Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of our Past: Chapter 3
The Anna Plaza Motel sign in Anna, Illinois is very much a “blast from the past”. The actual age of the sign is unknown but based on the style and shape it is likely late 1940’s or early 1950’s.
Take note of the conveniences listed: Modern Electrically Heated (I assume that means the rooms) and TV. Then as the times changed a sign was added at the bottom to include Cable TV with remote, water beds, and direct dial phones.
Think about what we consider modern conveniences today. Free wifi probably tops the list for most people. I remember traveling with my parents, we looked for places that had a pool; a heated pool was a bonus. We stayed in Ithaca, New York one summer and it was unseasonably cold. The motel said they had a heated outdoor pool, but after an evening swim I was as blue from the cold water as the guy in Big Fat Liar after his swim in the blue dye!
Think about having “direct dial phones” when the majority of the nation has cell phones. How times change. I found an article written in 2005 by someone who also photographed this sign. They said in their article that this sign probably would be gone soon. Here it is 10 years later and it still stands.
As for staying at the Anna Plaza Motel; no thanks! I am sure in the early days it was a very fine establishment. The town of Anna has many old structures and other interesting signs. I look forward to sharing those with you in the future.
Fisheye Lens: Pros and Cons
The 8mm Rokinon fisheye lens is a great lens to capture landscapes and to create surreal images. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to using a fisheye lens. The photographer has to decide what adds to or takes away from the image.
Pros of using a fisheye:
Using the fisheye to creatively “bend” the subject is a pro of this fine lens. The clarity throughout remains intact. It creates a snow globe effect when used close-up.
When shooting with a fisheye lens it is possible to capture sweeping landscapes with a greater depth of field. The image quality and sharpness throughout the image is a definite pro. The photographer can also create surreal images with a fisheye lens.
Getting low to the ground will provide for interesting foreground in the image.
Cons of using a fisheye:
While the pros listed above are very positive uses, they can turn into cons if you do not want your subject to bend or curve. Even in the best case scenario you may end up with a slight curve on the edges. When looking through the viewfinder, move the camera up and down and watch for the bend. The image can be exaggerated or will look fairly normal as the camera is moved.
Photoshop and Lightroom have excellent lens correction features; with practice, lens distortion can be corrected or enhanced depending on the final vision of the photographer.
In the sunrise photos above you can see how the clouds curve, but the horizon is fairly level. It does make for a nice effect with the arching clouds. In the photograph of the boat, the horizon is curved and the foreground is bubbled toward the viewer. While this may not be a desirable outcome, the photographer has to decide if that is what the end result should be.
The fisheye lens definitely has its place in the photographer’s bag and there are many creative uses for it. Adding a slight curve to a photograph can enhance the image or provide an unwanted distraction to the viewer. It is up to the photographer to decide how to use the lens. If given the opportunity to try one; see what kind of images can be made!
Photography is a skill with infinite learning opportunities!
Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of Our Past: Chapter 2
Having grown up in a small rural community, I remember an old castle gas station in the center of town. It is long gone and I so wish I had taken a photograph of it to preserve its heritage. Vienna, Illinois has a beautiful gem that has fallen victim to vandals and decay.
The station was built in 1930 by the Standard Oil Company. It is one of several that was built across the country to fit the space available. Many of these old stations have been converted into private residences and other businesses. I spoke to a resident of Vienna and he said, “Many people have expressed interest in the building, but there it sits, decaying each day.”
My imagination wandered to the days of “full service” stations. I could visualize the service man rushing out to gas the car, clean the windscreen and “take a look under the hood!”
As you can see from the above photographs, the torch (in photographs of other stations, it was a beautiful gold and red torch) has been chiseled away. It also appears that someone has tried to removed the entire “service” emblem! The lettering on the crown has also been removed leaving behind a skeleton of the past.
Other views of the building show the decay that is occurring. It is just a matter of time this beautiful landmark will be a memory just as the castle in my hometown is a memory for me.
I could only see inside the bay area; there were broken panes of glass that I could aim my camera through. I read other articles lamenting the sadness people have for this wonderful icon on the corner of Routes 146 and 45. It is a shame that someone will not step up and take charge of the restoration. I’m sure the expense is a hinderance. The red tiled roof, the yellow brick; a wonderful contrast of color!
Take the time to notice the images around you; pause and reflect on the past.
Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of Our Past Chapter 1
When you take the roads less traveled there are gems to be found!
While driving through Carbondale, Illinois this sign caught my attention. I stopped and took as many photographs as I could.
The sign says closed for the season, but according to research this Dairy Queen on 508 South Illinois Avenue is a busy place! The building is the original structure that was built in 1951 by Jack Clover. According to a 2014 article in the Southern Illinoisan, the stand has been owned by Mark Waicukauski for over 25 years and was owned by his father before him. In the article, Waicukauski says, “That old sign’s been there since the beginning!”
While traveling across the country, take the time to look around you! The gems you uncover may be diamonds in the rough!