Tag Archives: The Salton Sea

Paradise Lost – Behind the Scenes at the Salton Sea

Over the past weekend I ventured out to  one of my 3 favorite spots  to shoot, The Salton Sea – California. (the other 2 that complete the 3 are, The Anza- Borrego Desert and Yosemite NP)

The Salton Sea may be one of the strangest and most bizarre places in America. What was a large dry sink in the middle of the desert, it was filled by man’s mishap and the run off of irrigation water from the fertile Imperial Valley. With no escape for the water except to evaporation, the sea quickly became more saline than the ocean  but much more vile and poisonous.

What was to be the next Palm Springs in the late 50’s and early 60’s of the last century, it fell victim to it’s own toxicity and it became a wasteland of water and abandonment. But that’s probably what makes it interesting.

It was not the best day to shoot, It was a clear sky but with a huge haze hanging over it from water vapor of the Sea and I arrived at a bad time to shoot just past noon. But sometime you have to take what you are given. I knew I wanted to shoot the interiors of some of the abandoned buildings so I couldn’t wait for the better light of later in the day.

It’s a scary place to shoot. The people well, they are there for a purpose, either outcast of society. Or the senior citizens that can’t afford any better and who remember better times at the  sea. But the areas I go to are not quite a place one should go alone. But I do. I’m not as afraid of the people as I am of the Dogs. And of the Birds, that fly out of the building with a roar of flapping wings that scares the **** out of you as you enter a dark door way.

But I have to say the thing that creeped me out the most…were two young girls on bikes that rode up as I was shooting an old trailer. They rode up without a word and stopped and stared at me. I smiled and waved, but they just stared with blank expressions, and then without a word to each other they simultaneously rode off. It had all the looks of one of “Those” movies and if nothing else, I feared they may return with their Dad…and his shotgun. So I made haste.

So with those conditions it made it very difficult to shoot HDRs. But I did but you have to adapt to the situation. The need to get out of a place in a hurry meant no time to set-up tripods and try things over and over again. Most times I had to park outside of what I wanted to shoot with the engine running and the door open. Mean dogs run fast.

So all of the shoot was done handheld. This meant using some higher ISOs than I would have liked.But if you expose right and then  process for natural look. Noise is not much of a problem at all. I was at ISO 640 for a lot of the interior shots. Sometimes going as high as 1600. And outside I kept it at ISO 200-400 remembering I was handholding everything.

All the exposures were done using Aperture Priority and Automatic Exposure Bracketing. When necessary, I used Exposure Compensation to shift the point at which the exposures were centered

I was happier with the interior shots than the outdoors ones. The light luckily was Low Winter light but it still wasn’t perfect light or time of day.

I spent about 3 hours in and out of buildings, homes, trailers and even outhouses. I got what I wanted and then to relive some of the stress of shooting under those conditions I headed up to the North shore where there is a nice State Park where I could watch the birds, count the  thousands of dead fish and watch the sunset which is always made beautiful by the water vapor and the dust of the desert in the air.













To see all 90 of the shots from the day, please visit my Portfolio page blog at petertellone.com