Here are some pictures I took when I went to film at the Salton Sea last year. It’s a couple hours outside of Los Angeles and a decent detour if you’re in Palm Springs.
The Salton Sea is idyllic from afar. The water is still and seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. The mountains cradle the body of water. But as you get closer and turn all your senses on, you realize that something is off.
Even though the word “sea” is in the name, it’s actually more like a lake. Salton Sea is known for their yearly fish die offs in the summer. However, I were there in March and saw some dead fish near Salton Sea City. And yes, there are residential property along parts of the lake. I do wonder how they get used to the stench of the rotting fish.
When you walk along the shore of the lake, you think you’re walking on sand but when you crouch down and look more closely, it’s actually fish bits and bones that have collected over the years. Most of the fish that you see in these photos are Tilapia. You’re probably wondering why there are so many dead fish. This is a natural lake, actually the largest lake in California, but in 1902 man disrupted the path of the Colorado. The story goes that the Salton Sea used to be known as the “California Rivera” but now with the high salinity and farm run-offs and pollution, it’s far from the Rivera.
But not all of Salton Sea looks like this. When you drive to the other side, it’s a completely different look and feel.
When we drove to Bombay Beach, it’s how I imagined a post-Apocalyptic world. There were some residents living in mobile homes and small houses and lots of open lots but when you walk closer to the water, it’s desolate. Silent.
There were more people inhabiting this area but in the 70s there it was flooded twice. This is what’s left.
Photographers love the Salton Sea – at each turn there is something to capture. I also recommend the Salton Sea to sound designers because there are thousands of birds and the sounds they make during the golden hour is pretty amazing if you have some high frequency mics – the flapping of the weeks, the bird calls, the flitting in the water – it’s an audiophile and photographers oasis.