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Salton Sea Oct 68

Sunday October 6:

Monday October 7th, 2013

Called Jackson Air  flight services to schedule a charter flight

Scott Mooreheas with Jackson Flight Training in Thermal, CA. Can fly around the Salton Sea, call on cell 760 574 8513, had originally called the office line.

Drove to North Shore for the afternoon, weather was mid 90s, showing a cooling trend (finally) for the area.

International Banana Museum:

First stop was the International Banana Museum, run by Fred Garbutt. Garbutt is a Coachella Valley area resident who normally refinishes tennis courts, but is trying to make the museum his full time business.

So far he has been written up in various magazines and newspapers, and will be in a pilot for an A&E reality TV show on collectors.

I photographed Fred in the building and outside the sign, working for a bit on various angles, and I asked him to put on some of his favorite banana paraphanelia. The Banana museum fits perfectly into the Salton Seas weirdness.

When discussing business prospects, where admission is $1.00 if you don’t buy a banana milkshake ($3.50), Fred bluntly said:

“As long as you come give me a dollar I don't give a fuck.” 

I cracked up at his suggestion and his candor about business there. It was said in jest since Fred is very laid back, but there was some seriousness to it as well. Fred wasn’t afraid of being lampooned as a wacko on reality TV to further the bisiness. In person he is level headed, well-spoken, and laid back.

My favorite props were a banana shaped record player, a banana suit, and a VW Beetle named the Banana Bug, in all yellow. The parking lot had been paved and it looked like Fred was trying to restore the area.

Ski Inn Bar, Bombay Beach:

Next stop was the good ol’ Ski Inn bar in Bombay Beach. This is always a great place to stop and have a Coke, or a beer at the end of the day. There’s always different locals around telling stories and offering to help out with the project. Folks are friendly and down to earth, and aside from the regular town drunks, its pretty harmless.

This time I noticed dozens of feral cats in town, which come to the back of the kitchena t 7 pm, because Janie, the owener, feeds them. Nobody spays or neuters the cats in town, and residents estimate there are hundreds of the feral felines prancing around the area. Its probably some sort of public health hazard, or at least animal endagerment.

I got some great Border Patrol complaints as usual, and then asked one of the bar Patrons, Steve, a resident of Bashford’s Minera Spa, about photographing older and retired folks at the mineral spa. I really want a photo of “old white people” suntanning at a pool in front of RVs in the middle of the desert. Gerd Ludwig has a hilarious shot of it, and in all honestly I want a similar one in the final project. Of course the photo will be my own creation and in a different location, but its an interesting angle.

Steve mentioned Craig Bashford was the owner of Bashford’s mineral spa, and that I should ask him for permission to photograph. Got a phone number and will call, phone number and contact info online, just Google “Bashfords Mineral Spa.”

Also the Lark spa, nearby had “nice people.” 

About Glamis North “That guy is (the owner) is a jerk.” The Fountain of Youth Spa operators are “Nazis,” and you cant get in there unless “you know someone” said Steve.

Steve went on to talk about safety in Bombay Beach “Young ones are all thieves… third generator welfare” referring to the high poverty rate in the town.

I also spoke with Buster, and Bombay Beach resident who had “been here since ‘65.”

Buster said of Bombay, it “Used to be really bitchin’ down here. IID shut down the marinas, cant launch nothing.”

Photo notes for captions: Steve right, buster left. Ski inn. 

Candy was the bartender that day. She is married with kids and tries to keep them away from the drinking etc in Bombay Beach. They live outside of town. Candy is trying to become a nurse in Brawley and is working at the Ski Inn as a part time job.

Scuttlebut overheard at the bar, not sure who it was about: 

“I heard Roger went and turned himself in.”

“That's the bank robber 22 years. He's gonna land back in there of he don't cool it.” Of somebody’s kid living in Bombay Beach.

Ideas that popped into my head when sitting at the bar:

Juxtapose the following scenarios

Salton sea vs hideaway golf course. 

Hideaway houses vs Salton sea houses 

Hideaway opening gala vs the range in slab city. 

Stayed at Ski Inn until dark and photographed the sign at night. I was tired and didn’t want to deal with the Border Patrol checkpoint so I returned to La Quinta after this and uploaded images for the night and revised field notes.

Stopped in Coachella and Santa Rosa to photograph fields being irrigated at night, as well as a wide angle shot of date trees at night, which both turned out well. I will probably use a frame from each location in the final photo essay.

La Quinta, end of day:

Edited images from days take

Idea for juxtaposing 3-4 diptychs, comparing the lush green resort communities of La Quinta with the Salton Sea, which have similar ideals in relaxation, golf, and palm trees, but showing how one is not like the other. For example, the Hideaway Golf Club in La Quinta has a golf course, so does Salton City. But one is irrigated, the other is dirt, but either way its still elederly Caucasian people hitting the links. Also compare live music at the Range in Slab City with the season opening night at the Hidweay, which is on CLUB CLOSED NEED TO FIND OUT WHICH DAY IT IS

Tuesday October 8th, 2013

Field Schedule:

Find Salton City Golf Course and photograph

Fly drone at south end of the Salton Sea, Redhill Marina

Try and make contact with Norm Niver

Morning, finish editing images from last night and plan day. Fill up car and get ice, sandwich from Subway. Will be out all day and heading back to Newport in the night, so will be a 14-hour day and must be prepared accordingly.

Called back Jackson Flight Training, left a message with Scott to schedule a photo flight. Still haven’t heard back by end of day.

Emailed Norm Niver to reschudule meeting, didn’t work out, next weekend. His wife was tearing up his dock and I am trying to photograph that. Norm Niver’s dock is a symbol of the Salton Sea’s resilient residents, and even Norm’s dock is now going, because there is no water around his dock anymore.

First order of business after prepping food, gear, and car was a test flight of the drone. After spending hours rebuilding the thing it STILL wont take off. I think one of the motors is broken because the controller works, etc. Right now its been a waste of $500 and hours and hours of time. A total boondoggle, and for the time being I am giving up and shooting stills, and aerial shots are going to come from a real aircraft. Its hard to try and be a drone operator when Im also driving, taking field notes, meeting people, and making pictures. So the drone will eventually be flown, but it may not be within the scope of this project anymore.

Salton City Golf Course:

The Salton City Golf Coourse is on the map, but when I reached its location and hiked the majority of the perimiter, there is NOTHING left. Not even a golf club, bag, sign, or flags. Theres literally just bare dirt hills and a few desolate palm trees. I have photos and video of that, and it was a weird experience to have it on the map but not have anything actually be there. So, the Salton City Golf Course was a failure, because it doesn’t exist. But it was interesting to see and photograph what wasn’t there.

Sat and had lunch in Salton City, topped off gas tank and decidd to head to Redhill Marina via Westmoreland and south route, a 2 hour drive. Stopped and photographed some fields being irrigated during the drive. Photoraphed the closed and abandoned Tacos Jaliscos building on Highway 86 in downtown Westmoreland. Some gas stations, houses, and abandoned businesses. Not much there, not sure how safe the town is.

Redhill Marina and Sonny Bono Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge:

When I got to Redhill Marina I noticed that the salt flat where you can really see the lowering of the sea levels appeared drier than before, and maybe it was safer to hike out to the dried out jetty and trees that were uncovered on open ground. There were multiple dead trees that birds used to nest, since there was shallow water around them, keeping Coyotes and other predators at bay. Now, the water receded, the trees are on open ground, and the birds have abandoned the nests. The trees sit as silent, eerily, dead sentinels to the dying and shrinking of the Salton Sea.

The hike was about a mile each way through the salt flat, and some places it was muddy so it took a while to get out there. I didn’t make quite the frames I wanted so Ill have to go back and be more careful with a tripod, but I can go back out next weekend sicne I know its safe to walk out there.

The refuge boundary is very close to the trees so I need to be careful not to trespass into the wildlife refuge. I can see a shaekdown and huge ticket if I cross the line. So far, I didn’t even see anybody in the area, so I think im fine to go back out, and make some long exposures at night.

Unlike the famous three trees closer to dry land, the new trees have 7 intact abandoned nests and nobody else has photographe d them close. There aren’t even footprints around it, which stay in the salt for a long time. So, I think I will make some long night exposures after sunset this weekend.

Once it got almost dark I hiked back to the car, and happened upon some fisherman fishing at the New River, which is heavily polluted.

New River, dusk:

First subject was Nick Longo,  from Riverside. Goes fishing for catfish frequently int eh area. He was wearing the white shirt and smoking a cigar, and he gave me one as a gift.

Longo said, “My cousin used to dynamite fish and BOOM he (the Catfish) died right there.” He used to go and fish and dynamite. 

Nick said of life and the Salton Sea, “20 years alot of things change. I've been divorced at least 30.”

Jerry Garza, fisherman in middle of group of three. "Everybody calls me the fisherman. But I want to catch a turtle” around the New River area.

Made frames of them fishing but light was almost non-existent and shot in low light handheld with 1.4 lenses almost in the dark. They had one latern which I tried to used as a natural source of light, in that wherever they put it I tried to use the light it gave off to highlight the side of their face, or to get the shilouette on the other side.

Set coruse back to La Quinta, 80 miles away. Stopped to photograph a highway mileage sign, similar to the sign that was in the movie “Into The Wild” which had scenes film in the Southern Salton Sea/Niland area.

Border Patrol checkpoint typical police state activity, K-9 unit and vehicle inspection even though I am 70 miles away from the border. Its ridiculous but a story for another day.

Friday October 11th:

Converation with Joel Prince, arrange interview

Follow up again with Jackson, left another message

Salton Sea 916

Monday September 16 2013

Left Orange County AM, headed directly to Salton Sea, west side. Scout out Desert Shores, Salton Sea Beach, and Salton City during day for locations to shoot in better light. Focus on Salton City and abandoned half-built homes, as well as signs for communities and canals that have dried out. Looking for signs of damage or cracks in the mud that are graphic as a result of the heavy monsoon rains three weekends ago.

Saw a sign at Salton Sea Beach that said Bingo thurs 10-2 at desert shores RV park? Check sign. Might be interesting to photograph a bingo event, especially since its inside and potentially air conditioned when it is so hot out.

Found half-built homes that were stopped in 2008-2009 due to financial crisis. At that time there was a moderate housing boom in Salton City, a rebirth of sorts. Boom and bust cycle stopped a few under construction. Interesting that the recession is felt in a place like the Salton Sea, where its had recessions upon recessions.

Full moon rising in afternoon and at dusk.

Temperature 106 degrees, making is more difficult to focus due to heat.

Photograph until totally dark, blues in sky and lingering haze creating for nice afterglow.

Went to Captain Jim’s bar to see if there was anyone to photograph, two people inside so I did not engage.

Found best route from home to Salton Sea Beach area, takes about 40-50 minutes depending on traffic and lights vs. the hour it used to take. Helpful for timing sunrises on early mornings so I am not sitting around in the dark.

Routing is Airport Blvd East, cross over Highway 111, and take ramp onto Highway 86 south, take to Mecca travel stop, and can either head down west side of the Sea on 86, or head East to Mecca and 111. This route avoids going through residential areas or down the congested stretch of highway 111. Another advantage is that the travel stop for gas, food, ice, and coffee is now at the beginning of routes to both sides of the Salton Sea. However must have cash or debit card since it is an Arco and does not accept credit cards.

Tuesday September 17 2013

Went to Salton Sea beach at 430 AM to photograph stars after the moon set at 330 AM and photograph into the 630 AM sunrise from the West side of the sea.

Photographed abandoned motel and trailer with its side ripped off, as well as burnt out house on shore. I think I’ve photographed this area enough during the day and sunrises, better to focus on people or photographing at night in this area, or diversifying where I shoot, as in more remote areas.

After sunrise hiking back to my car I ran into recent transplant resident of Salton Sea Beach John Edmond at about 7 am walking his dogs on the ridge/dike that separates the dry part of Salton Sea Beach from the mud and recently dried mucky area that makes up the beach in the area.

I call this area between dry land and the actual water the “Salton Suck,” because it is a muddy organic layer of decaying fish parts, clay like mud, and bones that literally suck your feet in. It’s the consistency of peat or clay. Even wearing boots the mud will pull the boots right off your feet. Local rumor has it at an 18 wheel truck once sank into the Salton Sea shore in the area, after a trucker parked overnight too close to the mud.

Edmond was walking four different dogs, so we got to talking and he explained he rescues dogs and helps them find homes. There are stray dogs in the Salton City area, and I have seen them numerous times at gas stations.

An older, potentially retired man, Edmond said “People know that I love dogs when they find them they bring them to me.” Edmond has lived in Salton Sea Beach for the last year, making him the only older resident I can remember that has willingly moved to retire in Salton Sea Beach. He apparently has his own gated compound.

As we chatted Edmond elaborated on some of his neighbors, confirming suspicions that I’ve long had of the Salton Sea Beach community

“See that trailer coming in over there?”, as he pointed west towards the mountains and trailers lining the coast. “It's a drug den. People in and out all day buying drugs. I've called the police but they say they can't do anything without catching them in the act.” (Written verbatim as he spoke).

Paraphrased immediately after:

“Well I say how are you going to catch them when you are sitting around?  The police just come through and drive around and leave. The tweakers just take the advantage of it.”

Edmond went on to elaborate that drug dealing and use occurred in the Salton Sea Beach area, but that due to apparent lack of police resources or apathy, nothing was being done about it. He painted the retired senior citizens in the area as victims of the growing population of “tweakers” taking advantage of lack of law enforcement and remoteness in the area. Edmond even claimed that they stole water bowls he placed outside for his dogs.

Reflection on Weekend:

Despite the hot weather I was able to focus on the more populated western area of the Salton Sea and improve upon some photos I’ve made in years past. Now they are more current, done under the project, and in better light with better composition. Its difficult to find people out and about during the day, and it seems the best chance for interaction is during the early mornings and evenings when it isn’t as hot. However, there are less people in the area, period.

I was able to find a better route from my parents house out to the Salton Sea, making a long drive each way a bit easier. I learned that Salton Sea Beach is indeed awash in drug use and dealing, and that I need to be very careful there. For the time being I’ve suspended photographing in the area at night unless I am with someone else.

Overall, the images are looking like they will be more photographing what is there and decaying versus a narrative story of people in the area. Its hard to find consistency with the people who live there due to the periods of time between when I am returning to the Salton Sea.

In other news, I broke down and spent $600 on a DJI Phantom Quad copter to use for drone footage at the Salton Sea. Unfortunately on its third test flight  in Newport Beach it crash landed into pool and is most likely destroyed. There’s a small chance I can get it fixed but the drone part is most certainly grounded now. I also have lost numerous field days because of the expense of the drone, that would have otherwise gone to the food and fuel budget. At least I tried. I simply don’t have the time now between working and photographing to work on the drone part. Id rather focus on core image making and the professional component than chasing around aerial footage. Perhaps in the future. 

(c) 2013 Stuart Palley