San Jose Day

For the Labor Day 3-day weekend, the dogs and I made getaway trip up to Northern California.  After whizzing through my San Jose stuff, I moved on to the stuff north of there on Saturday.  On Day 3, despite my self-imposed 2 pm cutoff to beat the holiday traffic, I got through about half of the San Francisco stuff.  Rather than blogging & Flickring at night, I made the decision (for now? forever?), to focus on night neon shooting.  I got to bed as late as ever — just a different form of homework!  But as I’m prepping this sampling of photos, I realize I’m really racked up a huge quantity of stuff (about 700 photos for the website).  And thanks to the weather gods (full sun every day), lots of nice shots.  I hope you enjoy this assortment.  I’ll get the Day 1 batch up tonight — and then get the other two batches up later this week.

Before we dive in — a little bit of news about my website.  Firstly, I’ve got nearly all the Utah photos from this summer inserted now.  The only section left is the signs section which is a mess right now.  But it should be all tidy by the end of the weekend.  Then, I’ll start working on the Idaho photos.  The other news is that my site has sort of changed its name.  It is still officially http://www.RoadsideArchitecture.com — but the url prefix for pages & photos has changed from agilitynut.com to roadarch.com.  It was something that I’ve wanted to take care of for years and finally had the smarts & technology to do it.  It should be easier for you to type — and really made sense since I haven’t competed in agility for many years now.  But if you have saved pages to your Faves — or have hyperlinks at your blog to certain pages or photos — not to worry.  All the old urls bounce right to the same place with the new prefix.  My email address has changed, too.  You can reach me at roadarch@outlook.com.  But you don’t need to panic and changed your Contacts unless you’re worried about your spam blockers.  My old agilitynut email account still works and shares the same Inbox as the new address.

On with the show — sit back and/or grab a beverage — lots to share.  You can assume all the photos taken today were from San Jose unless I specify otherwise.

There are five of these vintage 7-Eleven trapezoid-shaped signs in the San Jose area that I know of.  I don’t know of any others like these anywhere in the country:

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The Elite Cleaners sign has been patched a bit but that arrows is pretty glorious.  Those applied plastic letters really suck, don’t they?  I don’t know if there was another cleaners — or an entirely different business — here when this 1950s looking sign was built.

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A sweet, under-appreciated plastic sign.  Probably 1960s or 1970s.  Such a cute carriage — and fun shaped sign panel frames.  Today’s signs are all about rectangles and no details like this:

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I don’t know if this Wright Lighting building is vintage or retro (recent in a vintage style).  I think it is the real deal.  Maybe not always painted so drably monotone?

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Dick’s Center was built in the 1950s.  The main tenant was Dick’s supermarket which is gone now.  Probably explains the painted over middle panel:

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I don’t know if this was ever neon or always backlit plastic.  Still classy and quaint:

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Right next to the Towne Square sign.  Love the underlying pink flat shoe:

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Plants from Mars.  My friend tells me that these are Asparagus Ferns:

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This neon appendage is attached to the plastic box sign of J.J.’s Blues Club (probably not the original name):

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Batten’s Art Florist — an abstract bouquet of bulbs:

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I stumbled upon a Wienermobile at a supermarket.   The Oscar Mayer guy there said that there are six of these Wienermobiles and that this is the biggest one.  I was asking about the interior and he described each section.  But he didn’t let me inside — which is what I was hoping for.  I should have been pushier.

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Classy old signs:  That rooftop sign is most likely from the 1920s or 1930s:

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I’ve never seen a neon Peterbilt trucks sign before.  Poking around at Flickr, it looks like there’s another one in Madison, WI.  But that might be the only other one:

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Bizarre wooden panel lettering, no?  Most likely, another name — or at least just standard painted finish originally:

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This giant cowboy sign has always been a mystery to me.  It loomed over a used car lot for many years.  I don’t know if that was his original business affiliation.    Service Rent-a Car occupies the lot now:

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A simple handpainted plywood sign — apparently, for a tarot card & palm reader.  It looks bigger in this photo but it’s only a couple feet in diameter:

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A mid-century modern Mervyn’s sign repurposed by Home Depot:

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Super Market — not so super now.  Vacant and an impressively huge empty parking lot:

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The 4th Street Bowl has a boring sign now — but there are some nice details inside.  Here’s the coffee shop:

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And a swell room divider and zigzag roofline:

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More zigzag outside (folded plate or sawtooth, if you prefer):

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Here’s the much loved and missed Andy’s Pet Shop sign which I shot back in 2008.  It survived being hit by a truck a few times.  But it could not survive the store’s relocation.  The city wouldn’t let them hang it up.  Not in code.  No, no, no.  But I was still happy to see it again.  In the boarding room with the cats and ferrets.  I don’t know if they saved the neon.  I sure hope the neon fishies are somewhere safe:

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Such a shame that this City Cleaners sign needs the plastic suit of armor.  Fed up with vandals, I suppose.  The plastic on the other side is completely opaque.

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How about a few neon night shots to end this post?  The Capri Motel in Santa Clara:

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This one is also in Santa Clara.  It’s odd how the arrows point one way on the porcelain enamel and the opposite way in neon:

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And lastly, from Millbrae.  The Millbrae Theatre was demolished in 1995 but the community fought to save the sign.  It’s now attached to a drab boxy building.  I believe the City pays for the upkeep of the sign:

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That’s it for tonight.  If you’re still hungry for more, I put 48 different photos up at Flickr tonight from this same day:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/

And there will be more tomorrow.

dj

 

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14 thoughts on “San Jose Day

    • Not a short answer.

      Daytime: the most important thing is the sun. The most expensive camera and the best photo-editing software in the most skilled hands can’t match the warmth and shadows of sunshine. I always say #1: put the sun at your back, #2 get out of the frickin car, #3 walk up close to the subject and take the shot as close to end result (fully cropped) as you want. Since I have a huge list of things to shoot everyday, I don’t have time to fuss. I usually take one or two shots of a sign; two or three shots of a building or statue (unless it merits more) and I’m back at the gas pedal. I use auto-focus since the camera is far better at focusing than I am. Back at the computer, I do a little bit of tweaking. I’m not into filters and effects since I believe the subject is what is important and I don’t need to add “mood.” I’m documenting what is already perfect and I don’t need to add “spin”. However, if it’s crappy weather or the wrong time of day, I will brighten and add a little contrast. I might add a tiny bit of saturation and sharpen, too.

      Nighttime: ideally, the time of day is dusk so you can get the colors of the neon and the shape and background of the sign at the same time. But when you have dozens of signs to shoot at night, you only have that opportunity for a few subjects. You’ll have black sky for most of the shots — oh well, better than nothing. The most important thing at night is the speed setting. Play with it til you get the right amount of sharpness and still fuzzy warm glow. Too fast (bigger number), and you’ll get just neon lines. Too slow (small number) and you’ll get too much fuzziness. You can fix things a bit with Photoshop — a little sharpen, a little contrast or saturation. I will often take 5 or 6 photos of a sign at night with different speed settings and choose between them once I can see them full-sized on the computer.

      I hope that’s useful!

  1. I looked closely at your photo of the Elite Cleaners sign for clues to the original name. It looks like those letters under the plastic ones also said “Elite”, though in a fancier font. Only the E is capitalized; the others are lower case. So perhaps it has always had the same name.

    • Yes, I scrutinized it, too — and also looked for clues on-line. Best I could tell it was the same thing originally. Maybe a local will eventually chime in or a vintage photo will turn up on-line. There’s now a different business below the sign. So, I’m thinking eventually it might be repainted & repurposed which in this case might be an improvement!

    • The building that the Millbrae sign is attached to now is pretty lame. The exterior of the bowling alley is nothing special other than that canopy. But the coffee shop is pretty fun.

  2. You were right in my neighborhood this day, although I was out of town at the time!

    I don’t know the origins of the Wright Lighting building in this post. There is at least one more like it at 1357 Kooser Road San Jose CA (that address in Google will show you the street view). Both of these locations were formerly Wolf Camera stores. I don’t know if they had been something else prior to that.

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