Once upon a time, lurking just below the posh Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach, California, a long abandoned spiral staircase sat decaying alongside the beautiful Pacific coastal bluffs. This vintage steel sentinel once served to transport happy beachcombers safely down to the ocean from a nearby resort hotel. Over time it appeared to morph into the Central Coast version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The walkway that once connected this staircase to the bluffs had long since rotted away, but the leaning tower still beckoned, harkening back to a once golden era.
Sadly, this abandoned beach access staircase has now been demolished, most likely due to safety issues (it was leaning quite precariously). I confirmed reports of the staircases’s demise during a recent trip to Pismo Beach to photograph a nearby minus tide. To honor this vintage beauty, I have processed two more images of the staircase from my archives to give it a vintage, soft lomo effect. The lomo effect in photography springs from Lomography, which originated with the unusual look created by a cheap Russian plastic camera called a Lomo LC-A.
For you pixel perspective peepers, yes, this stairwell is leaning and rather precarious. The only true access to this spiral staircase was via ocean kayak, as there is no way to get to the beach from the adjacent cliffs. This image was taken with a Nikon D800 and a Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 ultra-wide angle lens, and is an HDR (high dynamic range) photograph comprised of bracketed RAW shots processed in Photomatix Pro, Lightroom, Photoshop and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects.
See my original (and updated) post on the staircase Pismo Beach Stairway to Nowhere. If you are interested in urban exploration (urbex) photography, I highly recommend a new book (2015) by well-known San Francisco Bay area photographer and UE Todd Sipes, Urban Exploration Photography: A Guide to Creating and Editing Images of Abandoned Places. This superb book not only offers great tips on how to photograph abandoned locations, but has excellent post-processing tutorials.
Otherworldly. Alien. Magical. Surreal. Mystical. Ghostly. Supernatural. Goblins. Hobgoblins. Extraterrestrials. Mysterious. Eerie. Sinister. Forgotten Planet. Mars. Beautiful. Vast. Stark. Out of This World. The Hills Have Eyes. Alluring. Captivating.
These are but some of the many adjectives that aptly describe the feeling one encounters upon visiting the spectacular Trona Pinnacles in the stunning California Mojave Desert. The otherworldly Trona Pinnacles – located about 20 miles east of Ridgecrest in the middle of absolutely nowhere – are truly one of those unique places that must be seen and experienced. Many travelers unknowingly pass by the Trona Pinnacles upon exiting Death Valley National Park, as they are situated off Highway 178 (Trona-Wildrose Road) on a dirt road, just past the town of Trona and the Searles Dry Lake bed.
A visit to the alien Trona Pinnacles is a profound journey into one of the most unusual geologic wonders of the California desert. This inspiring landscape consists of more than 500 tufa pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. These tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, were formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes, stretching from Mono Lake in the north to Death Valley in the south. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). Many take on the appearance of goblins, religious statues, people, animals, faces and ghostly formations. Truly the Rorschach Test of the desert.
These spires are porous rock formed as a deposit when springs interact with other bodies of water. They now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark rugged mountain ranges at either side. Truly a stunning landscape like no other. The Trona Pinnacles were designated by the Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark in 1968 to protect one of the nation’s best examples of tufa formation. The Trona Pinnacles are a designated California Desert Conservation Area.
The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen hit movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials, sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Disney’s Dinosaur, The Gate II, Lost in Space, and Planet of the Apes. These images were taken during my trip to Death Valley last year with a good photographer friend. I processed the images in a variety of ways to give them the look and feel of the ghostly, otherworldly landscape they rightly deserve. The photographs were taken with my Nikon D800 and processed in Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite and Nik Software’s (now Google) Silver Efex Pro.