Friday, September 30, 2011


Mantua, Ohio

Interstate 80 Rest Stop

Reynoldville, Pennsylvania

Last Thursday, partway through my drive home on the final day of the expedition, I pulled into a highway rest stop and made a plate of lunch from the cooler. Pre-washed salad greens from the  supermarket, pretty good pumpernickel bread, and and deli counter salads. Much easier to get vegetarian food from a good supermarket, if you can find one, than in a restaurant in an unknown town. If you're strictly vegan this won't work so well, but if you avoid eggs and dairy but don't throw a fit when they're present in the potato salad, you can get by.

So, chowing down,  I looked up and saw this almost enchanted scene of goldenrod encroaching on the well-tended lawn. Weeds!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some Stats

Emlenton, Pennsylvania

Well, I've finished developing my 8x10 film. Next comes the 7x17. Now for some statistics that I find kind of interesting in thinking about different ways of making photographs. On the eleven-day expedition, which covered about 3,400 miles, I shot 30 810 and 29 717 HP5-Plus negatives. Essentially all of them were on the drive-in theater project. I was "seeing" that in b&w, as I have for a dozen years now, while I was seeing the towns and buildings and farm fields that I traveled through entirely in color, and so making color digital captures. I also did a lot of captures at the theaters, sometimes because I really wanted to deal with a particular subject in color, other times simply to record things that I didn't see as finished pictures but wanted visual reminders about.

On the large format pictures the panoramic format ones were all done with a 305mm G-Claron. I had a 250mm and a 355mm available, but never used them. On the 810s, one was made with a 165mm Super Angulon, one with a 14-inch Commercial Ektar, and all the rest with a 240mm Apo Sironar S. On the free film front, I made 2,567 digital captures. Something unusual for me, it looks like I shot at least 2:1 with the 14mm, maybe even 3:1, when generally I use the 20mm more often. (I really want something in between, and will probably get the Oly 17mm at some point.) Using the wider lens might have been something about the DI subject matter, though I shot a lot of other subjects with digital capture, or maybe the expansiveness of the mid-western landscape compared to my usual local southern New England territory. Sometimes a little analysis like this gives me some ideas about why I might doing things a certain way at the moment.

Anyone Interested in This?

Emlenton, Pennsylvania

Quite a while ago, before digital capture and digital printing with inkjet equipment was capable of "serious" work, I began to use a little Fuji digicam as an accessory to my large format work. When you work with sheet film on location, tracking the pictures and subjects is a problem. Of course the negatives aren't time-stamped. In fact, unless you're absolutely compulsive about it, they aren't even kept in order, like exposures on a roll of film, with the film rolls numbered. Sheet film gets to be pretty much random access. So what I did with the digicam was step back after making a large format exposure and snap the scene, including a corner of the camera. That way I'd have a reference to the subject matter as well as which camera/format I shot it with, and that reference would have a time-stamp. That could then easily be related to my recorded notes as long as I began each notation with the time the shot was made. If there was a street sign, or historical marker nearby, I'd snap that as well. In the notes I'd leave reminders like, "the white screen and the gray sky are exactly the same tone, it will only be the texture of the screen material that differentiates it from the sky."

So, on my recent expedition, I updated this procedure. I used my Lumix G3 with 14mm and 20mm lenses for color digital capture work, along with the 8x10 Deardorff and 7x17 Korona for large format black & white. But the new twist was that I put the kit zoom that came with the G3 on my older Lumix GF1, and set it to shoot video. After each large format setup, instead of taking some digital snaps and recording some notes, I combined the two by "filming" the setup while dictating notes on what the exposure settings were, what my thinking was in making the shot that should be in my mind when scanning or printing the picture, and so forth.

I'm a complete neophyte at video. (I've never been interested in moving pictures, only stills: I don't watch television and only rarely watch movies.) But it looks as though I can easily use iMovie to touch up the sound and cut the extra "footage" from these video clips and upload them directly to YouTube. Would anyone be interested in viewing some of them that way?

Best Little Hair Hut in Mantua

Mantua, Ohio

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not So Fast, Buster!

Woodbury, Connecticut

My plan was to do another set of eight sheets of film, then mix a new batch of PMK pyro part A (film developer) and let it sit overnight before another developing session tomorrow morning. But when I poured 30 ml from nearly the last of my current bottle of PMK into a small graduate, it came out brown instead of amber. Oops! PMK has an extraordinary shelf life (because it's kept in two parts which are mixed just moments before use) but I sure wasn't going to trust brown solution. So the trays and stuff got put away and I mixed the new batch of PMK. Then weighed out half a dozen measures of 18 grams of sodium metaborate and sealed them in suspicious-looking little plastic bags. This (white powder) chemical is the second part of the PMK developer, and 18 grams of it is enough to make 3 liters of working solution, which is just right for handling a set of 8 8x10 sheets in an 11x14 tray.

The negative on the light table was made at the Elm Road DI theater, and is the same subject, but quite a different camera position, from the picture in this blog post ( made from the road during the trip. The very not-neutral-gray color of the negative is the pyro developer at work. The greenish-brown "stain" is proportional to the amount of reduced silver, and the stain is an excellent blocker of UV light. This makes a negative that has plenty of density range in the UV spectrum so that it will easily print in the very long scale Pt/Pd process. But it also can be printed successfully in silver-gelatin, and is scanner-friendly as well.

The two black things at the top of the frame are a Super-Takumar 105mm f/2.8 lens and its leather case, which I bought in 1966. The focus ring on this 45 year old lens turns smooth as silk, though it has never once been serviced. Now, I use the lens as a loupe to examine negatives. It has just the right amount of magnification and focuses from a comfortable distance several inches away from the neg. BTW, making this capture from a fairly oblique angle makes the light box look a lot worse than it really is. That severe falloff at the right would not be there if I'd pointed the camera down directly from above.

A last note. The lens used to make this negative is a 165mm Super Angulon, which I bought—used—back in the mid-80s. I actually did quite a lot of commercial work with it. It was perfect for a certain style of wide-angle studio still life work that quite a few clients came to me for back then. I recall the first assignment I shot with it—a centerfold of machine parts for a corporate capabilities brochure—covered the $1200 cost, so it's been a free ride since then. The wide field of view and superb coverage (the lens is huge) have made it a wonderful tool for landscape and my vernacular architecture subjects.

We Are That Church On Fire

Pymatuning, Ohio

Into the Darkroom At Last

Woodbury, Connecticut

I needed a couple days rest after the rather exhausting expedition. Then I lost a full two days to falling into connectivity hell with my WiFi network. Having gotten that back in order yesterday, today I could finally set up the darkroom for sheet film development, and did the first run of 8 sheets around noon. They'll be dry soon, probably around 3:00, and I'll do a second set.

Barn and Road, Early Morning

Eaton Estates, Ohio

Eaton Estates, Ohio

Monday, September 26, 2011


Emlenton, Pennsylvania

The faded sign reads,

And the stuffed doll monkeys? I have no idea.

Back Online

I got a Linksys E2500 router at Staples, supposed to have good speed and a strong signal, and fully compatible with Macs and with Charter cable. Partway through the installation it didn't see the internet and I had to disconnect the modem's power and signal cables, wait two minutes, reconnect, wait two minutes, and then try opening a browser window. Bingo, we were online. All three Macs were quickly set up to find the new network and give the right password in AirPort. It took a while get the HP wireless laser printer onto the network. You have to make a USB connection from a computer to the printer, run the setup software, and aim it at the network. The whole process was done in just a little over an hour.


North Ridgeville, OH

Did I mention I stay in cheap motels? Oh, yes, I did. There was no continental breakfast here, but there was free coffee from a pump thermos, and it was surprisingly good. Then off. Into the endless traffic jam that was Pennsylvania. And then the ethereal jams on the internet which are not yet solved.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Long Day

It got worse. Once the modem was replaced, we couldn't get the WiFi system (Apple Time Capsule) to connect to the internet. The network was fine between the computers, and I could print to the wireless laser printer, but no internet. Also couldn't even make an ethernet cable connection, although the tech could get in with his laptop to link right up. I decided to reset the router part of the Time Capsule, but the procedure failed because of an ID conflict. Over a two hour call with a very good Charter Cable customer support, we tried a bunch of things to connect the Time Capsule, but after the third or forth try it--the TC--appeared to fail outright. It simply wouldn't reboot completely. Toast.

So we tried direct cable again, and the phone tech found it's a known compatibility problem between Macs and Charter--they fail to pick up the modem's ID automatically. The solution is to disconnect everything, have the office send a new ID, then make connections in the right order, and turn on the computer. On the third try of this, a connection was established. So we're back online, after a fashion.

We hooked the TC directly to the upstairs Mac by ethernet cable. It appeared, but would not accept a password to connect to it to get at its data. So the Time Machine backup data is in there, but I don't yet know how to get at it, and it's been a long day. I'm having SuperDuper run a full bootable backup of my main imaging computer--what the Time Capsule is supposed to be protecting--which will likely take an hour or two. Tina's computer is the one physically close to the modem, so it's the one that can go online now.

I'll see if the Apple Store has a "no charge if we can't fix it" policy for the TC as they do for computers, and if they don't, or if they can't fix it, I'll get a stand-alone router, preferably as powerful a one as possible, and use a hard connection instead of WiFi to run Time Machine on the imaging computer. This has been as long a day as returning from Ohio on Thursday.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mossy Tree, and Blog Notes

Emlenton, Pennsylvania

It seems I got back from my expedition just in time for the cable modem to fail. It went out completely this morning and the cable company's first service appointment available is tomorrow morning. I'm posting from the Woodbury Library's WiFi setup, but Saturday hours are limited so I'll be offline until the cable company fixes/replaces the modem.

AUT-O-RAMA Drive-in, Thursday morning

North Ridgeville, Ohio

Screen Two just at dawn, with I-90 curving along to the side, the guardrail visible at the left of the picture.

Screen One and the concession/projection building in sunrise light.

Screen one a little later, with a westbound freight going by on the train tracks.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Medina, Ohio

A Very Long Day

I-80, South of Necopeck, Pennsylvania

After photographing at the AUT-O-RAMA first thing Thursday morning, it should have been a relatively easy ride home. About 540 miles, predicted to need about 9 hours drive time. I planned to break up the trip by doing a bit of walkabout shooting in a couple of towns along the way. But then time after time driving east on I-80 through Pennsylvania, everything slowed to a snail's pace as traffic was squeezed to a single lane to pass construction zones. Every time, the GPS unit would move my ETA up anywhere from a quarter to half an hour later. Then, it all shut down completely. Ten miles short of the I-84 exchange, a complete standstill.

Afternoon turned to evening as we moved about half a mile in an hour. After two and a half hours, and a total of two and a half miles, things began to speed up, and the scene of a tractor-trailer fire came into view. The trailer was completely burned and crews with front-loaders were scraping the materials away from the travel lanes.

Pittston, Pennsylvania

Once the road opened up, and I made the crossover from I-80 to I-84, by the time I pulled in for gas a few miles north, there was just an afterglow of sunset light in the sky. The GPS, which had begun by predicting an ETA in Woodbury of 5:18 PM, was now predicting 9:45, which turned out to be accurate.

Pink Alley

Nappanee, Indiana

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Landscape

Just off Route 6, Indiana

No drive-in theater. Just an agricultural landscape.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Plymouth, Indiana

Just eleven minutes after the oddly late 7:30 AM sunrise.

Waiting for the Sun

Plymouth, Indiana

The Tri-Way is a four-screen theater with lots of other amenities, including a very impressive miniature golf course. I hadn't known this, but some miniature golf places use pre-cast cookie-cutter materials. The Tri-Way's owner, who came out to meet me half an hour after the 7:30 sunrise (early Fall and Indiana time zones and DST issues make for some weird effects) told me he'd had the course at the drive-in all custom designed. As well as the marquee. More on that another time. There was heavy ground fog, and once I'd found the camera position I wanted for a 7x17 (quite similar to this digital shot) it was quite a wait for the fog to lift enough to see detail, and for the higher clouds the lifting fog was forming to clear away and allow some sunlight through. It got there eventually.

Norwalk, Ohio

I got to the Star View around three o'clock this afternoon, and swirling rainstorms were coming through. There isn't anything too unusual about the venue and I probably wouldn't have done any large format black and white even in normal conditions, but I loved what happened as the storm swept through and got some pretty nice digital capture material from it.

North Ridgeville, Ohio

I can't wait to see the 7x17 and 8x10 negatives of this. I've known about the AUT-O-RAMA drive-in for more than a decade. Before I began this project, having made one or two pictures of drive-in theaters that I thought were quite interesting, in 1999 I drove past, eastbound, on I-90, the Ohio Turnpike. I was astonished to see a huge movie screen with a brilliant picture projected on it, just off the roadway to the right. I learned a bit more about the theater by searching around on the internet. I think this was instrumental in my deciding that this was a Big Project I wanted to pursue, although it's taken me until now to get here.

The rain squalls were dying down when I got there and talked with the owner with whom I'd been in contact on internet and phone. We had a nice conversation about the place while I looked for possible camera positions. Then, just like last evening, the clouds began moving east and getting ready to clear sunlight to illuminate screen two, which is the one next to I-90, that I'd passed all those years ago. After I got the camera set up, we chatted for quite a while, looking to the western sky to see if the clouds would clear. When they did--partially, but enough--the next thing was to gamble how long to delay shooting (I wanted to have a bunch of large trucks coming along I-90 to show the road clearly) without losing the light. I went for a shot with three semi rigs in the field of view. I set up for another sheet and we waited and chatted again. The sun came out another time, and after a couple minutes, just as the light was starting to fade again, two triple-semis came down the pike heading east. My guess is they will streak through about half of their length in the picture during the 1/2 second at f/64 exposure.

A terrific close to the expedition. This was the last venue on my itinerary. There are cheap chain motels a quarter mile from the theater, other side of the highway, and that's where I'm camped now. The room at the 6 is tiny, but the place isn't ratty like others I've mentioned, and the WiFi works. I'll go back to the theater after sunrise to see what I can do with screen one, which will catch morning sunlight, then head back for Woodbury. I'll reload my 7x17 holders and hope for some landscape shots on the first part of my return, where I plan to continue on the old highway instead of the interstate, before hitting the superslab after I cross into PA and line out.

Early Morning

Jefferson, Wisconsin

Motels, Again

 Madison (vicinity), Wisconsin

Amazing, the variation in hotels of the same chain. Sunday night I stayed at a palatial  Motel 6 in Weston (Wausau vic.), MI. Monday, I wound up in a totally ratty Motel 6 near Madison, which cost me about eight dollars more than the palace had. In the morning I realized that not everyone there was a traveler. Actually I sort of got the idea the night before watching bunches of kids playing in the stairwell. In the morning as I was loading my equipment into the car, school buses began pulling into the drive and picking up kids. So I guess some of the place serves as a residency.

Madison (vicinity), Wisconsin

When I got in the car to leave, a curious cat was observing me from the window facing my parking space.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today, Three Set-Ups

Jefferson, Wisconsin

Didn't get a setup shot here, but the strange and wonderful marquee with the infinite farmlands landscape behind it made a solid 7x17. Then I met up with the CEO of TOP for a great pancake house breakfast. Then on to Kenosha.

 Kenosha, Wisconsin

Another 717. A nice theater with what I've come to understand as a midwestern feel, even though it's practically on the lake, not so far west as mid.

Knox (Bass Lake), Indiana

The Melody. A superb small two-screen DI, and I had the luck to get to talk to the owner (for only 42 years: that's when he bought it from his Dad) about the place. The setting sun dropped out of the clouds in a most cooperative way.

Also, for TOP readers. I'm not 6'6". That would be extreme. I'm merely a perfectly normal 6'4". I admit it took a while to find the perfect settings for the driver's seat in the HHR, but it now is amazingly close to as comfortable as my full size truck was.

Starlite 14

Richland Center, Wisconsin

You've been warned.


Reedsburg, Wisconsin

Monday, September 19, 2011

Big Sky Drive-in

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

I spent an hour and a half earlier today trying to deal with this venue in mid-morning sunlight and changing cloud cover, one 8x10 and three different 7x17 attempts. The first problem is that there are a whole bunch of different elements that make this theater a delight to encounter from the road, but they are spread all over the map. Pick out just some of the stuff, and it's only generic. All or nothing, to get the sense of this venue. Perhaps because the light got worse, not better, this very first "scouting shot" frame gets a lot of what I needed, though certainly without organizing it enough. What I'm afraid of is that the harsher light later on will have kept me from getting quite what I wanted. Very late day light would be better, but the way the theater sits on the points of the compass makes me think no light would ever be perfect. I made "an executive decision" not to spend the entire day waiting to see if the light would be better in the evening, and moved on to the next venue.


Stevens Point, Wisconsin


Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Another behind the scenes note. I'm doing my usual street shooting when the opportunity arises, but I have no time to edit this material. If something jumps out as fun, like this shot, I'll put it up right away, but I don't have time on the road trip to really look at this walkabout shooting and find what's good.


Fish Creek, Wisconsin

A sign, or if the back of the screen tower faces the main road, signage placed there, is important for a DI to get attention. Lots of neon was used at the heyday of the DI theater in the 1950s when there were 5000+ theaters. There are a bit fewer than 500 now, though with 1300 or so screens. This is a nice but quiet little sign in a resort community on the Door County Peninsula.

Oops, Wrong Sort of Drive-in

Rt. 2, Michigan Upper Peninsula

My usual practice of titling each picture with the city/state where it was made is on hold during the road trip. I'm keeping a log with a digital audio recorder. This has the great advantage over micro-cassette recorders I used in the past—instead of a unique and fragile tape, I've got a bunch of MP3s. Each evening after I download my digital capture files I also download the MP3s to the MacBook's hard drive, which is then all backed up to a small 500 gig pocket-size hard drive using Time Machine. Using a recorder lets me make much more detailed (and much more legible!) notes than I could possibly do by hand, but I certainly don't have the time to transcribe the notes while traveling. That's kind of the point, to be able to go over them later with no time pressure. So my IDs on many of the pictures will be sketchy. Some time down the road I'll probably add the right ID parenthetically to the posts.

City Trees

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Packing the Gear

Green Bay, Wisconsin

After fourteen years working from a full size pickup truck, hauling the equipment cases in the bed, protected by a high cap, working out of a small wagon now takes some getting used to. I keep refining the packing, but don't have it quite right yet. Decades ago, commercial work as a location specialist taught me to have absolutely rigid rules about packing—where everything goes in each case, where each case goes in a vehicle—in order to keep track of all the equipment. One real change is that with the pickup, I was isolated, up front in the cabin, from any minor noises, shakes and rattles, of the gear in back. Now that it's all in the small car with me, all those shakes and rattles are very annoying. I'm sensitive to noise. All day today I've been trying to chase down a persistent rattling, metal-on-metal noise that I just couldn't find. Then I noticed the weird hinges on the aluminum-clad box the 7x17 rides in. There's ancient, rotted-away, duct tape wrapping the hinge loops. I put it there, around 1988, to stop the rattling noise when the case was riding in my Isuzu Trooper II. With any luck, when I, right now, go replace that with some Gaffer Tape, I'll find the rattling noise gone tomorrow.

The Skyway Drive-in Theater (Fish Creek, WI)

Fish Creek, Wisconsin

My online research indicated there were two small, beautifully maintained drive-in theaters out on the Door County peninsula, which points up into the lake from Green Bay, WI. I couldn't find out much about them, but the location seemed exotic. On the other hand it's quite a distance out to where they were supposed to be. I decided to try for them, which is why I wound up at Green Bay last night. This morning I went out early, and was rewarded by finding the Skyway—a pristine, beautifully maintained little theater out on the narrow, resort-oriented slip of land near the top of the peninsula. The second theater, 12 miles further up, at Sister Bay, is gone. But this one was well worth the effort. I shot 8x10 and 7x17 negatives of the general view from the back of the field, and a lot of digital capture. Color is really prominent in the theater's presentation so paying attention to color capture seemed to be in order.

Sunrise at the Gas Station

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Luck is Holding

Weston, Michigan

Having gotten this nice room for an amazing price, next step was to drive to the adjacent shopping center to get provisions. Emerging from the rather good supermarket with my groceries, I found it was raining, and looking to rain harder. This is perfect. I actually like rain, and making pictures in the rain, except that it's the worst possible condition for DI theaters, since you can't separate the screen from the sky. So here I am with no theaters to shoot until I drive 2.5 hours south tomorrow, and it's raining. Perfect.


Moran, Michigan

Cape Cod? The Jersey Shore? No, it's the lower right edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with protected dunes just off Route 2, overlooking the lake to the south. Those are "lake effect" clouds: the weather and forecasts are for clear, but there are always clouds from the lakes.

I finally have a perfect WiFi connection and will try to catch the blog up with the trip this evening. Same Motel 6 chain, but a brand new hotel with the fanciest rooms I've ever seen in a budget place, but with a Sunday night single price of $36.95 with free WiFi that actually works. I'm out of subjects here. The two DIs between Green Bay and Wausau have both disappeared. I'll look around for general stuff tomorrow because I can't get to my next planned destination in time for morning light. I'll see what the morning light brings around Wausau, then head south.

Found It

Manistique, Michigan

I knew this DI had been operating as late as 2000, but didn't know if anything was still standing. Finding the well preserved, though currently unused, facilities, made my day. More later. I'm having internet connection problems.