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Abandoned Buildings on Route 66 in Ludlow, CA (Part 1)

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160
Abandoned Buildings on Route 66

Shot on Kodak Portra 160
with a Mamiya RZ67

Abandoned buildings. Photographers love ‘em. I don’t know why we love them so much, but give us a dilapidated old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere and we’re in hog heaven. That’s why I was so happy to stumble upon a cluster of decaying structures straddling the iconic Route 66 in Ludlow, California.

I was getting that itch to go take pictures of someplace new, so I began scouring maps of the Mojave Desert looking for something - anything - that might be worth pointing my lens at. Some sand dunes maybe, an old railroad depot, something with character. But despite my map-studying and route-planning, I just couldn’t make up my mind as to where to go. And the clock was ticking; I only had one day to get away from work and it was approaching fast.

So instead of going out with a plan, I just started driving. I left early morning in hopes that I’d just figure it out along the way. I pointed my trajectory towards the high desert, Mojave National Preserve would be my end-of-the-line if I couldn’t find anything sooner. Heading out like this with no plan is not my normal operating procedure. I’m the kind of guy who likes to have a plan.

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

Please click the above photos for larger views
Both shot on Kodak Portra 160 film
with a Shen-Hao TFC 617-A Camera

I’d seen some abandoned buildings off the highway on previous trips out to Las Vegas and Mojave National Preserve, but I’d never taken the time to pull over and see what they had to offer. Whenever I’d driven past them before, I had a destination to get to. Goes to show that having a plan isn’t always the best plan. Had I not had such clear-cut destinations in mind on my previous journeys, I might have stopped to see these buildings years earlier.

But this time I had no destination. No schedule, no plan. This would be the perfect opportunity to see these buildings up close.

I pulled off the interstate into the nearly non-existent town of Ludlow. The cracked and rough Route 66 runs right down the center of it. You can feel the rumble of freight trains passing by just a stone’s throw away. There, standing in all their run-down glory are the sun-bleached buildings of a forgotten town. The roof of an abandoned gas station juts out over the dusty desert like a bird’s wing. Next door is a mechanic’s shop with a caved-in ceiling and the fading letters of “GARAGE” emblazoned on its side. A tiny house, a big house, a house barely visible behind overgrown shrubbery, and the skeletons of old monument signs all just begging to be photographed.

This was going to be a good day to take pictures.

Be sure to read part 2 of this Route 66 trip recap and also check out the on-location video below!

Photography On-Location: Route 66
View on YouTube to see full HD

The following pictures were made with Kodak Portra 160 film and a Mamiya RZ67:

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160

The following pictures were made with Polaroid Originals 600 film:

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Polaroid Instant Film

Abandoned Buildings on Route 66 in Ludlow, CA (Part 2)

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

More abandoned buildings from Route 66
Shot on Kodak Portra 160
with a Mamiya RZ67

This is part 2 of my visit to the abandoned buildings off Route 66 in Ludlow, CA. Click here to see part 1.

Yes, sir. Abandoned buildings along Route 66 in the middle of the Mojave Desert - I really can’t think of a better recipe for a good time. But wait, it’s missing just a few ingredients: a heaping cup of Shen-Hao TFC-617 camera, a Mamiya RZ67 with 6x7 and 6x6 film backs, plenty of Kodak Portra 160, and just a dash of Fujifilm Velvia 100. Ah, yes, now we got ourselves a tasty dish.

I tend to overpack on camera gear. I’m always afraid I’ll leave behind the one thing I wish I had. So I brought with me on this trip my full Mamiya RZ67 outfit, my complete 6x17 kit, and even a couple of polaroid cameras - a Polaroid SX-70 and the new Polaroid OneStep 2. Combine all that with 5 different films stuffed in my cooler and there are more camera/lens/film combinations than I could ever want. In fact, I think I may have had a few too many options to work with.

The Mamiya RZ67 with 6x6 back may have been my favorite to use. Something about shooting square format is just plain fun. Especially out here on Route 66. Route 66, 6x6 film...come on, might as well call it Route 6x6! Amirite?

But my favorite pictures came from my 6x17 Shen-Hao TFC 617-A. I love shooting the 6x17 panoramic format anyway, but out here in Ludlow, the abandoned mechanic’s shop and gas stations seemed like they were built to be photographed in this format.

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Fuji Velvia 100 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Fuji Velvia 100 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Fuji Velvia 100 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Fuji Velvia 100 film

The 4 pictures above were shot on Fuji Velvia 100 film
Click to see them bigger

And check out Part 1 of this trip recap to see
how they compare to Kodak Portra 160 film

I used both Kodak Portra 160 film and Fuji Velvia 100 to photograph these decaying buildings in 6x17 format. I prefer the look of Kodak Portra overall - can’t beat those nice soft tones - but I’m glad I shot Velvia too. To compare the 2 films side-by-side is quite interesting for a film geek like me. The dynamic range of Portra far exceeds that of Velvia, so the shadow and highlight detail is much improved. I’ll always have a soft-spot in my heart for Velvia because it was the first film I fell in love with, but these days I’m really loving the look of Portra.

To see a full in-depth comparison of these 2 films along with a review of all the images from this trip, check out the video below.

Photography On-Location: Route 66
View on YouTube to see full HD

The following pictures were all made on Kodak Portra 160 film with a Mamiya RZ67 camera equipped with a 6x6 back:

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Route 66 in Ludlow, CA on Kodak Portra 160 film

Whitewater Country Club: An Abandoned Wasteland in Palm Springs

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Sand dunes reclaim tennis courts at the
abandoned Whitewater Country Club in Palm Springs.

Images shot on Fuji Velvia 100 film - Click to Enlarge

On the northwest end of Palm Springs, California there sits a sprawling expanse of land where nature is reclaiming cracked tennis courts, crumbling foundations, and golf cart paths that once guided visitors through lush fairways. Sand traps that were carefully placed decades ago are now virtually indiscernible from the natural dunes accumulating along deteriorating fences and cinderblock walls. Palm trees dot the landscape, shabby and neglected, some with their tops sheared completely off.

This is Whitewater Country Club.

Formerly know as Palm Springs Country Club, this golf course opened in 1954 but fell into disrepair about 10 years ago when the owner passed away, millions of dollars in debt, sending the Whitewater Country Club into foreclosure. Since then, it's been left abandoned and decaying in the harsh desert elements.

There are plans to revive this land with condominiums and single-family homes, but the process is slow-going. Permitting, approvals, local pushback...you know how that goes. From what the news articles report, it sounds like some residents are hesitant about the proposed plan due to how dense the housing could be. But it goes without saying that pretty much all residents agree that something needs be done about this place. After all, can you imagine what a rundown post-apocalyptic-looking golf course does to their property value?

Although this little slice of the apocalypse is a real drag for local residents, for visiting photographers like myself it's a veritable playground. Photographers love urban decay. I'm ashamed to admit it - because it's just so damned cliché - but there is something about deteriorating structures that begs to be photographed. My appreciation might stem subconsciously from a rebellious urge towards big developers. Having grown up in Irvine, California where for decades there has been a ceaseless gobbling up of wild spaces by multi-billion dollar corporations to make way for more overpriced high-density housing, a part of me gets some deep satisfaction in seeing nature reclaim what's hers. It's a nice reminder that even greed is ultimately powerless against the elements.

Greed and overindulgence has created countless environmental catastrophes and longterm destruction including climate change, but in the grand scheme of things, humans are just a blip on the radar screen of Mother Nature. We may pollute this planet into uninhabitability, but nature will bounce back in the long run. It's incredible when you think about it. This planet could flick us off like so many gnats and, in fact, would thrive without us around. Nature reminds us of this all the time. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes - little reminders here and there to show us who's boss. And of these "reminders," I think the decaying remnants of human development are one of the least-destructive and most fun to photograph. The desert's reclamation of this property is really a quaint and harmless example of our species' impermanence compared to the awesome force of a hurricane.

I don't mean to sound bleak. Environmental issues are near and dear to my heart, and it's because I'm in absolute awe of nature's beauty and power. Mankind has made countless mistakes in caring for this planet, but we are moving in the right direction. Changes are happening and people are caring more. We have a long way to go yet, but we're on our way.

But enough with the serious environmental stuff. Let's talk photography.

I shot these photos using a Fujifilm GA645Zi medium format rangefinder camera with Fuji Velvia 100 film. This film is a high-contrast high-saturation film that gives these photos great vibrance and harshness, that "punchy" look as some photographers will call it. I shot in late afternoon to get some of that warm desert light coming in at a low angle, which creates depth and color. I'll be the first to say that these photos are not "beautiful" in the traditional sense. I mean, look at those palm trees with the sheared-off tops. Is there anything more sad than a palm tree missing its top? But there are two things that stand front and center in these photos - the passing of time and the decay of things - and those can both be beautiful through the right eyes. They certainly are through mine.

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Whitewater Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Self portrait