Saturday, September 15, 2018

Return to Learned, Mississippi

Gibbes&Sons is a venerable country store, still in business since 1899, in Learned, Mississippi. During the week, the store sells souvenirs and munchies. But on Friday and Saturday evening, it hosts steak dinners. And it is popular - what a great way to reinvent! The gent in the second photograph said I was welcome to take a picture - I wish I had written down his name.
It features country-style dining. Share a table and bring your own wine or beer. The proprietors will provide glasses. Wipe your fingers with paper towels. My friends and I ate on the back porch, which was reasonably comfortable despite the humidity.
The back yard has some interesting sheds and bits and pieces from the old days. I did not see these when I visited the shop mid-week in 2014, so it was well worthwhile to eat on the back porch. While my friends chatted, I walked around with the Hasselblad and tripod.
Back out on Main Street, there are a number of old buildings and one interesting Magnolia tree outlined by the fading light (I warned you readers that I would be taking more "pretty" pictures in the future).
This former country store sits at the corner of Main and Front Streets. I do not know if the building is used today or is just part of the ambience of Learned. It is a nice town and I recommend a visit. Go eat a steak.

The square photographs are from TMax 400 film, taken with a Hasselblad 501CM camera and the 50mm f/4.0 Distagon lens. I had not used 120-size TMax before and was testing a roll. I exposed it at EI=320. The frames from dark locations were underexposed, and I think this film displays reciprocity failure as low as 1/2 second. TMax is one of the new technology films introduced in the 1980s with so-called tabular silver grains (similar to Ilford's Delta films). The TMax is remarkably fine grain, but I think I prefer Tri-X 400's tonality. Tri-X is more grainy, but with a 54×54mm negative, grain really is not an issue. I scanned the negatives on a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner operated with Silverfast Ai software.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 18, Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo is the "big city" in west Texas. Heading west, it was the largest town that a Route 66 tourist drove through until he reached Albuquerque. Heading east, Oklahoma City was the next major metropolis. Today, Amarillo is a busy city with a lot of construction and renovation, thanks to oil money. It is a bit difficult to see much of the old Route 66 because it followed city streets, which have new or modified buildings over the decades.

Coming in from the west, I think Route 66 followed what is now W. Amarillo Blvd., which now is Business 40. Amarillo Blvd. is a bit seedy (all right, very seedy), and most Route 66 structures have been recycled or greatly modified.
The English Motel is one of the few Route 66 remnants. It is just north of Amarillo Lake, at the junction of NW 9th Ave and N. Lipscomb St. The place looked mostly abandoned, but I met this gent in the photograph above, who said he lived in one of the units. He was the caretaker and  made sure no one vandalized the site.
Downtown on Polk Avenue, I was pleased to see historic buildings being restored. For example, this Kress store, with its distinctive architecture, was in beautiful condition. S.H. Kress & Co. operated five and dime department stores throughout the United States from 1896 to 1981. The Kress chain was known for its architecture, which often included Art Deco motifs and the exuberant use of terra cotta tiles, curved glass, and stone floors - high end features intended to make the shopper comfortable and linger (for white shoppers, not African-Americans).
The former Woolworth store on Polk Avenue is also being restored. The F. W. Woolworth Company (also known as Woolworth's or Woolworth) was a one of America's most successful retail companies in the early 20th century, one of the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store. Woolworth's thrived until the 1970s, when it began a rapid decline. The rise and fall of these retailing empires is a fascinating social and economic history. None seem to last more than about a century or maybe 150 years (examples include Sears & Roebuck, S.H. Kress, S.S. Kresge Company, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, and Montgomery Ward). WalMart is about 50 years old; possibly it is already half way through its era of marketing dominance (WalMart certainly will not leave behind an architectural heritage of any value).
When you drive through Amarillo and are feeling carnivorous, the Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery is a mandatory stop. Big Texan served Route 66 travelers but in recent years relocated nearer I-40. Now it is at 7701 Interstate 40 Access Rd. Texan is famous for a 72-ounce steak which is free if you can devour it within an hour. The evening we were there, a video crew was filming a fellow on his gastronomic marathon with the steak (see the bright lights in the interior scene above). Oddly, when I mentioned this to a coworker, he told me that his brother took up the challenge and ate the steak in the obligatory hour. And my friend and his brother are not big people by any means. Amazing. My ribs were some of the best I have eaten in years.

After digesting our ribs, we will continue east on the Mother Road. To be continued....

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Historic farms and houses, Virginia's Northern Neck

Only a couple of hours south of the Washington, DC, urban sprawl (mess) is a gentle and historic land of farms, forests, and tidal rivers. The western shore of Chesapeake Bay is indented with rivers that separate three peninsulas, locally known as "necks." The Northern Neck is the northernmost of these three peninsulas, while the next two to the south are the Middle Peninsula and the Virginia Peninsula. Northern Neck is bounded by the Potomac River on the north and the Rappahannock River on the south.

The first European to see Northern Neck may have been Captain John Smith. In the winter of 1607–08, he traveled up the Rappahannock River while a prisoner of the Powhatan tribe. The neck was settled by English settlers in the early 1600s. The land was well-watered and the winters mild compared to New England, leading to prosperous tobacco farms. African slaves were imported to provide labor for the farms. In the 19th century, the land gradually shifted to mixed grain and vegetable farming as well as timber and seafood. Today, vineyards and wine-tasting are a big business.

Although farming persists, the coasts have been developed with vacation (or year-round) homes for wealthy urbanites. I saw clusters of pretentious McMansions on the bluffs overlooking the Rappahannock River. But inland, there is still a feeling of a land that time forgot. Hundred-year-old farm houses, country stores, and small towns look sleepy. It is surprising considering that Washington is only two hours north (or 3 or 4 hours when the traffic is backed up).
Northern Neck, Virginia. Generated from ESRI ArcGIS Online.
My wife and I drove to Farnham, near Warsaw, Virginia, to visit relatives in May of 2018. I explored a bit, and, of course, wish I had more time to check out-of-the way towns and farms. (Click any picture below or the map to enlarge it.)
Farmhouse, Farnham, Virginia
Farmhouse, History Land Highway, Emerton, Virginia
Cottage, History Land Highway, Emerton, Virginia
I was surprised to see a large number of traditional farmhouses abandoned, often being engulfed with vegetation. Where did the former residents go?
Store, Mary Ball Road, Lively, Virginia
Store or house, Mary Ball Road, Lively, Virginia
The little town of Lively looked reasonably prosperous but had a number of old stores and buildings in various stages of abandonment of neglect.
Barber shop, Mary Ball Road, Lancaster, Virginia
Donaldson's Garage, Lancaster, Virginia
The Farnham Garage; this was fun. The owner had a fantastic collection of older European cars and a few examples of Detroit iron. Some were in running condition, other were a bit "rough." He said he had driven all of them to the garage, but that may have been some years ago.
Abandoned silos, History Land Highway at Totuskey Creek, Warsaw, Virginia
Some abandoned silos and the remains of a loading dock are at Totuskey Creek, just east of Warsaw on History Land Highway. There likely is more examples of industrial infrastructure tucked away in the woods.

I previously wrote about the country store of Farnham in a 2011 post (please click the link).

These photographs were taken on Fuji Pro400H film, a 20-year-old roll that had been in my freezer. I exposed it in a Rolleiflex 3.5E with 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar lens, with a Leitz polarizer on many frames. I used a Sekonic 318B light meter set at EI=320.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 17, Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch is the odd work commissioned by Stanley Marsh 3, an Amarillo businessman who commissioned other odd things, like the Dynamite museum. In 1974, Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of an art group known as the Ant Farm, half-buried 10 ponderous post-war Cadillacs to show how the tail fins had evolved over time. The burial site was originally located in a wheat field south of Amarillo, but according to Wikipedia, in 1997, a local contractor moved the installation to a cow pasture off Interstate 40 about two miles west in order to place it farther from the development limits of the city. When the original Cadillac Ranch was built (planted?), it was too late to be coincident with the real Route 66, but many people still consider it to be a Route 66 attraction.
Well, today's Cadillac Ranch is overrun with tourists and is a cheesy remnant of what must have once been an impressive display. I do not know if all the cars were moved and reburied. But the site is certainly popular. Cars and motor homes were parked all along the I-40 frontage road, and we heard many languages spoken. Of course, tourists were taking selfies.
The thing to do (I suppose) is to buy some spray paint, make your mark on some of the cars, and then drop your spray can on the dirt. I guess the empty can is too heavy to take it back to the car. Hmmm. Anyway, if you are driving on I-40 and have never seen Cadillac Ranch, stop and take a look, but I recommend you not go out of your way just to see it.

The square photographs are from Kodak Tri-X 400 film exposed with a Hasselblad 501CM camera.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 16, Adrian, Texas

We have reached the mid-point of the Mother Road, the town of Adrian, Texas. It is supposed to be an equal distance to Chicago or to Los Angeles from here.
In the 1950s, Adrian was bustling with Route 66 tourists, but today, the town looks rather lonely.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many of these Route 66ers stopped at the famous Midpoint Cafe. Unfortunately it was closed as of August 2017.
There are still a number of old gas stations. I do not know enough about the architecture of American gas stations to identify their origins, but some readers can probably help.
The Sunflower was closed when we stopped by. But it was cheerful with flowers.
This is a historic Phillips 66 station. A reader told me it was brought in from Vega, Texas, with, I assume, the intent to be restored. I wrote about this station in a previous article.

Photographs taken with a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera. I opened the RAF files with Adobe Photoshop Elements and used the black and white emulation for Tri-X film from DxO Filmpack 5.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 15, Glenrio, Texas

After the pleasures of Route 66 memorabilia and architecture in Tucumcari, we continue our trip on the Mother Road. Much of Route 66 in eastern New Mexico has been subsumed by Interstate 40, so you are forced to take the high speed route. I did not check out the small towns of Endee or San Jon, so I cannot comment on what is left there. But once you enter Texas, the ghost town of Glenrio is worth the short diversion south of the interstate. In the 1940s, this was a thriving place, but now the old pavement is dusty, dogs bark, and all the shops are closed. The hot wind (it was about 100° F. that day) blows the sweat away.
Last Motel in Texas, Glenrio, TX
This was the last motel in Texas if you were heading west, but it was the first motel in Texas if you were heading east. The road to the west is sandy and subject to water, so the guidebook warns to not continue west in a 2 wheel drive car.
Glenrio was formed in 1903, when the railroad came through the area. Supposedly, a film crew spent a few weeks here in 1938 filming portions of The Grapes of Wrath. I can see some possibilities for a modern movie, maybe one where dinosaurs or giant spiders eat people.

The last three square photographs are from Tri-X film, exposed with a Hasselblad 501CM camera and a polarizer filter to darken the skies.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The River Arts District of Asheville - B&W Acros film test

Former electrical transformer or junction building, BNSF rail yard, Old Lyman Street, Asheville, NC.
On my recent trip to North Carolina, I tried a new (to me) film: Fujifilm's black and white Acros. I had read that Acros was a superb emulsion, but Fujifilm was about to discontinue it. I had never tried it before, so I bought 10 rolls from Freestyle in Los Angeles, and by the next day, they were sold out. The frames in this post are from the River Arts District of Asheville, the same area that I photographed with color film in my Rolleiflex (see the previous post). I want to display these monochrome frames by themselves. Usually, when color and black and white scenes are compared together, viewers are attracted to the color and consider it superior, regardless of the subject. Therefore, it is best to display each type of picture separately.
Abandoned or long-unused 18-wheeler trailers, Old Lyman Street, Asheville, NC.
Here, the monochrome image looks dramatic because of the looming clouds. But the color version shows the purple-gray of the clouds and the color graffiti on the trucks.
Former paper recycling operation, Old Lyman Street, Asheville, NC.
I think this old factory works both as a color frame and as monochrome. Monochrome is familiar because much of the documentary photography in the 20th century was black and white. But I cannot say one is superior to the other in this case. Readers, you can decide.

Photographs taken with Fujifilm Arcros film, exposed at EI=80. Camera: Pentax Spotmatic with 55mm and 35mm Super-Takumar lenses. Development: Xtol at Praus Productions, Rochester, NY. Scanning: Plustek 7600i film scanner operated with Silverfast Ai software. The Silverfast does not have an Acros profile, so I used the Kodax Tri-X 400 new profile.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The River Arts District of Asheville - expired Fuji film test

Foundy Street, River Arts District, Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville is an the largest city in western North Carolina. The site was first settled in 1784, and the town has a long pioneer and minor Civil War history. Being in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the beautiful setting attracted wealthy tourists during the Gilded Age of the 1880s. George Washington Vanderbilt II, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, fell in love with the mountains and began construction of his monumental mansion, the Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate, in 1889. Many visitors associate Asheville with the Biltmore, but the town also has an industrial past and some magnificent Art Deco architecture. Many of the warehouses and factories (including a tannery) were concentrated along the railroad line and the French Broad River.
Foundy Street, River Arts District, Asheville, North Carolina.
Today, the old warehouses have become the nexus of the River Arts District. From the official web page:
"The River Arts District consists of a vast array of artists and working studios in 22 former industrial and historical buildings spread out along a one mile stretch of the French Broad River. This eclectic area is an exciting exploration of arts, food and exercise.  Plan on spending a day or more visiting artists working in their studios, grabbing a bite of local cuisine or a brew and taking time to find art that's perfect for your world. "
I spent a few days in Asheville while attending The Vintage car rally and show. The weather had been variable, with some terrific downpours. One afternoon, a scavenger hunt was scheduled to start and end in the River Arts District, whose existence was totally new to me. I was too late to participate on the hunt, but the old warehouses and studios were too tempting to resist.
Normally, I prefer black and white when I am around old industrial infrastructure, but the brilliant paint work on the walls, the darkening skies, and pockets of sunlight spoke to me in color. I tested another roll of long-expired film that had been in my freezer, this time Fujicolor NPS160. It must have been in my film box 20 years but had been frozen all these years. I used my Rolleiflex 3.5E with 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar lens, tripod-mounted, and added a polarizer for many frames. I exposed at EI = 120 and scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner.
Electrical junction building, Old Lyman Street, Asheville. 
Norfolk Southern runs freight trains regularly along the tracks and shunts cars in the rail yard. The active lines are fenced off from the art district.
There was once a paper recycling operation on Old Lyman Street. All I saw was wet bales of paper and cardboard.
Numerous 18-wheeler trailers were parked at a warehouse near the paper bales. The artists had been at work, so it looks like there trailers had not moved in a long time. 
This old factory building was at one time used by the paper recycling operation, but I do not know its original industrial purpose.
Too late for the scavenger hunt. Photograph from a Moto G5 phone.