A single night of shooting along California Highway 58 in November 2010. Starting in Barstow and heading west into Hinkley, Harper Dry Lake and North Edwards, I was dodging storm clouds all night.
When I passed through Barstow in the early evening, I’d planned on grabbing a quick meal and getting to work, but the city’s water had been contaminated that afternoon by perchlorate from one of the nearby military installations. Perchlorates are used to make rocket fuel and explosives. Residents were told not to drink the water, from every media outlet, over and over again. Every restaurant was closed and stores were running out of bottled water as frantic citizens stocked up. It was a weird, edgy scene, so I skipped dinner and beelined it for the quiet part of town and started shooting. Almost every business on Old 58, along Barstow’s northwestern approach, is closed now, bypassed by a freeway for over 20 years. Once bustling, it’s now a dark and desolate stretch of road.
West of Barstow is Hinkley, which has its own long history of water contamination made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.” Shooting my way west through town, I slipped through the fence of a huge metal recycling facility. After getting a few shots off, the owner came home, so I slipped back out through the fence and hit the road again. The sky was getting too dense to work by moonlight anyway.
At Harper Dry Lake I wandered 10 miles off the highway and found a couple of abandoned homestead ranches and got shooting, but the sky was closing up on me fast. I was soon rolling west again, thinking the rest of the night would be scrubbed.
Surprisingly, the sky opened up thirty miles later. I had popped into a circular gap in the clouds–the eye of the storm. I knew I had to shoot something, and quickly. It was obvious I only had a short time before it closed in again from the west. Remembering the North Edwards exit had an abandoned gas station and a few other derelict buildings, I impulsively hopped off the freeway there, set up in the howling wind and got to work. Methodically, I pounded out a series of short exposures as the arms of the storm enfolded themselves around me. In less than 30 minutes the circle of clouds closed over me and the moon flickered out. The sky went dark, like flipping a light switch. It was time to jump in the car for the 6 hour cruise home, in a driving rainstorm. I pulled into the driveway at 5:30 AM and had a glass of cool, clean water before I fell asleep.