1 July, 2016
At 5:30 a.m. I was leaving the town of Wasilla in Alaska, sipping coffee and driving towards Independence Mine State Park at the top of Hatcher Pass. During my research the previous evening, I learned that this old gold mine is haunted. There have been several accounts of ghost sightings. They are classed as "friendly" spirits so that made me feel somewhat at ease.
With pinhole photography in mind, I decided it was a good opportunity not to actually chase ghosts, but to perhaps conjure them up in my own images.
Arriving at such an early hour afforded me uninterrupted time. There wasn't a soul around and that suited me perfectly well. I have to approach this style of photography differently from conventional shooting. It's not spontaneous in nature. There's a lot of running around, striking of odd poses and general experimentation to achieve the look I'm after.
To a passerby, it would look quite irregular. In fact, when other people are around at all, I don't bother setting up these kinds of shots. It's too distracting and I don't have the freedom needed to indulge a creative flow of ideas.
There was a sense of eeriness in the abandoned buildings and on the desolate streets. But for the occasional gust of wind, it was dead quiet. I was fascinated by the apparent state of suspended dilapidation. Some of the structures were at such an acute angle, I couldn't fathom how they were still standing.
I did encounter one oddity during my time there. While setting up a shot, I heard what sounded like someone pressing the shutter of a camera. It was kind of like a beep. None of my equipment makes that particular sound. I heard it distinctly and it was quite close but, when I turned around, nothing was there. Only me and the hundred-year-old structures towering overhead.
Maybe someone was spying on me or could it be I was in the presence of a real ghost? These questions remain unanswered.
When I had exhausted all of my creative ideas, I could see people arriving with dogs in tow for their morning stroll down by the distant parking lot. My timing had been perfect. I felt the friendly spirits slip away and return into hiding.
I've had to work a little harder to seek out venues for my pinhole photography. Alaska has proven to be a fertile bed of unique locations, particularly given its rich mining history.
I'm now exactly halfway through my epic adventure in this most northern of states. As the journey continues I'm sure I'll chance upon more places like this where time stands still and phantoms can run free.
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