May 27, 2009
Last Friday morning I accompanied PBS producer Rob Rapley and cameraman Michael Chin on a visual shooting tour of Cochise County. Through email we had narrowed down the route predicated on how much we could see in one day. That eliminated Animas and Sulpher Srings Valley (John Ringo's grave, etc.), and most points east of Tombstone.
However, on Friday morning we woke up record rain in the Tucson area and it looked doubtful whether we would get anything to shoot. We took off from the Radisson Resort at seven anyway, and waded across Kolb Road to the I-10.
Here is the route we took:
View PBS Tour in a larger map
When we took the Vail exit and headed south towards Sonoita, the sky looked like this:
But as we topped out on the ridgeline we saw the clouds breaking over the Whetstone Mountains and we stopped for our first shots:
Michael Chin, the cinematographer from San Francisco, was using a 16mm high def film camera (his own, by the way) to get a richer look for the American Experience
show on Wyatt Earp:
Meanwhile, producer Rob Rapley set up a still camera hooked directly into his Mac laptop hard drive that would process three frames a second to capture the dramatic cloud movements:
The sun started to break through the clouds and we got some very dramatic stuff:
From the divide we drove into Sonoita and got snacks, then headed towards Cottonwood Springs. Much to my surprise, they didn't like the lighting at the entrance to the Earp-Curly Bill fight location (photographers hate the middle of the day for shooting. Most of the shadows are gone, blown out, too harsh. They prefer early morning and late afternoon.), so we moved on to Sierra Vista, took the bypass, north of town and headed down the road towards Bisbee. About half way out, I told them we were looking towards Lewis Springs on the San Pedro, which is where the Clanton Ranch was. The clouds were breaking nicely, so we turned around and went a short ways down a power road to take images of the Tombstone Hills, Charleston and Lewis Springs:
We got rained on here:
We're looking across the San Pedro towards Tombstone. the Tombstone Hills are in shadow. From here we drove to Bisbee and tried to find a good A-frame mining hoist. There were several in Warren, south of Bisbee, but they were modern, metal ones. The best one was behind the cemetery and we couldn't figure out how to get around the graveyard (it is huge!), so we ended up going to the north end of the "resting place" and shooting over the fence:
After we got this shot, we had a great lunch in the Breakfast Club. Place was slammed with locals, so the economy can't be doing that bad down there.
We got to Tombstone about 2:30 and decided not to shoot anything there. Rob wanted a clear shot of the Dragoons, but it soon became evident there were too many new homes dotting the landscape to the north of town. I remembered Middlemarch Road which you access west of town and so we drove out there and went quite a ways on the dirt road until we cleared most of the houses. This is the view south, back towards Tombstone, with all of the damn new houses in the way (sorry Sherry).
And this is the view shooting north:
It's still not a clean shot. There are still houses out there, but Michael and Rob gerrymandered creosote bushes and gullys between them to try and get rid of them.
A spectacular sunset over the Whetstones.