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 show these monochrome frames by themselves. Often, 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.
Checking out the scene. Moto G5 photograph.

Friday, August 10, 2018

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

Ranch House Cafe, Tucumcari, NM. Kodak BW400CN film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera, polarizer filter.
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 Texaco Teague Type C.
If you are hungry, the Ranch House Cafe (see 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 frames 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. Years ago, almost any drug store or film kiosk in a mall could develop C-41, but now you need to send the film to a professional laboratory.  I often use North Coast Photographic Services in California.