The first and only rule in photographing ghost towns it to TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES! You never know when you might be back and if you do return, the town will probably not be the same as when you were last there. With that said, there are many mediums through which you can take pictures; a digital camera, film camera, video camera or artist canvas/sketchpad.

     Any of these photographic media are fine and will suit the purpose well, but one needs to consider the purposes of the photographs when choosing the media. For example, if you want to take pictures and put them on the internet for other people to see, the easiest way is to use a digital camera. With a digital camera, you can load the pictures right into your computer and view them or put them on the internet immediately. Another advantage of most digital cameras is that you can preview your image after you take the picture and make sure it is what you want. Most digital cameras today have an LCD screen on the back that will allow the user to look at the picture and make sure it turned out the way the user wanted. Phones, such as O2 Mobile Phones are quite useful too, because not only can you take the pictures and use all the other photographic functionality that cameras have, but you can also upload to the web. Many smart phones actually allow you to install apps that mean you can get your photos straight onto an image hosting site. This way you are sure to come back with the shots you want, rather than wondering whether your pictures are going to "turn out" when you get them back from the developer.

     The second media is a regular film camera. The main advantage to the ghost town hobbies of a film camera is they are inexpensive. Another advantage is that most film cameras can produce a higher quality output than digital cameras. This difference in quality, however, is usually only noticeable if the user wanted to have their pictures published or printed. A big disadvantage of regular film cameras is that the user doesn't know what the pictures will look like or even if they will turn out until the film comes back from the developer. At this time, it is too late to get additional pictures without returning to the ghost town. Also, getting a film picture onto a computer requires a scanner, which is an additional costly step, especially if the user has made use of slide film. Infrared film is a neat effect for photographing ghost towns because it gives a very "historic" look (see some of the towns in Oregon on this site where infrared film was used), however, photographing with infrared film is very costly and usually for the professional photographer only. Try to use a low asa rating film like ASA 100 for outdoor shots. This film is less light sensitive and will produce better results in the outdoors, whereas a high speed film, like ASA 400, is very light sensitive and good for low light situations, such as indoors. Slide film is good because the slide is your film, and there is no cropping of the picture as is possible when you take your regular print film to a developer. However, there is a big disadvantage to slide film. If you want to get your picture into a computer or on the internet, you will have to pay for a slide scanner($$$), or somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 per picture to have a slide scanned. For most people this is too costly.

     The third media is a video camera (camcorder). This media is great for capturing the whole essence of a site, but is rather difficult to show to other people unless you have them over to your house. I would recommend using the video camera only as an addition to one of the other three types of "still" media. If you plan to use a video camera extensively, a tripod is a must so you don't make your viewers seasick.

     The fourth media is and artist canvas or sketchpad. If you are an artist, one of the most rewarding things you can draw is a piece of our past, a ghost town. Many authors and artists have sketched towns as they were when the artists or authors visited them, the most notable being Muriel Wolle in here books. Ruby, Az is often the site of artists sketching or painting away, preserving the town on canvas. These forms of media need to be scanned to be put on a computer or the internet which as mentioned above can be costly.

Regardless of which media you choose to use, here are some guidelines of what to take pictures of:

1. Try to take a picture of the whole site to give an overview of the layout, how much remains, and how big the site was to begin with. An overview shot also gets the type of terrain the town is in and the scenery around.

2. Seek the buildings or remnants that look like they are the most weathered and the most likely to not be there the next time you come back.

3. Not all sites have complete buildings or mining remnants, so one might overlook some of the smaller things like an old hinge, a brick from a building, or glass from bottles. These items sometimes make the best picture.

4. Forget the typical photography first light/ last light rules as you are shooting pictures of the historical artifacts and not the scenery. One sometimes gets an eerie feeling at ghost towns realizing that many people once lived there and the site is now deserted. This feeling can sometimes be captured better on gloomy overcast days which goes against the typical photography rules.

5. Keep your subject, whether it is a building, mine or ghost from a ghost town as big as possible in your picture. Sometimes people will take pictures of ghost towns and you have to get a magnifying glass out to see the subject of the picture. Make sure the subject of the picture fills the picture.

6. When using the video camera, make sure to keep it still and stay on each subject for longer than you think you need to. There is nothing worse than a home video that jumps all around and shows subjects for a half a second before moving on making the audience seasick. Try to use a tripod and stay on a subject for at least 10-15 seconds.

Above all, have fun photographing and preserving America's ghost towns and be sure to send us you pictures so we can put them up on the site for all to see.