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A Floating Ghost in the Forest

Apparently, the shipwreck I was on was private property. The man who told me this was agitated, on an ATV, and on the other side of the river. He wasn’t the first agitated man I’d run across on abandoned/forgotten property, so I erred on the side of caution and told him I was leaving.  

He didn’t believe me I guess.

A few months ago I was on a business trip and had some time to kill. As I usually do, I went in search of abandoned places to photograph. I came across this ghost ship while doing research and decided to go looking for it. Since the shipwreck is apparently private property I’m not going to give out any additional information on its location, but I will say that in this particular state the mud is like molasses and mosquitoes and horses are in about equal supply. This river, a tributary of a much larger one nearby, is also pretty popular with kayakers apparently.

After a sweaty walk through dense forest and mud that was more like quick sand, I found her. As if the walk wasn’t bad enough, she was set slightly out into the river so I was going to have to get a little wet and super muddy to get aboard. Great.

Unfortunately, she was listing a little to starboard, so that made the climb interesting. Double unfortunately, the river looked like something evil and gigantic was lurking in it (and muddy! did I already say that?), so I was desperately hoping I didn’t fall. I quietly checked in with the patron saint of shipwrecks and climbed aboard.

Besides the first shipwreck forest I’ve ever seen, the vessel had several large holes in the deck, some of which were hidden. Falling through one would likely drown you. If you didn’t drown and didn’t have a friend to help you out, you would no doubt end up with a life-long fear of rivers: the hold was full of dark water, tree branches, and skeletons of long submerged equipment. In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been there alone, but I’m pretty much Indiana Jones so it was ok. (I’ll give you a moment here to roll your eyes.)

The boat was pretty substantial in size, so photographing it took a while. After about 30 minutes I heard a noise in the distance which soon became a noise in the nearby. A man pulled up, killed his engine, and told me in no uncertain terms to leave (I’ve learned from experience that it’s usually best not to hide, which is how he found me). Even though I had intentionally parked far up river away from any houses and hiked in to avoid a problem just like this, one had found me.

I packed up my kit and rappelled down the side of the ship, almost losing a shoe to the sucking mud. After a few minutes of hiking it became apparent that he was crossing the river and headed my direction, so I stayed close to the water in thicker bush and stayed out of sight. (On the other hand, I’ve learned that sometimes it is in fact better to hide.) After he passed me I hustled out a little faster, positively coated the inside of my rental car with mud, and made my way out of the forest.

Below are some of the photos I took. Maybe in a future post I’ll put up a few more.

This was my view from the right side of the river as I approached. Because of how dense the forest is, the shipwreck just sort of appears out of nowhere. Abandoned ship in the woods

One of the holes in the deck. Note the submerged equipment inside just below the water.

Hole in deck of abandoned shipwreck

Engine of abandoned river boat

Abandoned ship

Another view of the inside, including branches that would make for a very bad day if you fell in.

Below decks on derelict ship

Portholes on abandoned ship in the forest

Engine room of abandoned ship

Submerged equipment

Since I almost never get to an abandoned spot before other people have, there’s inevitably graffiti on them (people suck). Luckily this wreck didn’t have much of it, and what was there was kind of interesting, like this piece.

Graffiti on abandoned ship

A view looking towards the bow; note the trees.

Looking to stern on abandoned boat

Because I’m dumb, I thought it would be a good idea to stand up on the narrow edge of the bow and take a photo of the river. I’m pretty sure it was full of concentrated evil.

River from the bow

And here’s my opposite view, showing how tall the trees on the deck were.

View from the front of the abandoned river ship in the forest

This next photo was the last one I took after I abandoned ship, and will be the last one I bore you with. Thanks as always for visiting my littler corner of the Internet. Check back soon for more updates!

Detail of abandoned ship's bow

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In Search of the Promised Land

A few weeks ago some friends and I decided to go wander the desert (thus my mildly sacrilegious title). While we didn’t find any manna, we did find some really interesting places. When in the desert, it often pays to take the road less traveled. I’ve been working my tail off and am exhausted, so I’m going to stop talking and show you pictures. Bye.

Palm Springs from Keys View


Desert cabin


Desert cabin

Desert abandoned building

Desert cabin

Desert crosses

Jenelle and her pony

Desert headstones

Desert art

Cheyenne the patriot




Hello again. I did want to say this: if Toby’s friends sought fit to erect such an awesome roadside memorial, I feel like he or she was the type of person I would have liked to have known. Rest in Peace, person whom should have been my friend.
Toby roadside memorial

Joshua Tree sunset

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Ghosts of Thanksgiving Present

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I headed out to the Flagstaff and Sedona areas of Arizona. Unfortunately, due to an unscheduled, violent meeting between my foot and a wall at my apartment, I made the trip with a painful fracture. Since I was limited, things were a little more boring than normal, but I still got a few photos to share.

The first stop on our trip was to Flintstone’s Bedrock City. As I wrote previously, this place is so bad it’s awesome. An employee told me that it’s been put up for sale, so who knows if it’ll be around much longer. Best get out if you ever want to see it. I shot a lot of pictures, but they’re kinda boring so I’ve included a small selection.

Flintstone's Bedrock City

Flintstone's Bedrock City

I think this picture of a giant dog on a dinosaur slide is probably the best photo I’ve ever taken.

Flintstone's Bedrock City Dinosaur Slide with a Dog

Me and my busted foot on the same slide. Being metal and relatively steep, it was one of the best slide related experiences I’ve had since I was a child.

Flintstone's Bedrock City Slide

We met this guy at Grand Canyon.

Elk at the Grand Canyon

With the help of a cane (and my brother and cousin helping me through some tough spots), I made a painful hike to the top of Cathedral Rock in Sedona. It was hard, but wow, what a place. I strongly recommend that you make this hike at least once in your life. (Hopefully you’ll have a more interesting sunset than I did.)

Cathedral Rock sunset

Grand Canyon sunset

Grand Canyon sunset

I love pictographs and petroglyphs. I really like the solitude of the desert, so whenever I encounter native desert art I get this great feeling of camaraderie with the people who made them. Both of us chose to visit this quiet place centuries apart, but likely for the same reasons of tranquility and beauty.

Indian Petroglyphs near Laughlin

Cathedral Rock sunset

I *think* this is Bell Rock, as seen from the top of Cathedral Rock.

Sedona sunset from Cathedral Rock

On our last day we went to a place called “Bearizona” in Williams, AZ, which lets you drive through various animal habitats in your car. While there are a number of cool animals to see, the wolves were by far the best. Here’s one of them trying to steal my cousin’s soul. I think this was an Arctic wolf maybe?

Arctic wolf at Bearizona

This pictograph site near Laughlin was one of the most prolific I’ve ever visited. Dozens of huge boulders looked just like this one, with scores of images carved on top of each other.  Note how high up this rock is: that’s my 6ish-foot-tall brother in the lower right. Also note that I was standing in a horrible thorn bush to get this picture for you. I’m pretty sure that means you owe me like $5 or something.

Indian pictographs at sunset near Laughlin, Nevada

As my last shot of the post, here’s a picture taken near Desert View Watchtower. Thanks for visiting!

Grand Canyon Sunset at Desert View Watchtower

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European Б-Sides

Most of my pictures never get published. Usually this is because I’m unhappy with the photos. Other times, it’s because the photos are redundant to other shots I like better. All of the items below are unpublished photos from a trip I took to Kiev, Chernobyl, and Paris (also London, but I hate most of those photos). I’ve got loads more images from Europe, so I’m sure I’ll do another one of these in the future.

Chernobyl kindergarten

If a town near Chernobyl “died” as a result of the nuclear accident, it was typically razed and buried to prevent people from visiting it. When this happened, a sign with the town name was erected and a red slash placed on it, denoting that the town was no more.

Dead town near Chernobyl

Eiffel Tower lights

Chernobyl toy

Chernobyl window toys

This is what a destroyed grocery store looks like.

Chernobyl grocery store, supermarket

Graffiti by an unknown artist in Pripyat, Chernobyl’s most famous lost town.

Chernobyl graffiti

Chernobyl gym ferris wheel

Chernobyl kindergarten

Paris tomb

Prypyat gym

I’ve published a photo of this refrigerator before, but since I love the subject so much I decided to post a second image. One of the great mysteries of my life will forever be why this home appliance came to be hanging out on the corner of a Parisian intersection.

Lost fridge in Paris

Chernobyl Prypyat bumper cars

France tulips

Kiev cathedral

Pripyat’s most famous icon is the Ferris wheel in the town’s amusement park, which was scheduled to open just a few days after the meltdown occurred.

Chernobyl amusement park

To finish up, here are two shots of the Eiffel Tower: one at sunrise and one not long after a stormy sunset.

Eiffel Tower sunrise

Eiffel Tower storm

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Finding My (Milky) Way Along 395

(Editor’s note: This post has more pictures than Germany has goals on Brazil (zing!), so you might want to get comfortable.)

On the last day of my trip we were exploring the abandoned “Locust City,” a former air force town off highway 395. We had just exited the former Hall of Justice when my brother and his girlfriend got quiet. After a moment, he said that he thought someone was watching us. From the second floor of the building we had just left we could hear what sounded like faint footsteps stepping carefully and deliberately through broken glass.

Since my last visit in November a number of buildings had been severely burned, which in my experience is often the result of refugee meth heads. It’s possible one or more was looking at us then.

Coincidentally, at the start of the trip I was also worried about meth addicts. My primary purpose for this outing was to photograph the Milky Way, which I had never really been able to do until the last few months. (Mostly because I’m dumb.) With a new car to drive and my newish camera in hand, a small group of us retraced my route up 395 to take pictures of our galactic neighborhood. Our first stop was the Trona Pinnacles, gigantic tufa formations near the dying and remote town of Trona, CA. Standing in the middle of nowhere at 1 in the morning, I was a little concerned about some of Trona’s less desirable residents lurking in the shadows.

As it turns out, the only thing we had to worry about was extremely high winds, which chased us out of the area earlier than we would have liked. The first two shots are from Trona.

By the way, please excuse the fact that the Milky Way looks different in each of my shots. I’m still getting the hang of doing post-processing on it. The yellow glow at the bottom of any photos is light pollution from a city.

Trona Pinnacles Milky Way

Trona Pinnacles Milky Way

On day two, as we headed north we swung by a livestock and cattle graveyard that I had previously visited near Lone Pine.  It’s actually more like a dumping ground. Last time I was there I found the body of a recently dead horse (warning: a bit graphic). Here’s what it looked like now:

Cattle and livestock graveyard near Lone Pine

Abandoned rocking chair, Bodie ghost town

A rare-ish self-portrait of yours truly in a 90ish-year-old mirror.

Jake Reinig self-portrait

This is a shot looking west from pothole rock at Tuolomne Meadows. Even though pothole rock isn’t particularly tall, it’s at something like 8,500 feet and I’m in terrible shape. This was a rough hike.

Tuolomne Meadows sunset

This is also Tuolomne Meadows, but just a little bit up the road.

Tuolomne Meadows Milky Way

The next day we did some river rafting in the Yosemite Valley. This is easily one of the most enjoyable (and breathtaking) things you can do in California. Because the water level was so low it took extra long to get to the end, which meant more time for fun and games. Here, my brother rolls out of the boat in order to hit his head on a submerged rock.

Yosemite rafting

And here he is jumping off a bridge.

Yosemite bridge jumping

I jumped off of it too, but this photo of a brave 12-year-old is more interesting than me.

Yosemite bridge jumping

This is upper Yosemite Falls as seen from the banks of the river. The massive California drought has reduced it to a relative trickle, but it’s still amazing to see in person.  Fun Fact: Yosemite Falls is the fifth tallest in the world.

Upper Yosemite Falls

A bird stands guard on a tufa formation at Mono Lake.  Although much smaller, these are the same type of structure as those found at Trona.

Mono Lake tufa

Mono Lake tufa

We went to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest one day. The oldest living non-clonal organisms on earth, these trees are incredible (one is over 5,000 years old!). I know it sounds stupid, but standing next to them feels really special, as though you’re in the presence of a sentient, ancient friend. It feels as though they’re happy to have you there. Like I said, it’s weird…. Anyways, you absolutely must go there sometime in your life. I think we’re going to go back soon do so some star photography.

The older a tree gets, the more gnarled it becomes.

Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest

The tops of the trees reminded me of pleading hands, as if they were asking the sky to save them.

Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest tentacles

We return to Locust City for the next group of photos. I’ve been to enough abandoned places to know that they’re rarely totally abandoned. Drug users and destitute people often use them as temporary ports, waiting out whatever storm currently claws at them. This picture makes me sad: the mattress is relatively new and the sheet was in pretty good shape. Some child was sleeping on this not too long ago. I hope they’re somewhere safer now.

Abandoned Peanuts mattress

Abandoned town

Mattresses in old air force town

Walking on the second floor of these buildings is an adventure. Lots of holes abound.

Abandoned miliary town

This former kitchen is now open to the elements. I’d guess that the roof will collapse within the year.

Collapsing kitchen

Abandoned basketball court and baseball field

As I mentioned earlier, I think someone was watching us at one point. This blanket and sign had fallen through a collapsed portion of the ceiling above us. Coincidentally, this was the building in which the person may have been. I wondered if the sentry was a current position, protecting people who made the location their home.

2nd floor sentry

Shattered classroom window

Dark rooms everywhere.

Creepy hallway in abandoned military city

Pentagram in burned out house

This is another picture that makes me sad. This room had clothing, books, and other belongings in it. Some of the items were setup in such a way that I think someone was living here for a while before it caught fire.

Burned out house in abandoned town

Apparently, I had accidentally wandered into Panem.

Fight for the mockingjay

This photo was taken about 250 miles away from Locust City, and is in a much more dangerous location. Fun.

Fallout shelter tunnel

This is my brother in a mask at the Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine. Sweet dreams. :)

Alabama Hills Milky Way

And here’s my tent, preparing to roast me to death overnight.

Alabama Hills Milky Way

Finally, here’s one more picture from Trona, with my brother acting as model.

Milky Way at Trona Pinnacles

In the end, we never did figure out whether someone was watching us at the abandoned city.  Someday I know I’ll run into one of the ghosts of these forgotten places, but I’m happy that they’ve let me visit without any trouble so far. Maybe next time….

By the way, if you like photography and think you might like to visit some of these places, check out my friend Keith Skelton’s photo workshops. He does a trip to a number of the same locations every so often and is a great teacher.

(Want to see more pictures? I’ve got a prints gallery with some of my less terrible work, plus there’s more on the rest of my website.)

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3,000 Miles to Ghostland, Part I

On the last day of my trip I found myself seated across from an attractive female employee of the MGM Grand Las Vegas, eating lunch and discussing travel. As the meal wound down I briefly reflected on how relatively uneventful this trip had been. I was immensely tired and travel worn, a cancelled flight shuffled some plans around a bit, and I’m pretty sure a ghost chased me out of an isolated pet cemetery one inky Utah night, but that’s all business as usual for me. Despite having seen some of the Southwest’s most beautiful sights, I felt slightly incomplete still.

After a moment I looked back to the face across from me, thanked her for buying me lunch, and watched while she placed the just-signed check directly into a glass full of water by mistake. Enjoying the slightly embarrassed but highly amused smile that arose on her face, I quietly thanked the universe for the proper ending I was hoping for.


Ten days earlier I started my journey in Laughlin, the decidedly lower rent version of Las Vegas. For $25 I had a nice hotel room and ten thousand senior citizens to keep me company. In between these two gambling bookends was 3,000 miles of driving and a disappointingly large number of mediocre photos. Below are some that I hope are slightly better than mediocre. There’s kind of a lot, and I’ve written a fair amount of text, so feel free to take a break if you need to. I’ll wait until you come back. (Click on a photo to enlarge.)


The first destination was some hole in the ground, apparently called “The Grand Canyon.”

View from the Desert View Watchtower

Grand Canyon

My friend X-Ray joined me for the first few days of the trip and suggested that we swing by the Flintstone’s Bedrock City in Williams, AZ, not too far from the Grand Canyon. This place was hilariously awful. Even though people worked there and some people who probably had leprosy were camping there, the place was about as abandoned and neglected as could be. It was sublimely beautiful in its decay.

Dinosaur slide, Flintstone's Bedrock City

Note that the sign only says “Fred’s House.” Apparently, his slave-wife Wilma lived outside.

I’m not sure who this man was, why he was in jail, why his arm was torn off, or why he was allowed to decorate his cell, but I absolutely love that the owners of the park didn’t even try to hide the modern surge protector (which, you’ll notice, doesn’t actually have anything plugged into it).

Oh look, a camera taking a picture of a saber-toothed tiger. Let’s take a gander at the scene.
Old-fashioned camera at Bedrock City

Way to let me down, Flintstone’s Bedrock City.
View of a sabre-toothed tiger

Don’t be fooled: this “goatasaurus” is actually just a regular goat. I’m not sure why there’s an apostrophe. Apparently, they couldn’t afford to hire staff that know how to spell.

Returning back to the Grand Canyon, this is the Desert View Watchtower, which stands guard at the east side of the park.
Desert View Watchtower

Interior of the watchtower:
Interior of the Desert View Watchtower

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Grand Canyon

This is Goosenecks State Park; don’t go here. On paper it seems like it should be interesting because flow of the river is so crazy, but it’s not really worth the trip.
Goosenecks State Park

This is Horseshoe Bend just outside Page, Arizona. Go here instead:
Horseshoe Bend

The grave or memorial site of Ginny Roberts near Mexican Hat Rock. Try as I might, I can’t find any information on Ms. Roberts.

Below are the “Betatakin” Anasazi ruins at Navajo National Monument (one of three such sites at the monument). Unfortunately, this time of year you can’t get to the 800-year-old dwellings, so I had to be content with photos from across the canyon. The scale of the photo is a little misleading, as that alcove you see here is about 450 feet high. The canyon is about twice that in total.
Betatakin ruins, Navajo National Monument

In order to save on gas I borrowed a Prius from my company. Here it is in the middle of the Valley of the Gods, Utah.
Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is north of Monument Valley, and because it’s not on Navajo lands, you don’t need a guide. While driving through the park I saw these cattle grazing with Monument Valley in the distance. I took this photo from the same spot as I did the shot of the Prius. As I crept closer to the nearest cow, which had surprisingly large horns (do female cows have large horns too?), I kept looking back at the car hoping that it was close enough to run to if need be. I’m not sure that it was.

I call this photo “birds of a feather,” ’cause…you know…the oil thing in the back kinda looks like the horse. Yes, I know I’m very clever. Yes, I know horses don’t have feathers, which makes the title funnier. Yes, I still know that I’m very clever.
Birds of a feather

This one I call “fish out of water.” See above, re: clever.
Fish out of water

The Navajo Twins

Toadstool hoodoo

Tree and arch, Monument Valley

Monument Valley

This is the inside of a tiny little chapel on the road to Flagstaff. It appears to be always open and usable by anyone. While taking photos inside snow was lightly falling outside. It was a very pleasant, calm moment. Curiously, as if to provide an exact definition of “juxtapose” for me, the bible on the lectern was open to Jeremiah 14. God is in full “angry Old Testament god mode” here.

Church near Flagstaff

Church near Flagstaff

Called “Moqui holes,” the indentations in this photo were created by Indians climbing to and from a place where they hid supplies.
Moqui holes inside Mystery Canyon

Sunset near Monument Valley

I played tourist one day and went to the Four Corners monument. Here’s me kinda-sorta standing in four states.
Four Corners monument

And here’s a wider shot of the monument:
Four Corners monument

Abandoned store

I mentioned earlier that I was at a very remote, very large pet cemetery one night, which I happened to come across accidentally while exploring another area. The sun had already set so it was getting dark quickly, and there was absolutely no wind; all the wind chimes you see in this picture weren’t making any noise. I took this photo and then kept walking in the direction of the newly dug grave in the background. Suddenly, a large group of birds exploded in a panic out of a tree next to me and the wind came up out of nowhere, sending the wind chimes into a frenzy. I figured that was my cue to leave, and with the largest goosebumps I’ve probably ever had, hurried back to my car.
Pet cemetery at the Best Friend's Animal Sanctuary

Sunset near Monument Valley

This next shot is of Agathla Peak near sunset. Rising more than 1,500 feet from the earth, it’s the hardened throat of a volcano that has long since disappeared.
Agathla Peak near sunset

I’m going to wrap up Part I (quite suddenly, I might add) with this photo of a Monument Valley sunrise taken from the balcony of my hotel room at the View Hotel (which was awesome). I should have Part II up in a day or so, so check back soon! Also, I might actually make prints available for some of these photos (which is rare for me), so if you’re interested, let me know.
Monument Valley sunrise

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Random Jazz: Melancholy Ghost Wolf Edition

Another day, another “where the heck do I pust this stuff?” post. Since most of this has kind of a forlorn feel, I figured it made sense to group it together. The next post should be happier, including some photos I did for my awesome friend and her new business.

First, some photos from the ol’ abandoned Griffith Park Zoo. Built in 1912 and closed in 1966, the zoo was probably a terrible place to raise your animal family.  According to Wikipedia, it was constructed in the “caves-with-iron-bars style,” which as we all know is how most animals in the wild have built their homes since the discovery of iron in the 15th-century.

Abandoned Griffith Park Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Abandoned Zoo Cage

Old Griffith Park Zoo stairs

This is the view looking up from inside one of the iron cages. The view out the front was pretty much the same sad thing.

View from abandoned cage, old Griffith Park Zoo

Abandoned Animal Cage

It’s hard to see in this shot, but that thing at the bottom is a gigantic wolf dog. Members of a wolf dog rescue group were at the park with several of these magnificent animals, one of which was apparently curious as to what I was doing.

Ghost Wolf at Old Griffith Park Zoo

Up next is a random road-side display I found when visiting a friend. I really hope the owner of that car didn’t have a run in with a drunk driver, although seems to be somewhat common these days unfortunately.

Drunk driving car

To close, a few beach photos.

A child's lost bucket at Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove sunset

I wanted to take some photographs on New Year’s Day, so I figured that a good way to start off 2014 was to visit my “memorial rock” and do some reflecting on the past. I said hello to my lost friends, took some pictures, and headed home thinking of the future. As always, thank you for visiting.

Corona Del Mar Rock at Night


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Eating Humble Pie — or — How I Nearly Killed a Japanese Man in the Middle of Nowhere

I’m currently engaged in a project at my day job that is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever worked on. If it doesn’t kill me, there’s a good chance I might collapse into a whimpering heap, appearing only occasionally to buy sour candy and look handsome in a tuxedo.

Since I probably won’t be able to travel until March, and since I just got a new camera, I figured I should get one last photo road trip (or phroad trip, as the scientists call them) under my belt. The new camera is significantly more light-sensitive than my previous body, so I decided to head out to the Trona Pinnacles to get some shots of the Milky Way. Turns out, I’m really bad at that, but more on that in a minute.

Regular readers know that I’m crazy for abandoned places, so in my research on the route to Trona I found an abandoned military complex to visit. Unfortunately, the place had been severely worked over by idiots prior to my arrival, so what could have been a cool time capsule was instead a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

That said, some of it was kinda cool and/or funny, like this trailer blocking one of the roads into the town. Someone loves their zombie movies.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

Payphone booths, now empty.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

I’ve been to some pretty crazy places, but I still get nervous walking through dark hallways, even during the day. At times I feel like I’m one meth head away from a shiv to the kidney, so once in a great while I might have a weapon on me…

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

…particularly when there are zombies lurking about.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex "dead inside"

This is why we can’t have nice things. Not only are there tire tracks on the tile, but notice all of the holes smashed into the walls.

Jake Reinig abandoned military town

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

The best selfie I’ve ever taken.

Jake Reinig abandoned military town

I’m no expert, but I think fire alarm quality is reduced by bird nests built inside of them.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

One of the things I’m always amazed at when I visit abandoned places is how shot up they are. Bullet holes are everywhere, proving that many gun owners are not at all responsible individuals. In the event that you had to be somewhere when an idiot started firing into a building, this is actually a good spot to be: that door, as the entrance to a justice center, is fairly bullet proof.

Jake Reinig abandoned military town, bullet holes

It took a beating, but very little of the glass was actually punctured all the way through.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex, bullet holes

Continuing up the road the traveler goes through Johannesburg, California, home to one of the the loneliest playgrounds in the world.

Jake Reinig Johannesburg playground


The Trona Pinnacles are the really interesting remnants of springs that bubbled up from the bottom of an ancient lake that has since disappeared. Actually, I say interesting, but they’re likely super boring unless you’re a photographer or a geologist. Visit once for sure, but you probably don’t need too long if you’re not there to take pictures.

This shot was taken from several miles away, so you can see how big the tufa formations are. In the foreground are some semi-abandoned train cars from the semi-abandoned “city” called Trona. (Fun fact: the Trona high school football team has one of the only all-dirt football fields in the world.)

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Abandoned Train Cars

Two questionable attempts at industrial art:

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Abandoned Train Cars

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Abandoned Train Cars

Note the cars in this shot. They really show how big some of these things are.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles

As the sun sets, some of the rocks and hills take on really interesting colors.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles sunset

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles sunset

Returning back to my earlier statement about being bad at Milky Way photography, I’ll complete the story: my new camera is pretty light sensitive compared to what I’m used to, so I figured the Milky Way would practically photograph itself. Turns out there’s a lot more to it, and I did a pretty bad job of the photos.  Basically, I let in too many stars I didn’t want, and didn’t bring out enough of the galaxy that I did want.  I also didn’t do enough homework to know that by far the best time to photograph the MW is around summer, when the galactic core is visible. I’m posting these photos as evidence that I still have a tremendous amount to learn. Hopefully in a few months I’ll have the right conditions to capture some truly awesome photos.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Milky Way


Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Milky Way

So, about the Japanese tourist I almost hit with my truck: the pinnacles are in the middle of nowhere, and once the moon sets the valley they’re in becomes pitch black. The main body of pinnacles has a confusing series of roads that runs through them, and I was driving slowly in the inky darkness trying not to get lost. I drove over a rise in the road, and there, smack dab in the middle of this tiny little trail is a man with his tripod.  He was very sorry that he was in the way, but asked very earnestly if I wouldn’t mind driving my truck into the rocks so that he wouldn’t have to move his camera, which was likely in the middle of a long exposure. A fellow photographer, I obliged him, but was even more annoyed when I got back on the road to find his car (with his friends inside) turned completely across the road, blocking it again. At least I had the satisfaction of knowing that I probably ruined his photo (insert evil laugh).

Having established that I’m a jerk, I’ll close with this next photo. While waiting in my nice warm truck for the moon to set (and the sky to darken), I put my old camera out in the cold to capture a four hour time-lapse of it going down.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Moon Timelapse

Stay tuned for more (and hopefully better) photos from Trona in the future.


Cowboys and Indians (and Miners) in Joshua Tree

My brother, his girlfriend, and I went to Joshua Tree last weekend. We were supposed to do some bouldering and take some pictures. We did absolutely no bouldering and very little photography, but did end up doing quite a bit of hiking and scrambling, and even more “getting lost while hiking and scrambling.”

We also learned a valuable Christmas lesson about bringing Hawaiian rolls on a camping trip but not having butter. I’d tell you what it was, but I’m saving it for my eventual screenplay about camping and bread products.

Joshua Tree is chock full of abandoned mines and related equipment. Near Barker Dam is a neat structure called the “Wall Street Mill” which used to be part of a major operation. It’s supposed to be closed to visitors, but as you can see the barbed wire fence doesn’t work too hard keeping people out.

Wall street mill

Near the mill is an area called the “car lot” which has a number of derelict cars.

The parking lot, near Wall Stree mill

These tires have seen better days. Speaking of tires, have you seen the ridiculously sexist Goodyear tire ad from the 1960s? I’m not sure why I bring that up, but it’s kinda funny in a really horrible kind of way.

Detail of a car near the Wall Street Mill

Besides having deadly mines around every corner, Joshua Tree also has a pretty large body of native American pictographs and petroglyphs. Near the Wonderland ruins is a really cool rock that has a large, hollow cavity inside. If you climb under and into the rock you’ll discover a variety of hidden pictographs, including the noon day sun at the top of the cavity.

Indian pictographs near ruins at Joshua Tree

Here’s a lousy attempt at capturing the Milky Way from Arch Rock. I just got a new 5d Mark III, so look for these types of photos to vastly improve over the next few months.

Joshua Tree milky way over arch rock

The Hall of Horrors is large split rock site with numerous (and fun to climb) slot canyons. Here’s me being dumb by chimneying through a relatively deep canyon.  My photos on the other side were terrible, so at least I risked my health for nothing. That’s always nice.

Me, doing a chimney climb at Hall of Horrors, Joshua Tree

The next day we hiked to a remote part of the park. I say “hiked,” but really I mean “continually lost the trail and had to climb random hills and out of various gullies.” The cool thing about this particular remote area is an abandoned miner’s cabin built into the crevice between some huge boulders. Because so few people know about this place, the cabin still stands as the miners left it many decades ago.

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

One of my favorite places in the park is the rock containing the so-called “Disney” pictographs. This large rock near Barker Dam has a number of authentic pictographs and petroglyphs on it. However, in the mid-twentieth century a Disney film crew (shooting “Chico, the Misunderstood Coyote“) decided that the real pictographs weren’t vibrant enough to film and proceeded to paint and carve their own, or to paint over the originals.

Despite this stupid act of vandalism messing up the site, I still like to come and sit here at night while I do photography. It’s cool to consider that for hundreds or thousands of years, Native Americans also came here to talk and laugh and look at the stars in much the some way.


"Disney" pictographs near Barker Dam, Joshua Tree

This is valley that lays in front of the Disney rock.

Joshua Tree sunset

Around the corner at the rock and above your head is this hidden sun pictograph. I don’t know if it’s authentic, as it’s really bright still and to the best of my knowledge, all of the legit pictographs in the park are red or brown in hue. I doubt the Disney staff did this, since it would be essentially impossible to film. So, who knows? Maybe it’s modern vandalism, or maybe its hidden location has kept it safe and vibrant all these years.

Sun pictograph near Barker Dam

"Disney" pictographs near Barker Dam at Joshua Tree

Another shot of the valley.

Sunset at Joshua Tree near Barker Dam

And one last parting shot from later the same night.

Milky way from the pictograph rock at Joshua Tree

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Graveyards, Ghost Towns, and a Mountain or Two

For the first time that didn’t involve me being sick, I didn’t attend Thanksgiving with my family. Instead I headed out to the high desert east of the Sierra mountains.  As is typical with my trips, I had absolutely perfect weather for most of the trip: clear skies, no wind, and relatively warm days. Normally I consider this my curse, but since I wanted to do star photography it was an ok problem to have. It just means that my daytime and sunset opportunities were more limited.

Driving up on Thanksgiving day, the first stop I made was to explore near Lone Pine for a cattle graveyard that I had previously heard about. You know, normal holiday stuff.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but it ended up being significantly different than whatever I was expecting.

Finding it is a little difficult as it’s fairly well hidden, but the scenery is incredible. Because it’s so remote, however, it’s also eerily quiet.


Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine

“Graveyard” really isn’t the right word, as there were no graves. Only the remains of dumped corpses, including whole skeletons of cows and horses.  In some places there were only large pieces of leather laying around.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine Cattle Livestock Graveyard

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine Cattle Livestock Graveyard

There were also more recent additions. This one kind of freaked me out to be honest. If you’re squeamish, don’t click the photo below. Otherwise, the link takes you to the uncensored shot. The view from the other side was way worse.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine Cattle Livestock Graveyard


I did a few other things in town and then headed out to the Alabama Hills fairly early in the day. By sunset almost all of the clouds were gone and it got cooooooooold. The park itself is really neat, particularly if you like climbing around on stuff or are into bouldering/rock climbing. Loads of movies have been shot here too, so if you’re a movie buff, you can get a movie map and see the related sights.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills

This was the extent of my sunset. At least I had the Mobius arch to myself.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills Mobius Arch

The stars were incredible, as was the Milky Way. Unfortunately, my 7d and its crop sensor aren’t the best tools for the job, so the detail isn’t quite as good as if I had a full-frame camera. If I buy one next year I’ll be sure to come back (if you have $3,000 you want to give me, I’d be happy to mow your lawn like 5 times).

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills Milky Way Star Photography

Because the weather was so nice, I was able to drive up the next day to the Bodie ghost town. The town is normally closed through the winter because of snow (it’s above 8,000-foot elevation), but was still open this year.

Bodie is a relatively recent boom town, and through the actions of the State and others has been fairly well preserved in the condition its former residents left it in.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Abandoned Truck

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Abandoned Truck detail

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Interior of a house

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Interior of a house

I wasn’t able to get into this building, which I’m assuming is the Undertaker’s residence. All of the coffins appeared to be for children.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Undertaker, Mortuary, Coffins

Another room in the building. Note the Haunted Mansion style portrait on the wall. Both of these coffins also appeared to be child-sized.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Undertaker, Mortuary, Coffins

Speaking of child-sized coffins, the cemetery had a relatively large number of kids in it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a time or place where worrying about losing your child is a normal affair.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Child's Grave, Cemetery

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Exterior of a Building

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Abandoned Safe

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Old Gas Station

Another building that they don’t want you in. Note the still working light bulb above the coffee machine.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Interior of a Store, Working Light Bulb, Coffee Machine

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Medications

There are two roads to Bodie. One comes from the 395 to the west of the town, and one is south of the town. If you ever visit, I recommend heading in from the west, but coming out from the south. The view of Mono lake from the southern route is amazing.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  View of Mono Lake

The lack of clouds meant a boring sunset that didn’t help dress up the tufa columns.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake

This tufa is part of an island of sorts, and is probably 20 feet tall.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake Tufa

The Milky Way and a few other stars from Mono Lake. Man, I wish I had that full frame camera. (I wonder if my family would be hurt if I didn’t get them any Christmas presents.)

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake Milky Way and Stars

The next day I headed back down towards Bishop and Lone Pine, stopping at a few places along the way.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Cattle & Horses Grazing Near Bishop

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Landscape of a Tree Near Bishop

This is a shot at Keeler, which is a town east of the Owens dry lake.  A former boom town, it fell on bad times when the nearby mines gave out. It fell on further hard times when Los Angeles diverted the river that fed Owens lake and killed it. The town is in mostly bad shape but is not really a ghost town (since a number of people still live there), even though lots of the former mining equipment is still present. This very tongue-in-cheek sign reads:

“Keeler Beach – Camps for Rent”

“This beautiful setting provided by LA Water Dept.”

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Keeler surfboard

I finished the day off back at the Alabama Hills. Lots of rocks have arches in them, including this one that sort of looked like the Predator or an angry ant.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography |  Alabama Hills Double Arch Rock

Again, no clouds, but I played with the sun and various arches near sunset to try and get something interesting.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Alabama Hills Arch Sunset

And to wrap up, here’s the same formation at night.  While it was a little intimidating being out there by myself, it was definitely worth it. The view was amazing.

 Reinig Travel Photography | Alabama Hills Arch Milky Way & Star Photos

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