The Alabama Hills are a photographer’s delight. When I visited, no matter what direction I looked in, I was surrounded by majestic and extremely photogenic beauty. All around me were rock formations that varied in shape and height, even within clusters. As morning turned into afternoon and the sun changed its angle in the sky, light slid across the landscape and highlighted formations in new ways. A formerly familiar spot could feel like a fresh discovery.
It’s no wonder filmmakers from the silent era to the present have been enchanted by the hills. They’re a gorgeous, natural backdrop that requires no painting or CGI. They are scene ready. Nearby spots can bear little resemblance to each other. What looks like a long journey onscreen might only have required careful editing after a cinematographer’s camera was moved mere yards and pointed in another direction.
Because the hills are a protected habitat, they remain unchanged, except by the light and the elements. That gives the place a feeling of timelessness. If you’ve ever seen a movie shot there, it’s very easy to recognize locations. You simply have to go in search of them. If you let your imagination run while you wander, you could expect to see cowboys on horseback or hear a gun battle or stumble upon a temple.