Scenic Arizona: Photography tips for historic Arizona towns

Arizona is one of the youngest states, but history runs deep for those willing to look. Bisbee and Jerome have much in common. Both were built on riches found below ground, the towns thriving in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as miners plumbed dangerous depths to extract precious ores. Each has evolved into a tourist destination with boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. Yet the two have distinct personalities. Bisbee is a picturesque town nestled within a canyon, sitting not far from the Lavender Pit, a vast gouge created with the most elementary mining techniques. Jerome perches precariously on the side of a mountain, sitting atop a maze of long-abandoned mine shafts. Looming over it all is the Grand Hotel, a former hospital that adds a gloomy yet irresistible look. There’s always something cool to photograph in a historic town. Sometimes it’s like a garage sale: You have to dig a bit to find a picture nobody else has taken. Here are photo tips from Arizona Republic photographer Michael Chow and travel tips from reporter Scott Craven.

MORE: 20 great places to take photos in the Phoenix area

Best time to shoot

Wait for the early morning or late evening light. Save the middle of the day for enjoying the restaurants, bars and shops.

Photo tips for the SLR expert

Try shooting at dusk, when the lights of the town balance with the ambient light.

Photographing buildings can be dull, so look for something to add to the scene such as flowers in the foreground or people walking by. It gives it life and creates depth.

Look off the beaten path and shoot a new picture. A town’s Main Street has been photographed many times. Just look at the postcards!

Tips for the point-and-shoot amateur 

Look for details such as an unusual sign or peeling paint. They help tell the community’s story.

Avoid shooting in a mix of sun and shadows, unless that’s specifically the effect you’re looking for.

Don’t forget about photographing local people. They can be just as interesting as the buildings.

Zoom with your feet. Move closer to your subject to fill your frame if possible.

Common mistakes to avoid

Whether you’re in a historic church or photographing people, remember to be respectful.

Visiting Bisbee

Bisbee is home to one of Arizona’s most eclectic hotels, the Shady Dell and its collection of vintage Airstream trailers. theshadydell.com

The Jerome Grand Hotel is often said to be the state’s most haunted hotel. Management certainly doesn’t shy away from the reputation. See for yourself inside the Asylum, its atmospheric eating and drinking establishment. jeromegrandhotel.net

Bisbee’s Copper Queen Mine looks much as it did when miners explored its dark passages. Now tourists are invited aboard the trains that take them deep into the mountain. queenminetour.com

The real draw of the Audrey Headframe Park in Jerome is not the wedge-shaped timber frame itself. It’s centered over a shaft that drops 1,700 feet. Visitors stand a transparent (and safe) platform to look straight down into the lighted shaft. Spooky.

Get a taste of Bisbee’s local flavor inside the historic St. Elmo Bar along Brewery Gulch. Opened in 1902, the bar has the comfortable whiff of a local dive. 

In the mood for burgers, brews and views? Hard to beat the Haunted Hamburger in Jerome. Sit on the patio for a memorable experience.

Details

Bisbee is 207 miles from central Phoenix. Expect to spend three hours driving. Jerome is 111 miles and about two hours. discoverbisbee.com, azjerome.com

 

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Douglas Harper