Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bonneville Salt Flats - A Place Straight Out of Hollywood

Dusty Desert - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
I had an opportunity this last weekend to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in the far west deserts of Utah for the first time. The salt flats are just inside the Utah border not more than a few miles from Nevada. In fact, Wendover, Nevada, is visible from the salt flats.

The image that I had hoped to capture was the sky and mountains reflected in the shallow water that covers the Bonneville Salt Flats in the spring. Someone told me that April was an excellent month to go. I wanted the evening light so I didn't leave my house until mid-afternoon.

Getting There
Delle Bus Door - Delle, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are a little more than 100 miles west of Salt Lake City on Interstate 80. Once you leave the suburbs there is not a whole lot in-between. It's a boring drive, and it seems to take forever, despite the 80 M.P.H. speed limit.

I did make one stop along the way. There is a little town roughly halfway between Salt Lake City and the salt flats called Delle. There's not much there except for a gas station and an abandoned motel. It seemed to be a popular stop for ATVs and dirt bikes and such.

The reason that I stopped in Delle was to photograph the abandoned bus that's been left out in the desert. The bus was easy to spot from the freeway and not too much trouble to drive to. People go out and spray paint it and vandalize it. It's Utah's version of Cadillac Ranch, I suppose (but much less cool). It's a popular spot to take pictures.

I always attempt to create unique images. I don't always succeed, and it might be impossible at some locations (such as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon), but I still try. I thought going ultra-wide-angle would be my best bet, and so I attached a 12mm lens to the camera. I made a few exposures, then hit the road to get to my destination before sunset.
Inside The Savage Bus - Delle, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.

Bonneville Rest Area
Salt Covered Rock - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.
I was given the advice that the best place to see the Bonneville Salt Flats is from a rest area right off the westbound interstate freeway. As I'm approaching the salt flats, signs point to a rest area ahead, and so that became my first picture location. And, boy, was it disappointing!

What I saw was not what I was expecting. I think because the winter was so wet, the salt flats were a salt lake, probably eight inches deep. That might have been alright except that the wind was blowing, and the lake had plenty of ripples and not much in the way of reflections. So much for capturing the picture I had in my mind! Time for plan B.

I still took some time to photograph this location. There were a few picture opportunities, and I kept my eye out for them. But soon it was time to move further down the road. I think at certain times of the year this would be an excellent stop, but I was there at the wrong time.
Pilot Peak Behind A Salt Lake - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Salty Shallow Lake - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Foot Wash - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Leaning Public Phone - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.

Along The Interstate
Self, Evening Stroll - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.
There were a handful of parked cars along the I-80 about three miles beyond the rest area. By this point the lake was dry and a dozen or so people were out walking on the salt flats. Even though it is illegal (not to mention dangerous) to non-emergency park on the freeway shoulder, I followed the crowd and did the same thing as them. I suppose if they had jumped off a bridge I would have, too. Oh, well.

What I experienced was the classic salt flat scene. Flat. Dry. Desolate. Cracked lines snaking across the desert. This is what the entire salt flats look like in the summer, and what you probably envision when you think of places like this. It looks almost like something created by Hollywood--in fact, a handful of movies have filmed scenes at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I didn't spend much time here. I get a few interesting pictures, but the sun was getting low and I had one more stop planned. So I got back in the car and continued down the road.
Line In The Salt - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.

Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway
Blowing Dust Over The Salt Flats - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
A few miles beyond where I pulled over along the interstate I found an exit for the Bonneville Speedway (the very next exit after the rest area). There's a gas station right when you exit, but there's nothing else along this paved road. I followed the road north (and then east) for about five miles (following the Bonneville Speedway signs) until it ended in a cul-de-sac in the desert. There were several cars parked and a few people out with their cameras.

When you think of "international speedway" you probably don't envision an empty desert. I don't, anyway. But in the dry summer months people come from all over to drive really fast here. In fact, the Bonneville Salt Flats are where a number of world land speed records have been set, including several in excess of 400 M.P.H.

I arrived just at the right moment. As soon as I got out of the car a dust storm kicked up and it was back-lit by the low sun. Perfect! I snapped away. It was an amazing sight that lasted only a couple moments, and was gone as quickly as it came.

I made several more exposures at this location until the sun went down. The salt flats looked (mostly) dry here, but it was actually muddy and slippery. You couldn't walk out on them very far at all. I got what pictures I could.

The sunset wasn't particularly spectacular, but I watched it anyway. Afterwards I made my way to Wendover, Nevada, which is maybe 15 minutes from the cul-de-sac. I grabbed a burger and something to drink. Then I headed back in hopes of getting a picture of the stars over the salt flats.

It got dark and cold fast. The wind was still blowing at a good clip. The tripod kept slipping in the mud. It wasn't great conditions, but I did come away with a night photograph.

Satisfied with my adventure (except that I wasn't able to capture the image that I really wanted), I headed back home, arriving around midnight. It was good to climb into bed.
Dust In The Wind - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Rock On The Salt Flats - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.
Peak Beyond The Salt Flats - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Black Mountain - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Blowing Dust - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Desolate Desert - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/3.5 135mm.
Stars & Salt - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm.

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