Rhyolite is a ghost town on the edge of Death Valley National Park just across the border in Nevada. During the gold rush it was a boom town after some ore was found in the surrounding hills. You can still see mine entrances on the hill that’s very aptly called Bonanza Mountain. After 1920, it fell to ruin and since then it’s really been a tourist attraction. Most of the buildings are fenced off and you have to watch out for rattlesnakes when exploring the area. The building below used to be a school and you can see part of Bonanza Mountain to the right.
On the last night of the trip we stayed at a motel in Beatty NV which very close to Rhyolite. Our first foray into Rhyolite was just around sunset. Most of the town falls into shadow way before the sun goes over the horizon. However, the valley beyond with the red barn and bullfrog ruins looks really beautiful when lit by the last rays of the sun.
Goldwell Open Air Museum
My favorite part of Rhyolite was this open air museum with it’s weird art. The centerpieces here are the pieces by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski. The Last Supper is a ghostly life size sculptural rendition of the Da Vinci masterpiece. He also has an awesome Ghost Rider sculpture which is pictured in the night photos below.
Light painting in a Ghost Town
After a nice dinner at Beatty and some beers to keep us warm, we headed back to Rhyolite for some night shots. Except for some streetlights here and there and moonlight, most of the place was pretty dark. So it seemed to be a great opportunity for some light painting. Also, it really enhanced the “Ghost” aspect. For those who are interested in doing light painting Coast makes some excellent LED flashlights that are quite bright and have twist focus. Mine is the PX45 and I also have a 4 color filter kit with Yellow, Red Green and Purplish blue colors.
In the first couple of shots of the caboose (it used to be a gas station) and the abandoned car, I was able to hang the flash light inside to get an eerie colored glow. We also had to light the outside with another flashlight because it was really dark. The trick with lighting the outside is to use a very unfocused light and move it across your subject very smoothly. It took us a few tries to get the lighting right. And focusing on dark subjects at night is another big pain. It’s always good to have multiple people involved when doing night photography.
Lighting up the Ghost Rider was really fun. It took a few light passes of the flashlight with the blue lens to get it right. Moonlight did the rest of the work.
That’s the last part of my series of the American Southwest. See you soon with something different.