Another hot, hot day here in the land of tourists. So many of us wandering around looking for somewhere. Not me, I know where I am going… I am going to Jail tonight.
But before I tell you about my evening behind (and in front of) bars, I should tell you I am innocent. Yeah, that’s what they all say, right? But no, really… I am! “Step this way fella…” Well it didn’t start that way. It started with a closed restaurant.
I was with a couple of guys and we wanted dinner at The Bridgeport Inn. Except it’s closed on Wednesday but we didn’t know that; trying to escape the fine cuisine of Lee Vining, we sought other culinary arts outside town. Instead, we ended up at Pops, a quaint little takeout place for fried food and other delights. Sitting there, across the street from the Bridgport Court House, we contemplated our approach. The four of us, Scott, Greta, Manu and I, scheming and planning our approach. Scott, having been a multiple offender warns us of the dangers, Manu and Greta are carrying heavy hardware and they want to be careful not to damage the merchandise. We already had one disappointment that night, dinner was not what you would call “gourmet” and now we can’t make any more mistakes.
Leaving our get-a-way car across the street we wander towards the target. I get there first to scout the area, I like what I see. The guards are either gone or sleeping, the town is quiet and the darkness is getting louder and louder. I walk inside with my flashlight and damn it….. bats. I hate bats. Zipping by my ears I remember hearing that “only” 15% have rabies. So I could get lucky if I get bitten, no thanks and I start to back out. Scott reminds me we are on a mission; bats or no bats…. so I proceed with caution.
I canvas the inside and it looks clear, we’re the only ones there. I set up outside the farthest point in the building and wait for the rest to get into position so we can shut down the interior lights. I get the nod, the lights go out and then I set up for my first shot.
Inside the cell now, it’s dank, musty, smelly and yucky in general. I don’t really care, if I do my job I can be in and out in an hour. But disaster, not for me, is on it’s way, uninvited and without saying please. I hear a woman’s scream “Cameras, Cameras! Water! Water!” and then scrambling outside the building. I feel like it’s safer for me to stay put and continue working, I am just about to complete my first exposure. Four minutes to go. It’s over, I check it, not good but it’s a start.
I run outside to see what happened and sure enough, Greta and Manu were gone. Chased away by the local sprinkler system which soaked their borrowed $40,000 Hasselblad Digital, they were trying to recover across the street. I realized no one was bleeding so I returned to the scene to finish, I had to get out of this jail soon or else I could lose my compadres.
Exposure, test, correct. over and over. I had it nearly right then I kicked the tripod leg and it was back to square one, I readjusted, tested again and it looked perfect. One more shot I took, just to be certain:
One cell of the abandoned Bridgeport Jailhouse
I was alone, no one to visit me in jail. I had to scram quickly, someone could catch me. I ran off to a safe place, a place of laughter and fun during the day but eerie at night. I decided, in the spirit of the evening, I would “splash” it with my red filter and light up the interior a little.
I left the shadow of my weapon in the scene, I could “erase” it in 2 minutes. What do you think? Should I make it go away or does that shadow make it stronger?
Now we knew we had escaped the law, it was time to head over to the hot springs. Everyone in town knows about those, even the fry cook at Pop’s was there. Myself, not really a hot springs kinda guy, I wandered off into the countryside but when I came back they were done springing and I pulled out my camera. They were all in this warm and wonderful natural sulfur spring and did they notice the beauty of the stone behind then? I made an exposure and saw the magic of that place unfold for me. I showed Scott and we both decided it was worth some serious time investment to get this right.
We tried many different angles, we had six steps of light paining, trying over and over again to get it perfect. While we were out there, now past 2:00 am, we started to discuss the magic that happens when you are immersed in something creative, how presence is the only possibility and how vision streams through most powerfully at those moments. That for others it was sports but for us it was making photographs. And now, more than ever, night photographs. I am afraid I’m hooked.
This is what we saw at that earliest moment of the evening.
The perfect moment at Bridgeport Hot Springs.
Thank you Scott for being so patient and careful as to not stop until it was perfect.