Faded Glory on the Edge of the Desert

This weekend Steve Burns and I went to Jacumba Hot Springs, on the edge of the Anza-Borrego desert to see some old train cars on a private siding of the old Corrizo Gorge Railroad line.  I wanted to know for sure where they were so I could then come back and do an intro video for my Spring online course (once I had it written…). 

I also had a couple of other goals:  test and play a little with some accessories for my bear of a digital cinema camera, the Black Magic ‘Ursa’, and start collecting images with my simple little point-and-shot Canon S120. for a workshop for next year’s Del Mar fair I’ve been asked to do (I’m working my way down to doing some shots with my cell phone but it is harder than I thought to force myself to do that.)

Jacumba Hot Springs was, at one time, a major tourist destination for the elite because of the hot springs there.  It still has the hot springs, and a resort, but it has lost some of its former luster from the days when ritzy folks boarded the train on the coast for a few days “taking the waters” and seeking to rid themselves of a long list of ailments as well as to hobnob with the proper people.

I thought an hour or so there would be more than enough so we left early afternoon for the 2-hour drive.  Admittedly the afternoon light is probably the best, but an hour or so is not anywhere near enough.  I’m most definitely going back.

Since we thought we had all sorts of time our first stop was to tour the current Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and Resort.  A group from the coast doing their annual trek to the hot springs was there and they were definitely a lively group.  We also ran into part of their group while shooting at the old original bathhouse that had burned down years ago.    The walls of the bathhouse were still there since it is fairly hard to burn adobe.  It has now become a tagger’s pallet.  Remember Minor White’s dictum: See things not for what they are, but for what ELSE they are…

The resort itself was basically an adobe motel built around a hot springs pool with attached restaurant and bar.  Not fancy but it might be fun to come out for an over-nighter there.

The old railroad cars (along with some other rolling stock) is clearly private property.  Somewhere along this line is a parked passenger TRAIN.  Now THAT I’d like to find.  But these old cars were interesting.  It has been a long time since the ritzy folks in velvets and lace road in them to come out here to the edge of the desert.  I wonder if at night, when it is still and all the photographers leave (there were a number of others while we were there) they tell each other tales of their time on the line?  When they see someone approach them do the straighten up a little hoping it is someone ready to climb on board and rife off into yesterday with them.  Though others have obviously done so, I did not violate the “No Trespassing” signs but I wanted to, to touch the walls and see if any of that old pride and energy remained.

Anyway, our time was somewhat short but productive.  Here is a short (about a minute) collection of clips and shots.

For the techies in the audience, here is the data:

  • Video at Bathhouse:  Camera:  Black Magic Ursa, V II, 4.6K.  Lenses used were Sigma Cine 35mm and Canon EF lenses: 17-40mm wide angle zoom and an 8-15mm “fisheye” zoom.  Capture settings were ISO 400, Resolution was set to FHD (1080p), Format was ProRes 422/10-bit,  Frame Rate: 30 fps, Shutter Angle: 180 degrees,  Editing and grading done in Premiere Pro
  • Stills at Railroad Cars:  Canon S120 P&S set to JPG and processed in Photoshop. NOTE: ALL of the shots of the old passenger cars were stills from the Canon S120.  Video movement on them was created in Premiere Pro
  • Music: “Abandoned” Licensed through FreePlay.com.

One thing I learned was that trying to hand-hold the 16 lb. Ursa without a shoulder mount is very difficult, at least for an ancient guy like me.  Those shots are much easier with my shoulder mount Sony MC2500.  However the ProRes 10-bit footage has much more dynamic range and color depth to color grade. 

We did have one major disappointment.  There is a great (so we hear) BBQ place in town called Jay’s.  When we got there after shooting Jay was closing up… early.  It seemed it had been a GREAT day for him and he had completely sold out of food.  Good news for him but lousy news for us. 

Well, one more reason to go back!

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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