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.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 14, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Ranch House Cafe, Tucumcari, NM. Photograph on Kodak BW400CN film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera, polarizer.
Tucumcari is a Route 66 explorer's delight. It is chock full of closed or venerable motels, stores, and other 1950s detritus. According to the Route 66 Adventure Handbook (by Drew Knowles), Tucumcari is known by people around the globe for its quintessential Route 66 cultural artifacts. As usual, I should have spent more time here with real film; the example above shows the potential.
Driving in from the west, one of the first places you encounter is the old Paradise Motel and Cafe. Well, it is not much of a paradise today. The main motel building looks like it is 1960s architecture; the Sinclair gas station possibly a bit older?
 You can stay at the Buckaroo Motel. The office looks relatively modern, but the Buckaroo sign has a 1960s or 1970s appearance.
This Esso station also has a 1960s vibe. According to Wikipedia, Esso (ˈɛsoʊ) was an acronym for Eastern States Standard Oil, one of the many companies spun off from Standard Oil in 1932. In 1972, most ESSO branded stations were replaced with the EXXON name.
Here is another abandoned filling station with not enough information to identify its original brand.
Here is the Magnolia - possibly another Esso once?
If you are hungry, the Ranch House Cafe (the black and white frame at the beginning of this article) or Rubee's Diner will not be of much culinary use.
But divert from Route 66 and go downtown, and the El Pueblito Cafe is open.
And the La Cita with its Mexican Hat will serve you Mexican meals. The menu looked good but it was the wrong time for lunch.
There is a scattering of Art Deco architecture downtown, although not nearly as spectacular as you see in Albuquerque. The theatre is still operating, according to the Route 66 Adventure Handbook. Good for it!
The Tucumcari Depot is another one of the handsome mission-style Santa Fe depots. It has been restored and contains a railroad museum.
Some of the commercial buildings downtown have decayed and collapsed. It is sad, another American small town that was once bustling and active.
Back to Route 66 at the east side of town, we have two more old-style motels, the Blue Swallow and the Tucumcari Inn. The Blue Swallow was built in the 1940s from surplus WWII cabins. I do not know if they are still present. Tucumcari Inn has seen better days - at $29.95, a long time ago (unless that was the hourly rate).
With a rather nondescript Polly Gas, we come to the end of Tucumcari. Tucumcari is a quintessential Route 66 town, and worth a return when I have more time and with black and white film.

The color photographs are from a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera with various lenses. The first photograph is from Kodak BW400CN film. This is a C-41 type of film, meaning it can be developed in the same chemicals as any color print film.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 13: Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Most of New Mexico is arid. But Santa Rosa is a surprising exception. Thanks to artesian springs, the city was known as the City of Natural Lakes. Route 66 passes through Santa Rosa, and even in the automobile era, the presence of lakes  must have been a welcome relief from the dry terrain of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. For early settlers and pioneers, the water would have been a life-saver.
I only spent a few hours in Santa Rosa. There are a number of old-time restaurants and closed businesses along Will Rogers Drive (the former Route 66).
Many of the old lounges, like the Sahara in the photograph above, were shuttered.
But the Sunset Motel was still active. Note the classic 1967 or 1968 Mercedes in the parking lot.
A swim in the Blue Hole is cold and refreshing. The hole is 80 ft deep, and we saw scuba divers below exploring. The Blue Hole is in a park with a modest parking fee. Well worthwhile, another one of the many Route 66 wonders.
Schematic of the blue Hole, from

Thursday, August 2, 2018

When Film goes Bad

Former Edwards High School gymnasium, Magnolia Street, Edwards, Mississippi
I finally used the last of my stock of long-frozen Kodak Ektar 25 color negative film. It was quirky and a bit hard to use, but had a unique color palette. As a test, I bought two rolls from a fellow on eBay who claimed they had been refrigerated. I tried one of the rolls and it was fine. Then I bought two more rolls from another seller who honestly said he did not know the storage conditions. Many of these expired films come from estate sales, where a buyer opens an old camera bag and finds film. This time the film was clearly ruined. Of a roll of 12 exposures from my Rolleiflex 3.5E, most were grossly underexposed, and I could only extract 5 frames. I used an exposure index (EI) of 12, but possibly if I tried EI 4 or 6, I might have saved a couple more frames. Regardless, I discarded the other roll. Really, it does not make sense to buy expired color film stock unless the seller can guarantee it has been frozen. Black and white is more forgiving because, of course, you do not have a color shift.
Crossroads store, Old Port Gibson Road, Reganton, Mississippi
The venerable Crossroads Store in Reganton, on Old Port Gibson Road, has been in business for a century. It is an example of the type of country store that once served farmers and workers who did not have access to a car in an era before strip malls and supermarkets. The day I took this picture, the store was hosting a crawfish boil, and everyone was having a good time.
Unoccupied house on Old Port Gibson Road, Reganton, Mississippi
Templeton Grocery, Jack Road, Hazelhurst, Mississippi
Templeton Grocery, Jack Road, Hazelhurst, Mississippi

The old Templeton Grocery at the intersection of Jack and Dentville Roads, northwest of Hazelhurst, is another example of an old neighborhood country store. This one was sheathed with asphalt shingles. These were similar to roof tiles and were equally durable, and were often made to resemble bricks or stone. Asphalt sheathing was popular mid-20th century but now is typically associated with low-income neighborhoods or old industrial or mill towns in the northeast.

Photographs taken with a medium format Rolleiflex 3.5E twin-lens reflex camera with a 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenotar lens. All frames tripod-mounted.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 12, Las Vegas, New Mexico

Santa Fe was very interesting. But it is time to continue our trip on Route 66. Press the clutch, put the gear in first, and head southeast.
Bridge Street, Las Vegas, New Mexico
Las Vegas (the town in New Mexico, not the gambling mecca of Nevada) is east of Santa Fe and was not directly on the 1920s version of Route 66. But a short side trip is rewarding because of its amazing western architecture. The town of Las Vegas was founded in 1835, but the area had been inhabited for four centuries by native Americans, Anglos, Spanish conquistadores, robber barons, and gangsters. The town is an architectural treasure, and boasts more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Prosperity came to Las Vegas in the late 1800s via the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, which built significant rail infrastructure in town. This included a handsome mission-style depot. This now serves as the Las Vegas-San Miguel Chamber of Commerce.
The now-closed La Castaneda is a former Harvey House (hotel). This is described as early mission revival style. The Harvey Houses were a well-respected institution along the rail lines in the US southwest. According to Wikipedia,

Before the inclusion of dining cars in passenger trains became common practice, a rail passenger's only option for meal service in transit was to patronize one of the roadhouses often located near the railroad's water stops. Fare typically consisted of nothing more than rancid meat, cold beans, and week-old coffee. Such poor conditions understandably discouraged many Americans from making the journey westward.
The subsequent growth and development of the Fred Harvey Company was closely related to that of AT&SF. Under the terms of an oral agreement, Harvey opened his first depot restaurant in Topeka, Kansas in January 1876. Railroad officials and passengers alike were impressed with Fred Harvey's strict standards for high quality food and first class service. As a result, AT&SF entered into subsequent contracts with Harvey wherein he was given unlimited funds to set up a series of what were dubbed "eating houses" along most of the route. At more prominent locations, these eating houses evolved into hotels, many of which survive today. By the late 1880s, there was a Fred Harvey dining facility located every 100 miles along the AT&SF.

Manu of the Harvey Houses featured spectacular architecture. The El Rancho in Gallup, where I stayed on my 2016 Route 66 trip, was not a Harvey House.
Many of the old stores on Bridge Street have been repainted, but I am not sure how many are occupied. 
In the southeast part of town, off US 85, also known as the CanAm Highway, I found an intact roundhouse. Many of these around the country have been town down, so it is rewarding to see an intact example. The turntable was gone. I think a trucking company used the roundhouse for truck storage.

Las Vegas was a decent overnight stop. From here, we proceeded south and then east on Route 66.

Photographs are from an Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera with various Fuji lenses.