Neon dancing in Colonie

I’m going stir crazy.  This broken foot of mine is really cramping my style.

I need to take more pictures.  Something stylish and inventive.  And I’m thinking about doing a “neon pirouette” photo, in which I rotate my camera on its tripod (while the shutter is open) and create a beautiful neon-colored bloom.  You say immobility, I say I’m mobility.

Okay.  Can’t do this without rolling some film in the dark room.  And by “dark room,” I mean my bathroom at 3:00 in the morning.  In the middle of the night, I wrapped a roll of 35mm Kodak Ektar color print film into a roll of 70mm GAF Aerial B&W film (freshness date 1974).  My plan – go over to Troy, where there’s a neon shoe repair sign.  It’s the same shoe that I photographed two years ago as part of the picture Shoe Repair.

What I’ll do is anchor my camera on the tripod, open the shutter, and then advance the film in the camera with the shutter open.  Just like I did with Shoe Repair.  But this time, in addition to advancing the film in the camera while the shutter’s open, I’ll move the camera on its axis – essentially forcing the neon shoe to walk.

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Saturday evening, 9:00 p.m.  I hobbled to my car, my 616 splitfilm roll packed into my AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 shooter.  A quick trip over to Troy, I’ll get the photo and be home in nothing flat –

Oh nertz.  The Troy neon shoe repair sign isn’t on.  Well, I can’t call the shoe repair shop owners and ask them to come down and turn the sign on for me, now can I?  Trust me, I thought about doing that.

Okay, I’ve got two hours before daylight hits, I need to find another decent neon sign.  And preferably not one that says “OPEN” or “ATM.”  I knew of a few locations in Albany, let’s burn rubber.

Rats.  There were some neon signs that were left on, but they didn’t have what I wanted – something unique and iconic and “spin-a-ble” in the camera.  And I checked lots of places – the South End, Clinton Avenue, Arbor Hill – and then I just started driving up Central Avenue towards Schenectady.

Just when I thought I would completely fail … at at the last moment … I found a spot.  Another shoe repair shop, this time in Colonie.  The sign was next to a pizza place, and after a slice of pizza and a diet cola (and confirmation from the pizza shop owner that I could park in his lot while I took the picture), I was ready to play.

Okay, Chuck.  Set up the gear.

Tripod.  Camera attached.

First a steady shot.  Then a pirouetted shot.  And finally … I tried my theory.  Leaving the shutter open, I spun the camera, then advanced the film (while the shutter was still open) and then re-spun the camera.  Then I closed the shutter.

I did this about three or four times, but at some point the camera jammed.  Great.  I’m awake and my camera wants to take a nap.  WAKE UP, AGFA, IT’S COLD OUT HERE!!

No matter.  I couldn’t get the camera to advance.  Only way to fix this – and to save the photos that were already taken – was to drive back home, go into the dark room (and by “dark room” I mean my bathroom at midnight), open the back of the camera, manually remove the film and transfer the exposed 35mm film to a black plastic light-tight container.  Done.

Monday morning.  I dropped the rolls off at McGreevy Pro Lab and crossed my fingers, hoping that I pulled something out of this experiment.

Tuesday night.  McGreevy let me know that the films were developed.  Note: McGreevy Pro Lab now only develops film on Tuesdays, so I have to plan my photographic experiments and developing time around that.

I drove home and checked out the film negatives.  Woah.  Maybe I have something here.  Maybe.  Maybe maybe maybe.

Only one way to find out.  Scan these into the computer and see if I can re-assemble the color film and the B&W film into one image.

Well, here’s one of the pirouette test shots…

Colonie Shoe 1. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 35mm film with GAF Aerial B&W film (expiry 1974). Photo by Chuck Miller.
Colonie Shoe 1. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 35mm film with GAF Aerial B&W film (expiry 1974). Photo by Chuck Miller.

Well hello there.  40-year-old GAF Aerial film ages nicely around the sprocket holes.  And although the 35mm film is a bit out of alignment, it still blends nicely with the image on the B&W film.  Good.  This works.

Let’s scan another image.  Here’s one where I started swirling the film.  Assemble… and …

Colonie Shoe 2. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film and GAF Aerial 70mm film (expiry 1974). Photo by Chuck Miller.
Colonie Shoe 2. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film and GAF Aerial 70mm film (expiry 1974). Photo by Chuck Miller.

Closer.  Yes.  It’s still a bit jumbled, but then again I can see where this will go.

Final scan.  I looked at the B&W film.  Oh crud.  There’s barely a touch of the neon on it.  Looks like it all ended up on the 35mm strip.

Crumbs.  Nertz.  Dang it.  The neon is only on the 35mm strip of …

Hang on a second.  Is it possible …

Can it be …

Quick, Miller.  Scan that 35mm strip of film.

And hokey smokes…

Look what came through.

Walking Neon. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Walking Neon. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Holy Thom McAn, Batman!  Put on your P.F. Flyers and go call Buster Brown!!

Success!!!

Even if I didn’t get the shot I wanted as a two-image splitfilm shot…

I got this extended, dancing, spinning footwear that would make even James Brown smile with glee.  Yow!

Without question – short pile 2017.  Oh man oh man this is great!

Sometimes the experiment works out better than one can expect.

And for a moment… the only foot I was thinking about was that one made of neon and glass tubing.

What did LL Cool J say?

Oh yeah. Don’t call it a comeback!

UPDATE: This morning, I re-scanned the final 35mm strip along with its 616 counterpart, just to see how it would look.

Dancing between the lines.  AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 35mm film AND GAF Aerial 70mm film (expiry 1974).  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Dancing between the lines. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 35mm film AND GAF Aerial 70mm film (expiry 1974). Photo by Chuck Miller.

Always nice to have options, isn’t it? 😀

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