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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

Sunrise in Palm Springs

Sunrise in Palm Springs

Sunrise in Palm Springs - Fuji Velvia 100 Film
Click Any Image to Enlarge

This past September I had plans to visit Cabo San Lucas for a week with my family. We'd been looking forward to it for months. We're pretty much all self-employed which means no paid time off, which also means we take very few week-long vacations. We were counting down the days, getting our passports ready, buying new swimsuits...the whole nine yards. Then the morning of departure rolled around. Our flight was cancelled. Turns out Cabo San Lucas was about to be pummeled by Hurrican Odile.

Thank God we didn't fly out a day earlier.

At first, we were all pretty upset. A cancelled vacation is nothing to complain about when the residents down there were about to lose everything, but the morning of, we had no idea how serious the hurricane would turn out to be. Since this hurricane hadn't even been forecasted in the weather reports we saw, we assumed the airlines were just being overly cautious. Once we saw the destruction the hurricane brought later that week, we counted our lucky stars for avoiding it.

With our week wide open and all of us itching to put on our swimsuits, we quickly scrambled for a plan B.

Flying anywhere was off the table - tickets would be outrageously expensive. That left locations within about 6 hours drive of Orange County. San Francisco would have been nice, but just a tad too far away. Santa Barbara was suggested, but a few of us quickly vetoed that. Santa Barbara is pretty, but it wouldn't feel like much of a vacation compared to Orange County. Orange County is just an artificial Santa Barbara anyway. I literally live in an apartment complex in OC with "Santa Barbara style architecture" stated in its leasing literature.

Then I remembered something I'd been wanting to try for months. I'd heard you can rent retro 60's-era houses in Palm Springs, CA complete with Mad Men style furniture and a private pool. I'd looked into it before, but hadn't yet found the time or money to do it. This Cabo cancellation was the perfect opportunity. Ah yes, Jack Daniels and Sinatra by a private pool - it was starting to sound better than Cabo.

With iPad and iPhone in hand, I spent the morning finding just the right Palm Springs retro rental property for our group of 8. We found the perfect place with Oasis Rentals (www.oasisrentals.com) called "Tangerine Modern." Five bedrooms, a spacious layout, and floor-to-ceiling windows opening up to the coolest backyard I've ever seen - yeah, this would do.

Needless to say, we had a hell of a time. It was a much-needed break from the daily grind. The September Palm Springs heat was stifling, but the crystalline waters in our backyard provided all the relief we craved.

The sunrises in Palm Springs are gorgeous. The clear desert air provides little barrier for the sun to paint the palm trees and mountains with its golden light. I wanted to sleep in on my vacation, but I just couldn't let that morning light slip past me without breaking out the camera. So on one of the mornings, I got up in the wee hours (when it was already pushing 90 degrees outside) and snapped some shots around the neighborhood. The suburban setting at my feet meant I couldn't do my typical landscapes with foreground and background, so instead I opted to focus my lens up on the trees and mountain above. Fuji Velvia 100 film brought out the colors like only Velvia can.

So the moral of the story, I suppose, is that a cancelled vacation is not worth getting upset about when an entire town is looking down the barrel of destruction. When you get hit with a first-world problem, just come up with a plan B and thank God you aren't dealing with a real problem - like a hurricane.

Sunrise in Palm Springs

Sunrise in Palm Springs

Sunrise in Palm Springs

Sunrise in Palm Springs

Sunrise in Palm Springs