Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eagle in the Evening

New York, New York

I expected to do a lot of street shooting last weekend. The Introduction to Platinum workshop I was teaching at CAP ran from 10 AM to 6 PM Saturday and Sunday, but it was the summer solstice, the longest days of the year, so there were hours of daylight before and after the sessions. I got things I like, but not as many as I expected, because I simply didn't like the light, especially Friday and Saturday evenings. It was perfectly clear, "not a cloud in the sky," and even at the bottom of Manhattan's artificial canyons the light seemed pale and watery. I've never liked strong sunlight except for a few specific subjects (like the western drive-in theaters I mentioned here a while back) but even shade lighting has a different look to it under a cloudless sky. In this shot at nearly 8:30 in the evening I liked the warmth of the artificial light contrasting with the cold skylight illuminating the building's front facade.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


New York, New York

This is why so many fire hydrants, stand-pipes, and other vulnerable sidewalk items have protective barriers, like these.

Say Cheese

New York, New York

Friday, June 21, 2013


New York, New York

The Brazos Drive-in Theater

Granbury, Texas

A well-know theater in north central Texas.

I'm heading down to New York to teach a workshop over the weekend, so posting will be unpredictable.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mission Tiki Drive-in Theater

Montclair, California

Early morning last June, with thick greater Los Angeles haze and smog in the air.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Town and Country Drive-in Theater

Abilene, Texas

The owner told me that if he owned the mineral rights and oil wells, instead of just the theater and land, he wouldn't have any worries about converting to digital projection for his three screens.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Printing While It Rains

Woodbury, Connecticut

After all that scanning, assembling, cleaning up, and adjusting, today it's time to look at some prints. The image on screen is all well and good, but it takes a print to really see the picture.

Meanwhile, the temperature soared from barely fifty in the morning to near ninety this afternoon, with thunderstorms and monsoon rains rolling in.

Woodbury, Connecticut

The Ruskin Family Drive-in Theater

Ruskin, Florida

Because of my week-long artist-in-residence stay with the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin, I got to visit repeatedly at The Family drive-in. I also got to meet with the owners and had a long, highly informative interview with Ted, a vital, older gentleman who has been working in the movie theater business since childhood. I learned a lot I hadn't known about the underlying practice of running these businesses either as independents or as small chains. He's been involved both ways. I also got to spend time in the evening before showtime, where a relaxed, low-key sort of amusement park atmosphere prevails, which resulted in some nice pictures. On the main road trip I seldom was able to visit theaters in the evenings for logistical reasons. It was near the summer solstice, so the light was barely fading before eight and the show couldn't begin till trailers started to run around nine o'clock. Since I never miss an opportunity to photograph in early morning light, getting up at five just wasn't compatible with checking out evening activities on a regular basis. Anyway, if I dare say it, that's a whole different project to think about...

The Family's setting certainly says Florida to me. The light, the tropical trees, and—notice a meticulously kept grass field rather than the gravel favored in the mid-and-far West. Another point of interest is that The Family had already converted to digital projection last year, the result of a fund-raising drive initiated not by the theater owners themselves, but by local fans of the theater.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Port Townsend Wheel-In Motor Movie

Port Townsend, Washington

A very small theater way up the peninsula in Puget Sound. The combination of overcast, ready-to-rain weather and the dense forest makes another distinctly Pacific Northwest setting. One of the two smallest theaters I've been to, in terms of cars that can be accommodated (the other was Kanopolis, KS), the owner told me, just about this time last year, that he expected to manage the transition to digital projection for his one screen. The area looks sparsely populated, but it's also a tourist destination, which can be a lifesaver for a drive-in theater. The concession stand, which he told me is almost all originally as his father built it 60 years ago, is large and well-appointed for such a small venue. If those tourists patronize the concession, they'll get to see digital projection and the theater will survive beyond 2013: drive-ins make essentially all their profit from food and other items at the concession, not from ticket sales. Checking the web site just now, it looks as though they are still actively raising funds for the transition, so I hope they have a great summer season.

Forest Floor

Litchfield, Connecticut

Another recent 7x17" shot.

The Skyline Drive-in Theater

Shelton, Washington

Another angle at The Skyline (one of the most common drive-in theater names) that again shows off the distinctive landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Rodeo, and The Skyview, Drive-in Theaters

Bremerton, Washington

Belleville, Illinois

I keep mentioning that the idea of the drive-in theater project is not to catalog all the theaters, but to look at the way these iconic structures interact with the different regional landscapes. There are also distinct regional styles of drive-in theater design, even though every one ends up being unique. Grass parking fields are preferred in the East, gravel in the Mid-west. Where the land is hilly a slope is often used to improve the sightlines to the screen, while where the land is flat the ramping is built up high and light breaks surround the field. The Rodeo is in a rural area well outside the small city of Bremerton. The original screen is set at the bottom of a natural amphitheater cleared from the surrounding dense evergreen forest. This was my first time ever in the Pacific Northwest, but I'd been driving for almost two days through these amazing forests and was thrilled to find the Rodeo and its setting. As a bonus, I got a great interview with the owner.

The Skyview is an unusual theater because the narrow piece of land forced the second screen to be placed in line with, but offset from, the original screen. There are only three or four theaters set up this way. Otherwise it's a classic example of a mid-western drive-in, with a gently ramped gravel field meticulously cleared of weeds. The surroundings are dead flat and the lot is ringed with fencing and trees to avoid light pollution in this fairly built-up area. Another really good interview with the owner here—it turned out that he, I, and the theater all started out in 1949.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Barco Drive-in Theater

Lamar, Missouri

This is a well-known theater that kept coming up in my research over the past decade. The screen tower is really distinctive, while the plain centerhouse (projection and concession stand) and gravel field are typical for the midwest. It's still owned by the widow of the original owner, who lives in the adjacent house, at the right of this picture, but it and a classic old in-town theater are both now managed by a non-profit theater/historical organization. I had an informative interview with the man who manages day to day affairs at both venues.

Spent the morning scanning 7x17 negatives. At this point scanning the two halves, orienting and merging them, then cropping away the border area and doing a basic cleanup of dust and scratches is averaging about half an hour each—three and a half hours for seven large scans.

Clicking on any image will make Blogger display quite a bit larger version of the file, which is helpful with these narrow panoramas.

Skyline Drive-in Theater (the 7x17s)

 Barstow, California

I posted from the road about the Skyline at Barstow before on WP, almost exactly a year ago—how I'd seen snapshots of it on the web back around 2001. It was one of the things that gave me the idea of shooting theaters in all of the distinctive regional landscapes of the US. I would have been quite happy with this panoramic view from the parking field in afternoon light, except that I knew there was another very different angle that would only work in morning light.

 Barstow, California

I've been scanning the most interesting of the 7x17 pictures, acquiring the negatives at a resolution that will print at 36" wide. Scanning, especially panoramas that need to be scanned in two sections and then merged, is my least favorite aspect of photography. But the final results can be pretty rewarding.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Red's Crescent Drive-in Theater

Crescent City, California

On last year's trip there were half a dozen active theaters in Southern California, then very little through the central corridor. Several had closed recently, sad in itself, but also frustrating that I wasn't there in time to cover them. So this theater, just north of the big redwoods park area at the far northwest corner of the state, was a treat to find. It's very old, late 40s, and essentially original in structures. It didn't look exactly prosperous, but definitely up and running. It had been more than a day since I'd reached a theater to photograph, very unusual on the trip, so it was great to locate it and see how different the setting looked from the theaters in the south of the state.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Sky Hi Drive-in Theater

Muncie, Indiana

Been doing more large format scanning today. This is one of just a handful of abandoned or decommissioned theaters that I shot on last year's road trip. A nearly identical framing with a digital camera has some moiré problems so I'm doubly glad to have done this 8x10 as well.


Cape Cod National Seashore Park, Massachusetts

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Tru-Vu Drive-in Theater

Delta, Colorado

Another of the recently developed 8x10 negatives. The sunlight was incredibly brilliant and the temperature was way over 100° F by late morning. Clear, overhead, sunlight is generally my least favorite, but I kept finding that it was perfect for these Western desert theaters. Instead of sitting out the noontime light, waiting for it to improve, as I'm always doing back East, here I found myself wanting to finish and rush to the next theater while the sun was still high in the sky.

While spotting—cleaning up—the high resolution scan, when I dropped back from 50% view to 'fit on screen,' I noticed some subtle unevenness of tone in the clear sky. Uh-oh, something going wrong with my development of the negatives? Then I thought of something. I pulled up the similar digital capture RAW file from the "107 Drive-ins" collection and brought it into Photoshop. Sure enough, the same barely perceptible uneven look was there in the "clear" sky areas. It's super diffuse smoke and particulate from the wildfires burning only miles away in just about every direction.

Path to the North Beach

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Coast Guard Station Beach

Cape Cod National Seashore Park, Provincetown, Massachusetts

At the old Coast Guard station beach and parking area. Not actually abandoned, but vacant and falling into disrepair.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Foggy Evening at the Beach

Truro, Massachusetts


Waterbury, Connecticut

Another recent 8x10. Aside from finding these structures interesting, it's a way to shelter from the rain while still working with the rainy conditions.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Laurel Festival

Winsted, Connecticut

End of the parade.


Burrville, Connecticut

This subject has appeared on the blog, a couple years ago when I noticed it and shot it in color digital capture. Part of the strange weather we've been having is that early summer foliage is incredibly dense and lavish. Earlier in the week I nearly finished the large format film left from the Southern Loop of last year's road trip, but I had a few sheets left over in each size. For consistency I like to develop the same number of sheets in each batch—8 for 8x10, 6 for 7x17. So, the last two mornings I went out with the big cameras in my car and looked for a few interesting subjects to shoot and bring the film counts up to normal. I thought this was a good subject to try again.

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Comanche, from the Other Side

Buena Vista, Colorado

The Comanche Drive-in Theater was a highlight of last year's road trip. I posted a morning shot here "from the road," back on June 27, before leaving town. I had  arrived the afternoon before. I'd immediately "seen" the perfect camera position for a 7x17 from the side of the road, looking north, that would require morning light. But the view looking the other way, south-by-east, from near the theater entry, was pretty interesting in the evening so I made a couple 8x10 negatives.

The conditions were strange. Buena Vista sits at just under 8,000 feet, but last summer's fierce heat wave made for afternoon and evening temperatures above 100°F—not at all normal for that elevation. The classic "Western sky" here is highly diffused by vast amounts of smoke blowing in from the wildfires burning everywhere around. Shortly after I made this exposure, fire-spotter crews arrived. They used the large open space of the theater's parking field to set up binoculars and telescopes on tripods in the beds of pickup trucks to scan 360° of the Buena Vista basin, trying to find any fires crossing over the mountains.

One Sign Takes It Off, the Other Puts It On

Burrville, Connecticut

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Wellfleet, Massachusetts

This was at the Newcomb Hollow Beach parking lot, over two weeks ago. The pollen there was much milder than down here in Connecticut—the outer Cape is only a few miles wide so there just aren't as many plants. Still weeks later, down here the cars are covered with yellow powder every morning. The season simply isn't ending.


Winsted, Connecticut