24 miles from Shakedown Street…

I have some detractors – well, I call them “family” – who will say that I would travel a thousand miles to get a photograph, but I wouldn’t travel across the street to visit them.

Well, yeah.  The photograph trip is more enjoyable than visiting my family.

Such is the case last Sunday.

I took a day trip to the Adirondack tourist town of Old Forge, New York.  And the goal there is to find a way to merge two of my previous photographic enterprises into one complete, cohesive winner.

Fagbug and Vaudeville. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens, six pictures combined in lenticular print. Photo by Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

A few years ago, I photographed the “Fagbug” – the rainbow-colored Volkswagen you see on the right – and turned it into a lenticular artwork.  Although I was able to show it at the Photo Center of Troy (who purchased the print), I couldn’t enter it in competition.  And believe me, I asked.  But the big problem was that there are people who still feel that the use of the word “fag” is a derogatory and offensive term when used to describe gays and lesbians.  And I must respect that.  Just because the owner of the Fagbug has no problem putting that on the side of her car, that doesn’t mean that everybody’s okay with it.  That … and some of the competitions I wanted to enter this image in were freaked that a kid might walk up to their parents and point at the picture and ask, “Mommy, Daddy, what’s a fagbug?”

Deadhead barn, Stonersville, Pa. Photo by Chuck Miller.

A few years ago, I photographed a Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face” logo that was hand-painted upon the side of a barn in Stonersville, Pennsylvania.  Yes, you heard me.  Stonersville.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  And remember, Stonersville is only the 10th most giggle-inducing location in Pennsylvania, behind such what-were-they-thinking names as Virginville, Blue Ball, Mount Joy, Climax, Paradise, Bird-in-Hand, Bala Cynwyd (or its sister city Ballah Kinwid, or its distant cousin Belly Cyan-wide) and (wait for it, you know it’s coming) Intercourse.  Jeez, it’s like recapping old Amish Mafia episodes.

So why am I driving to Old Forge?

Well …

According to this post on the social media site reddit, there’s a vintage Volkswagen Beetle that’s resting in rusted retirement under a pine tree.  The car is painted up with “Steal Your Face” and “Uncle Sam Skeleton” logos and other Grateful Dead typography and imagery.

Well … you know how in my blog I always mention that when it comes to the social media site reddit, I have a love-hate relationship with them?

This time … it’s not hate.

A little detective work and I found the location of the Volkswagen.  It was tucked in the shade behind a restored motion picture palace.  All I had to do was find the Strand Theater in Old Forge, and the Volkswagen would be behind the building.

Okay … road trip.  I packed my Nikon Df for digital shots, and the Rollefilex (with a roll of infrared Aerochrome slide film).  This should be fun.

Three hours later, I arrived at Old Forge.  A quick meal at a nearby diner, and I was on the lookout for the Strand Theater and the Volkswagen.

Oh look, there’s the Strand Theater – and there’s the Volkswagen.


Let’s get a photo of this bad boy.  First off, a shot with the BlackBerry KEYone camera phone – just so I have something to put on Instagram.

Grateful Dead VW Beetle. BlackBerry KEYone camera phone. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

I’m just going to say it – this is one serious American Beauty.

A young couple walked by.  I waved at them, asked if they would –

“You’d like your picture with the Dead car, right?” they said.

“How did you know?”

“Everybody wants a selfie with the Dead car.”

So I got a selfie with the Dead car.

No, I’m not trading in my Chevrolet. BlackBerry KEYone camera phone. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

“You should meet Bob and Helen,” they said to me.  “They own the car.”

“Where are they?”

“In the theater.  They own the Strand.”

Okay, I’ll definitely do that.

But not before I get a few more photos.  Let’s see what all these pine needles and crabgrass look like against the Volkswagen body in infrared.

Dead and Infrared. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Aerochrome color infrared film with yellow filter. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

And then, while the skies changed from partly sunny to partly cloudy and partly back again, I photographed the VW with my Nikon Df, first capturing the car as an HDR construct…

A Brokedown Palace. Nikon Df camera, five images combined in HDR construct. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Ooh, I’m liking that HDR construct.  Nice and punchy bright.

And then I captured the car with several different colored filters on my 55mm f/1.4 lens.

Grateful Dead 66. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.4 lens with several filters. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

I even took a few shots straight-on, and composed the picture by making the VW in color, and everything else in black and white.  Maybe not completely black and white … possibly a touch of grey.

The barnfind on Maggie’s Farm. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens, six shots with various filters, combined in Photoshop. Photo by Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Man, if I printed either of those pictures as lenticular “magic motion” images …

Okay, now it’s time to check out the Strand.

And inside the Strand, I met Bob Card and Helen Zyma, the Strand Theater owners who also are the proud owners of the VW.

“It’s a 1974 Super Beetle,” Bob told me.  “I bought it in 1980, and painted it up in 1983.  We went to a lot of Dead shows in that car.”

“We never had to pay for parking,” Helen added.  “They would just say to us, ‘We love your car, park it over here.'”

But the car’s long strange trip ended in 1990, when the engine died.  Bob parked it in front of his house, ostensibly to set up a time to repair the vehicle.  Unfortunately, before he could do so, some vandals defaced and damaged the car beyond repair.  So Bob moved the car to its final resting spot, underneath the shade of an old pine tree.

But over the years, the legend of the VW Beetle with the Grateful Dead livery gave the car a new life – as a place where Deadheads and Dead fans could stop, get a picture, and maybe visit the Strand and see a movie.  Oh yeah, and I should mention that Bob is a camera collector as well – the Strand has a room with hundreds of cameras displayed on the wall – Kodak Hawkeyes and Instamatics and Brownies, Polaroid Land cameras, AGFA Clippers and Ansco Cadets, all over the place.  Makes my collection of a dozen shooters seem tiny by comparison. 😀

I thanked Bob and Helen for their hospitality and for the opportunity to photograph the Beetle … and then it was time to go home.  Truckin’ … down Route 28 … gotta get home or else I’ll be late …

By the way … I think I have a possible entry for Competition Season 2020 … maybe, just maybe…