took pictures of the Miller kitchen in both 2004 and 2009. During the intervening five years it appears no one entered the kitchen . The door is open the same amount in both images, and about an inch of "new" dust covered everything in the second image. The Miller house is not always open. If it is not open you should find a ranger and ask them to open it. The Miller House is also great for ghost-photography. You will need a tripod and possibly an ND filter to create a long exposure. Have a friend sit in the chair outside the kitchen for a few seconds, then and get up and leave the room quickly while the shutter is open. It will take several tries to get the timing right.
When taking or later reviewing your images consider converting them to B&W or Sepia. Infrared also works.
At 8,400 feet elevation Bodie has cold winters and mild summers. Snow is common during the winter. Nearly a foot of snow or more falls in each month from December to March. During the winter Bodie can normally only be accessed by skis, snowshoes, or snowmobile. On rare occasions Hwy 270 is open to motor vehicles during the winter. Current conditions are normally posted at the California Parks and Recreation website. If you visit Bodie in November or April I suggest you bring boots and check snow-depth in advance of your trip. Snow-depth can be checked at weatherstreet.com. Weatherstreet provides estimates of snow depth for all US locations, on weatherstreet.com enter a zip-code followed by the word snow in the search box at the upper right.
In my opinion the best time to visit Bodie is early Fall when the aspen are changing.
|Average Max. Temperature (F)||39.9||41.1||44.0||49.8||60.1||69.4||76.7||76.1||69.3||60.1||47.8||40.2||56.2|
|Average Min. Temperature (F)||5.9||7.4||12.1||17.6||24.6||30.9||35.0||33.5||26.7||19.3||12.7||6.3||19.3|
|Average Total Precipitation (in.)||1.80||1.69||1.46||1.00||0.74||0.78||0.91||0.58||0.53||0.59||1.32||1.68||13.09|
|Average Total Snowfall (in.)||19.6||17.7||16.2||7.7||3.8||0.8||0.0||0.0||0.6||2.9||10.5||20.3||100.2|
|Average Snow Depth (in.)||15||21||19||10||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||9||6|
Bodie is a California State Park and all camping within the park is prohibited. The area outside the state park is mostly BLM or National Forest Service land and free camping is allowed. There are no services. An BLM or NFS permit is needed for campfires. I have shown the location of some small RV or tent campsites along Hwy 270 on the Google Map below. A 4x4 may be needed to access these sites. The website freecampsites.net lists many other campsites in the area.
To view the map in Google Maps please click anywhere on the map above.
The GPS files below contain the locations of all of the named structures in Bodie. I suggest that if you visit Bodie you download the kml or gpx file into your phone or GPS so that you can identify the various buildings as you walk through town.