DMU Visits Byron Hot Springs

Swinging From the Chandeliers

On Saturday night I joined six other photographers from the DeleteMe Uncensored Group on Flickr and spent the evening exploring the former Byron Hot Springs Resort in Byron, CA. This was our fifth recent DMU outing and one of the best yet. Plug1, Jeremy Brooks, Ivan Makarov, DLH65, Rumnose, funkandjazz, and myself all spent several hours shooting the abandoned and rumored haunted resort.

The Byron Hot Springs used to be a resort where movie stars and superstar athletes (including Fatty Arbuckle and Clark Gable) used to resort in the early 1900’s. The SF Seals held training camp at the location and SF socialites would frequent the resort in the early century for the hot springs and golf. Early versions of the resort were destroyed in fires, but the last resort built (in 1913) was built as a four story structure out of bricks and the structure is largely intact, albeit abandoned, still today.

Apparently the resort was abandoned shortly after the Great Depression due to financial difficulty. The resort was later leased to the United States government in 1941 where it was renamed Camp Tracy and used by the military as a POW camp to interrogate Japanese and German POWs, according to wikipedia.

Troy Paiva (aka Lost America) has a good write up and an early set of images on the Hot Springs and cites 1,500 POWs as having gone through the facility during WW2. Apparently the militiary didn’t like the smell of sulfur at the Hot Springs so at that time the Springs were sealed.

After WW2 the resort was sold to the Greek Orthodox Church who purchased it for $105,000 in 1947 and used it for several years as Monastery St. Paul. Bearings has an interesting write up on this era of the resort here.

More recently a developer has purchased the property with plans to restore and rebuild the resort. You can find the new page on the resort here, which also includes more history on the location.

DLH65 served as our guide out there having shot the resort several times in the past. DLH65’s got some great photos (including some amazing infrared photos) of the resort as well that you can check out here. There’s a short documentary on the site on YouTube focusing on it’s haunted status here . There is also a book out on the resort here.

Mostly we focused our outing on light painting while at the resort using colored gels and flashlights to paint long exposure photographs. The resort, which is covered in graffiti, has a beautiful master staircase and balconies in the main lobby, a ktichen, a crashed elevator shaft and a fair number of hotel rooms worth exploring. Cattle graze around the resort which features a fountain at the entrance to the hotel.

Night photography takes a lot of time. Most of the exposures I shot ranged from 20 seconds to 3 minutes in length. When you screw up on a shot it’s painful because you have to wait so long to try it again. I used three mag flashlights and colored gels that I got from a theatrical supply store. Rumnose brought some magnesium fire starters and did some experimenting with them that turned out great.

Final ScoreRoom ServiceNo BodyStacks

While we were shooting the site several teenagers showed up to explore the haunted resort. The place seems to be a popular place with the local kids who show up there to hang out and explore. The resort itself is about half a mile in off the main road.

I will say that Byron was one of the more interesting abandoned locations I’ve shot recently. I plan on heading back several times in the future and hope to shoot it both during the day and definitely at night many more times. I put together a small set of 11 of my images from Saturday night here. I’ll add more as I have time to process them.

It was really cool also to finally meet funkandjazz. I’ve admired his stuff online for a long time. He’s probably the most prolific graffiti photographer on the web today. There wasn’t much serious graffiti out at the Hot Springs. He told me that the sort of gang/youth/tag scrawl that was mostly out there was called pedestrian graffiti. I’ve wanted to meet funkandjazz for a while and it was great to finally do that.

Thanks to all who came out. We’ll do another DMU meet up in October. In addition to my own shots, check out the DMUmeetup092609 tag on flickr to see more great shots from our evening.

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  1. […] Thomas Hawk’s story and additional comments can be found here. […]

  2. Brian says:

    Hi Thomas,

    What sized maglite lights do you use for light painting? It’s something I want to get into. I haven’t found any good reviews on what to use. The flashlight that I have for camping seems way too bright. Any suggestions?

  3. fiddlergene says:

    I love shooting ruins like this. The textures are great, and the atmosphere is just waiting to be captured.
    I have an ongoing long term project to shoot stuff like this. Great minds think alike!

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Hey Brian, I just used regular sized mag flashlights. I bought them at Home Depot for $15 each. I use all the same flashlights so that I can insert the color gels that I have cut out to fit inside of the flashlight on top of the plastic above the bulb in order to light paint with them. The mag lights seem to work pretty well for me. I’ve used other flashlights that are too dim to work effectively. By using all the same kind of flashlights I also ensure that I can apply light uniformly when using different colors.

  5. Brian says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Thomas! I will check out the regular maglites.

    Keep crushing it, man.

  6. Bob Towery says:

    I really like the first image, wonderful lines and angles. This seems like so much fun. I’d like to shoot some abandoned buildings and such. A guy I know in PA gets into an abandoned mental facility and does some amazing imagery. Would love to join you guys if you find another “relic” to shoot!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I really have been enjoying your photography of this place! They are amazing! I actually would like to go see it for myself but not sure where it is. Would you know what the address is?