It’s a beautiful Saturday evening, and I’m parking my car at the Jericho Drive-In in Glemont.
There’s a double feature of Detective Pikachu and Shazam! on the big screen – I saw the latter (and wasn’t impressed), and I have no desire to see the former.
So why did I spend money for Saturday night at the drive-in?
Because I’m going to try to shoot the Jericho’s neon sign again.
The Jericho Drive-In’s sign is one of only a few remaining neon advertising signs in the Capital District. I’ve already shot the “Jesus Saves” sign at the Capital City Rescue Mission, the Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry sign is long gone, and maybe there’s the Brandywine Diner sign in Schenectady – but that’s about it in this area. All the other neon outdoor signage either says “OPEN” or “Budweiser” or “GIRLS” or something like that.
And at around 7:30 p.m., after parking my car in a good spot to see the movie itself (if I really wanted to see the movie), I took my AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera – which was pre-packed with a roll of Kodacolor II 616 film, a batch so old it was made during Ronald Reagan’s FIRST Presidential run – and set my tripod in front of the signage.
Now if you’re photographing a movie marquee like this, there’s a couple of things to note. And the big one is that it clearly says what movies are playing tonight. That automatically dates the picture. So for a few shots, I waited until a van or an SUV drove past me – the vehicle’s roof would be just tall enough to block out the movie titles – and took a picture.
I really only have 16 exposures available in this camera – using an AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 gives you 16 square shots on a roll of 616 film. After I shot a few exposures as the sun went down, I took some more pictures of long-time night exposures (one second, three seconds, five seconds) and a few long exposures as cars drove by (to get their red brake lights and headlights as colored streaks).
At around 8:30, a truck pulled up – right in front of the sign. His headlights were on and blazing.
Great. Now I gotta wait for him to move. Those high-beams of his will just blow out any picture I take.
The driver got out of the truck, and walked over to a van that was also parked along the side of the road. The driver opened up one of the van doors and pulled out a child safety seat. He then took the seat to his truck and installed it.
A few minutes later, the truck driver went back to the van and picked up a toddler. After much discussion with van’s driver, the truck driver went back to his truck. Then the van driver walked over to the truck – mind you, the truck still had his headlights blazing bright, so I couldn’t photograph the sign if I wanted to – and, after what seemed like ten minutes of excruciating agony, the truck driver peeled out and drove off. The van driver went back to her van, and smoked her tires as she drove in the opposite direction.
At that moment, I realized what had just happened. I watched a custody transfer – right in front of a drive-in movie that was, at that time, showing a family-friendly double feature. Are you serious? You couldn’t find some other place to transfer the kid – instead, you did it right in front of a drive-in with the big word POKEMON on the marquee? Couldn’t you make the transfer at something that might possibly be less traumatic to the child, like maybe a Chuck E. Cheese or Huck Finn’s Playland or some place else? Yeesh.
So … after I used up all my film, I snapped a few shots of the neon signage with my BlackBerry KEYone camera phone. Here’s one of the marquee itself, along with a careful crop to not show what was on the screen that night.
And since it had rained the night before, there was a puddle of water right in front of the neon signage. Of course I took a photo in the neon reflection, and flipped the image so we could all see the words “JERICHO” nice and clear.
Of course, now I have to wait for Detective Pikachu to end so that I can leave the drive-in. I tried to watch the film. Ugh. Couldn’t do it. I went to the snack bar and got some munchies. Those went quickly.
It got to the point where I sat in my car and listened to some podcasts on my cell phone. And I will say this – Detective Pikachu sounds much smarter when you replace it with the soundtrack to a recent episode of Wait … Wait … Don’t Tell Me!
Film ended. I was able to drive back on Route 9W and return home.
On Monday, I will drop the roll of film with my developer of choice, McGreevy Pro Lab. And since this film was almost 35 years old … and since I’m not expecting anything more than test shots … I will have the crew at McGreevy cross-process the C-41 film in E-6 chemicals.
Yeah, I haven’t done XPRO in a very long while.
Processing film in the wrong soup will provide, if I’m lucky, weird tints and colors that equate to “happy accidents” in the final image. That, and since I’m not sure how 35-year-old film will stand up to regular processing, let’s throw all caution to the wind and put this together as an experimental image.
Of course, I could get a completely blank roll of film back.
But this is why we experiment with film, right?