Aside from the highly unusual screen tower design, does something look a little unsettled here? Well, the good news is that things are unsettled because The Admiral Twin is undergoing a complete reconstruction.
Crews were leaving as I arrived yesterday to photograph the theater in afternoon light. They told me the work is nearly completed and the plan is to reopen June 15th. They also told me the structure had just withstood 60+ mph winds (must be the ones that continued north and bounced me around in Kansas last weekend). Built with 110 tons of steel, the double tower has been designed to cope with wind over 100 mph. Which might even be enough.
The charm of many drive-in theaters is that they may be the most
vernacular—freehand—of all architecture, but in this case the remodeling
was designed by an architect. I'm anticipating a fascinating phone interview with him to talk about the project.
There was much less wind yesterday than the couple of days before. I began to wonder if folks had been pulling my leg about the weekend's wind conditions being perfectly normal, but no, the grounds keeper at the Star Vu in El Dorado, Kansas, told me yesterday that it was abnormally calm and the winds would likely be back today. We'll see. Meanwhile, early yesterday morning in the relatively still air I managed to try some landscape work with the vast, expansive, flat agricultural land around Greensburg.
I've never encountered anything like the Kansas wind. I've been through a couple of hurricanes that made it up to the mid-Atlantic and New England states, and many years ago, southern India in Monsoon season, but those encounters were brief incidents. This wind is constant, but swirling and buffeting. Not a steady gale but a constant pounding from different directions, quartering from the south and west. It took me several hours to figure out how to keep the car on course without constant effort—you have to let it rock and roll with a light hold on the wheel allowing a little bit of course deflection. The alternative is continuous fighting to hold track. Gas mileage is down over 15% from the effort of fighting to move through.
Holding a camera steady is a problem. Even at high shutter speeds I'm cranking off multiple frames to be sure of some crisp ones. Working with a view camera is utterly out of the question. The only way would be to have a sturdy three-sided portable shelter to work from.
Last evening the wind seemed even worse than the past two days, but I wanted to try some work with the slightly rolling agricultural land here. I finally worked out a system, of sorts. I decided to use the car as a shelter, then dug out the Lumix 45-200 lens, which has the narrow angle of view needed to work from the confines of the car. It also has image stabilization. When I first tried it for a moment I thought something was wrong, the car was idling incredibly rough...oh, of course I'd shut the engine off. The jumping and bumping was just the wind jostling the car. Sitting in the hatch with the back up provides some shelter, and a good field of view. Sitting in the driver's seat and looking out the window provides more shelter, but limited framing options unless you want to park sideways in the road. Today I'll experiment with the big Gitzo tripod.
Yesterday, traveling from Kansas City to Kanopolis, I couldn’t resist a detour to check out Manhattan, Kansas. In fact I thought it would be fun to have a blog post titled “Manhattan Weeds.” Wandering around the amazingly neat and orderly historic city center, I found this unusual window display at a music shop. But weeds? Never heard of ‘em. We don’t have those here. I did see the desiccated remains of a few strands that had obviously been Round-up’ed to death before they were four inches high. Finally, on a side street bordering a parking lot, I found these two bold adventurers. I’m sure the spray bottle will visit before the day is out.
Just after nine last night. The Boulevard is one of the few drive-in theaters to have already made the transition to digital projection, and the first to have a 4K resolution projector. Thanks to Wes and Brian for the guided tour and the freedom to roam the lot with my cameras in the happy "block party" atmosphere throughout the theater lot before the show.
Posting has been scarce because I've been working almost non-stop on the drive-in theater pictures. The possible subjects are close enough together that I've had almost no time for other shooting, except for Monday morning traveling from Effingham to a theater in Gibson City. I ended the day at the home of one of the three professors from the traveling scholarship for my junior of college—we hadn't met in person since 1970.
Three more Illinois theaters today, and tomorrow I'm heading into Missouri where I'll probably spend two days at six or seven theaters still active in the southern half of the state. Maybe I'll get to spend some time doing photo walkabout in some of the small towns along the way. Or at least get a chance to take a close look at Monday's shooting—I think there's a lot of good stuff but I haven't had a chance to do more than skim through and pick a few interesting shots.
The Great American Drive-in Theater Road Trip set out at 4:37 Friday morning. As of this morning I've photographed at seven theaters and covered just under a thousand miles. The nature of the opening two days of the trip was so hectic I've gotten almost no side shooting, but yesterday I did get this on my way to an abandoned theater north of Muncie. Even though it's still May, the temperature yesterday got over a muggy 90° and the light on the great flat land out here already has the harsh-but-hazy high summer look.