I planted the camera tripod legs in the red clay carefully to avoid disturbing the bones that littered the ground around me.
This portion of the Middle Portal features the ruin of a storage cellar surrounded by a jumble of bleached cattle bones. In the west, a lot of old settler’s cabins become sheltering places for cows as the land is fenced and cattle are confined to fields where people once lived.
It’s too bad really. The cows do tremendous damage to the old buildings. I’m sure the ranchers don’t feel particularly nostalgic about the old abandoned settlements but it seems a lack of respect to just let them fill up with cow manure and old bones. Old-time ranchers are usually more interested in scratching out what little money they can make from these arid ranges than they are in history.
I would like to explore the below-ground portion of the old cellar ruin. I wonder if antique sundries, old food tins and bottled preserves are still on shelves down there. I wouldn’t touch anything — that would be bad karma (take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints) — but it would be fascinating to see what might still be down there.
A quick examination of the entry way makes it seem impossible. The entry, at least, has collapsed. If I could get in there, it would be architecturally unstable. It would also likely be spider and snake infested which might be worse than worrying about the roof coming down.
Another time perhaps. Or not.
This photograph would look really cool hanging over your sofa. You can order it here if you like.
In “Exploring the Middle Portal Part 1” I described how the strange spiritualist “Home of Truth” cult settled this deserted part of Southern Utah from New Jersey early in the 1900s. That post talks about the Middle Portal and some of the strange goings-on of the cult. Check out that post below…
In any event, when we reached the Middle Portal late in the afternoon, a storm was moving in. Such storms are uncommon in Southern Utah at that time of the year (before the Southwest’s “Monsoon Season” sets in) so it was a suitably eerie atmosphere for a visit to a ghost town.
This building has tremendous character. It contains the remains of a large common room that would serve for meetings or communal meals, what appears to be a kitchen and several smaller rooms that were probably sleeping quarters. The Middle Portal, from what I have been able to learn, was where the bulk of the cultists lived and worked (as farmers) so I believe this was the main dormitory building.
You can see in the background the remains of an old windmill. According to what I read, the cult had great difficulty growing enough food for themselves at the settlement because of the lack of water.
At one point, they were able to drill a well and buy a windmill which they used to fill a cistern. You can see the remains of the windmill in the photo. I didn’t see any sign of a cistern, however. The purchase of the windmill and the building of the cistern were a major financial strain on the cult. In spite of having more water, the cult declined rapidly after this time.
Photographically, it was great that I had the storm moving in. I think the scene would have been much less interesting without the clouds in the sky. I used a tripod, a slow shutterspeed and ISO 100 shooting in manual mode. I also used a circular polarized filter.
That’s pretty much my standard setup for landscape images (in this case I used my 24-105 mm telephoto lens but I use the same setup with my wide angle lens and with my long telephoto).
To make sure I get the sharpest image possible for landscapes, I set my camera to use mirror lockup with the shutter release timer set (at 2 seconds). When you do this, pressing the shutter locks up the prism mirror used for the manual viewfinder. Then, after two seconds the shutter trips.
This gives time for any vibration caused by the pivoting of the mirror (which must happen for every photograph on a DSLR) to die away before the shutter trips. Thus, the camera is as still as possible. This is a big help in making landscape images sharp because I always shoot at the lowest possible ISO (to minimize noise) which implies long shutter times. Any movement–no matter how slight–would cause blurring.
There are abandoned towns, farms and mines all over the Southwest. They are fascinating to explore but I always think of the people that created them. They put so much work and effort into these places, only to have them be abandoned and slowly fade back into the desert. So many dreams that failed after so much effort.
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