Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Chris Langley, executive director of the Lone Pine Film History Museum and the Inyo County film commissioner, sits among the rocks in the Alabama Hills in the Eastern Sierra Nevada near Lone Pine. The Alabama Hills have been a favorite backdrop for hundreds of movies, television shows and commercials.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Kent Sperring has a moment of exhilaration when he matches a scene from a movie with a spot in the Alabama Hills. Armed with still photographs and frame grabs, Sperring is a part of a small group of men and women who roam the area looking for real-life screen locations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Movie Road leads visitors to the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine to an area where numerous movies, TV shows and commercials have been filmed over the last 70-plus years.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Kent Sperring matches a cannon emplacement and camera platform in a still photograph from the 1936 John Wayne movie "The Oregon Trail," shot in and around the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Lone Pine Peak and the Alabama Hills below are illuminated by the morning light. Film buffs hunting for shooting locations are sometimes frustrated by geographic features that look one way in the long shadows cast by the morning sun, and a different way altogether at noon.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Kent Sperring, left, and Jim Boyd are buffeted by a strong, cold wind as they search for film locations in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

One of the most famous rock formations in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine is the Mobius Arch, framing the peaks around Mt. Whitney.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Longtime Long Pine resident Kerry Powell recalls the early days of moviemaking in the Alabama Hills as she stands in the Beverly and Jim Rogers Lone Pine Film History Museum, which she helped establish.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Jim Boyd, from left, Kent Sperring and Carol and Dan Gillespie look for telltale geographic features while watching an episode of the TV western "Have Gun Will Travel," which ran from 1957 to 1963, in the theater at the the Beverly and Jim Rogers Lone Pine Film History Museum in Lone Pine.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

The Alabama Hills, known for unusual rock formations, is a favorite among directors looking for a badlands backdrop location in many westerns, TV shows, science-fiction movies and car commercials.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Kent Sperring, left, and Jim Boyd search for obscure film locations in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Kent Sperring and Jim Boyd drive down Movie Road to begin their search for film locations in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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Movie buffs scour Sierra for film locations recent and historic

By Louis Sahagun

LONE PINE, Calif. –As howling winds tore through the eastern Sierra, Dan Gillespie and his wife Carol trudged along a narrow gravel path, their eyes alternating between photos they carried and the contours of a cove guarded by granite walls.

At one point, Carol held up a photograph of a campfire scene in “Django Unchained,” which is set in the South just before the Civil War. She moved the photo to the left, then to the right. She squinted, then broke into a smile.

Pointing to a nearby rock, she said that actor Jamie Foxx “stood right there.”

The Gillespies and three other people on this outing were location scouts of sorts — and they had just found their prize.

Like thousands of other film buffs and historians who flock here every year, they found the location of a movie scene shot in the Alabama Hills, a high-desert badlands of gullies, canyons and outcroppings at the foot of Mt. Whitney that has appeared in more than 700 movie and television productions.

At times the search on this early spring day resembled a Hollywood producer’s idea of a spoof. Icy gusts stirred up sandstorms and blew fistfuls of photographs out of benumbed fingers. Heaps of boulders appeared one way in the long shadows cast by the morning sun, and a different way altogether at noon.

“We’re doing the Lone Pine shuffle — looking down at a photograph, then looking up at the landscape, then looking down on the picture again without tripping,” said Kent Sperring, visiting from Duluth, Ga. “We’ve all taken a tumble or two during these investigations.”

The searchers were engaging in an activity started in the 1980s by film buff Dave Holland, whose efforts to find the exact spots of movie scenes helped popularize the Lone Pine Film Festival.

Read Story: In California’s backcountry, seeking movie backdrops

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