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July 12, 2010 / Steve

Day 192 – Salton Sea

I finally made it out to Salton Sea today for a photo safari. This place is the strangest mix of desert, water habitat and urban decay.

This was of course my shot selection for the day, but you’ll want to check out the rest of the series that I posted to my smugmug account. Some pretty good, unusual stuff. As it is a series, I processed all the images (with a couple of exceptions) in a similar style.

A bit of Salton Sea history

There are many things that are strange about this place, right down to how it became to be in its current state. Back in 1905, a massive flood caused the Colorado River to swell and overrun canals and dikes, and nearly the entire flow of the river filled the Salton Basin for more than a year, inundating communities, farms and the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, creating the vast Salton Sea that we know of today. It was finally stopped in 1907, when a line of protective levees was built by boxcars dumping boulders into the breach from Southern Pacific tracks. By then, the lake was about 40 miles long and 13 miles wide, covering an area of about 400 square miles. At 226 ft. below sea level, it’s only 5 ft. higher than the lowest spot in Death Valley. So, yes that means it is freakin’ hot here; 106 degrees today.

By the 1920’s the Salton Sea had become a tourist attraction, because of its water recreation, and waterfowl attracted to the area. You can even still fish for Tilapia which live in the very salty waters after being introduced in the area during the 30’s through the 50’s. Over the years, the increasing salinity has killed off just about everything else but there is an estimate Tilapia population of about 10 million. How they can estimate the fish in a body of water is beyond me, but whatever….

Several resort towns were built around the lake, including the one I visited and spent some time photographing; Bombay Beach. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, this resort location on the lake’s edge catered to the privileged and LA’s elite, but it was short-lived. Rising salinity and floods eventually took their toll, turning it into a ghost town, more or less. There are still people who live here, but about half the structures have not been occupied for some time and are left to rot.  A sad ending to a place in a way. The interesting about my trip though, is that I’m now more interested in visiting other so called “ghost towns”. We’ll see what happens with that…



Leave a Comment
  1. lauracee / Jul 12 2010 10:17 PM

    Love this, the picture tells the story, no words needed. awesome!!

  2. lauracee / Jul 12 2010 10:20 PM

    Ok back for more…just checked out the rest of your shots on smugmug…How do you get your colors that way? Is your settings in your camera or are you processing this in editing?

    • Steve / Jul 12 2010 11:13 PM

      If you’re referring to the rest of the Salton Sea series, they’re all processed in Adobe Lightroom 3. It’s a look similar to what you get using HDR, but I’m just manipulating contrast, vibrance, black levels, fill light, exposure, and some other things to get this effect. They definitely didn’t come off the camera looking that way. They looked good but more like a “regular” picture. There’s a lot that’s been done to these to get them to look that way. It’s all pretty simple to do in Lightroom though.

      Thanks for inquiring!

  3. Natalie / Jul 13 2010 7:52 AM

    Wow! I was going to ask the same thing about the colors in the rest of the shots. Amazing photos, Steve, as usual! You really captured the place.

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