Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A walk back in time, when everyday life was a bit scarier.

2011 Truckee Haunted Historical Tour Photos
(and "how to" shoot a ghost photo)

"Ghost in Truckee 1" - Photograph of a ghost at the 
 2011 Truckee Historical Haunted Walking Tour.
BANG!!! Gunfire right from the start gets you in the mood. "Fussin', Fightin', and Fornicatin'" were normal everyday Truckee experiences in the late 1800s. During the Truckee Haunted Historical Tour, you get to experience that way of life up close and personal. Gunfights, yelling, drinking, town secrets, ghosts, music, and ladies of the night. 

The Truckee Haunted Historical Tour is an annual fundraiser for Tahoe Trails and Vistas and for the Truckee Historical Society. I shot some promotional photos for the event last year, but this year I was lucky to shoot the whole tour.

When the tour started, a local lawman dressed in old western clothing told my group that "there is a gang of criminals on the loose" and the lawman's partner showed us an old wanted poster.  Our guide then took us on a stroll through Downtown Truckee to the Art Obsessions gallery (a gallery where I sell my photos) where we heard stories,  drank libations, and were even offered a lady of the night. The old creepy building and basement downstairs that used to be a saloon were a perfect setting for a haunted feel. Next, a little further down the road, a pianist treated us to some jokes and played a drinking song on a very old beat up piano that has been around Truckee for ages. 

Visits at different sites throughout the town got us even more stories from historically dressed docents, gunfire, and even more offers from "working" ladies. Jiboom Street, hidden behind the more respectable businesses,  had quite the history of being a red light district.  Eventually we made our way to the old Truckee jail.  Truckee had a lot of people go through it's jail back in the day, even some famous outlaws like Baby-Face Nelson. We got to see one of them break out and escape! And then we saw a local lawman shoot and kill him... The performance was a lot of fun for the senses,  a bit of chaos, interesting old clothing, loud bangs from guns, and the smell of gun smoke.

No historic tour of Truckee would be complete without a visit to one of the many bars in town. We gathered at the Tourist Club for more ghostly stories and shots of booze. I don't usually drink on the job, but it was almost the end of the tour, so cheers! A little whisky helped me forget my fears of all the haunted tales. 

2011 Truckee Historical Haunted Walking Tour
One last stop at the Train Depot was unforgettable. A long time friend of mine gave a great performance about the sad tale of a tiny circus sideshow woman who died during a huge snowstorm while in a stuck train near Truckee. She also sang "Amazing Grace." I had no idea she could sing that good! It was the perfect ending for an educational and entertaining evening. 

More information about the Truckee Haunted Historical Tour can be found at www.TruckeeHistoryTour.com. Next Halloween season, you should treat yourself to a walk back in time, when everyday life was a bit scarier.

Please enjoy this slideshow of images from the 2011 Truckee Historic Haunted Tour. Prints are available, click on an image, then click "buy photo" for purchasing info.

How to create a ghost photograph:

There is more than one way to create a ghost image, but for a similar look to my Historical Haunted Tour ghost photos, I recommend doing the following.

  • You'll need low light for the photo shoot, either indoors or if you're outside, shoot it at dusk or night. 
  • Use a DSLR or a camera capable of shooting in manual mode.
  • Use a tripod. You're going to use a long exposure. A shutter release cable is preferable.
  • Use a flash, second-curtain synchronization is preferable but not necessary. You'll probably need to adjust the power a littler lower than a normal proper exposure calls for.
  • Set your ISO to 50 or the lowest setting that you can
  • Set your shutter speed to 2 seconds as a starting point.
  • Set your aperture to f9 as a starting point.
  • Have any "ghost" models walk during the exposure, the flash can help freeze the ghost but the movement will make it appear see-through. A little bit of light on the model during movement will be necessary for any ghostly streaks of color like in the image below.
  • Any non-ghost models need to remain perfectly still during the whole exposure. 
  • Adjust your shutter speed, aperture, and flash power level as needed.  It usually takes me at least a few photos to dial in the exposure perfectly. 
Any questions about this method? Please ask in the comments area below. Also, I'd love to see your ghost photos, please post a link. Happy ghost hunting!

-Scott Thompson

"Ghosts at the Richardson House" - Photos of ghosts at the Richardson house during the 2010 Annual Historical Haunted Walking Tour in Downtown Truckee, CA.