Karyn L. Barr
May 30, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

WHAT IS THAT? A shot of Widtsoe Junction, Utah, from photographer Berthold Steinhilber’s haunting new book, Ghost Towns of the American West (Abrams, $29.95). GHOST TOWNS? Yep. Once gold and silver mines dried up in the early 1900s, thousands of mining towns in California, Nevada, and Utah were abandoned — sometimes so hurriedly that personal effects and fully stocked stores eerily remain. WHAT’S HIS PHOTOGRAPHIC SECRET? ”Lichtmalerei,” says the 35-year-old German. HUH? Translation: light painting. Steinhilber combined one-hour exposure times, dusk skies, and multiple light sources to illuminate 19 deserted burgs. BUST ANY GHOSTS? ”No ghostly experiences,” he says. ”But my assistant had two really scary run-ins…with snakes.”

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