Looking for an unknown 50's Drive-In Photo

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captainwookie

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A while ago, while I was eating at a Fridays on the road, I became fascinated with a particular Black and White photo that was hanging on the wall. However, I did not see the photographers name listed nor have I ever seen it listed in any reprint gallery. However, the photograph is so remarkable it is hard not to believe that it would be well known.

The photo was a black and white shot at what appeared to be a 1950’s drive-in movie theater. In the left foreground was a teenage couple in an old style convertible watching the movie, and there are a few other cars and couples in the shot which capture the feel of the scene. On the movie screen was a image of a rocket or plane, and in the distant right, upon a railroad line that bordered the theater was a steam locomotive. (If I remember right it was the articulated type). One amazing thing about the photo was trying to figure out how it was shot. It looks to be a night scene, but the shutter was fast enough to freeze a moving locomotive.

Anyway, I’ve been looking for this photo for a long time, and just wondered if anyone knew anything about it.
 

garryl

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lee said:
I believe Michael nailed that one down

lee\c

Shouldn't that have been "railroad spiked it" :D
 
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captainwookie

captainwookie

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That’s the one. Can’t believe I waited this long to post the question. Maybe if I had asked sooner I could have gotten a print for Christmas. :sad:

Anyway, Thanks alot Michae!!!
 

glbeas

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captainwookie said:
One amazing thing about the photo was trying to figure out how it was shot. It looks to be a night scene, but the shutter was fast enough to freeze a moving locomotive.
From the looks of it it was a time exposure with a powerful flashgun illuminating the locomotive. No telling how much burning and dodging that took unless he had a graduated ND on the lens.
 

donbga

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glbeas said:
From the looks of it it was a time exposure with a powerful flashgun illuminating the locomotive. No telling how much burning and dodging that took unless he had a graduated ND on the lens.

Gary,

This could hardly be further from the truth. Winston O' Link used dozens if not hundreds of magnesium flash bulbs in huge reflectors for each of his night shots of trains. He was a master of noir lighting. Usually there wasn't much dodging or burning to do. The tricky thing about the this particular shot, the one with the jets shown on screen at the drive in, is that they were added later by literally cutting and pasting the image on to the screen. The print was then rephotographed to produced the final negative. I was quite surprised to see the cut and paste job on the original master print.

Don Bryant
 

Alex Hawley

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donbga said:
Gary,

This could hardly be further from the truth. Winston O' Link used dozens if not hundreds of magnesium flash bulbs in huge reflectors for each of his night shots of trains.
Sometimes one or two thousand flash bulbs were used. I don't know how he coordinated it all. Like the Drive-In shot, often the train would be a good distance away from the camera and that was where the flash bulbs were set up. Maybe he opened the lens then his assistant touched off the bulbs at the right instant.
 

glbeas

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:smile: I think it would be fun to try some of his lighting techniques just to see the results. This guy had to be thinking way ahead of the game to come up with this. Do you know off hand how many takes he had to do on this style of shot on the average? I get the feeling it was done in a minimal number of tries.
Kinda reminds me of what we have to do to light large rooms and pits in caverns.
 

Alex Hawley

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glbeas said:
:smile: I think it would be fun to try some of his lighting techniques just to see the results. This guy had to be thinking way ahead of the game to come up with this. Do you know off hand how many takes he had to do on this style of shot on the average? I get the feeling it was done in a minimal number of tries.
Kinda reminds me of what we have to do to light large rooms and pits in caverns.

Don't know how many times he had to stage a particular shot Gary. I have heard one story where the lady that owned the Hotel where he was staying tried to get him run out of town after the two thousand flashbulbs went off shorly after midnight, and that was the first test of the setup. She was convinced that Link was some kind of Devil Worshipper. I heard Link always stopped by and got aquainted with the local Law officers before he started work. That and the commission from the railroad kept him out of trouble.

Gawd, where would one come up with several hundred or several thousand flash bulbs these days?
 

donbga

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Alex Hawley said:
Don't know how many times he had to stage a particular shot Gary. I have heard one story where the lady that owned the Hotel where he was staying tried to get him run out of town after the two thousand flashbulbs went off shorly after midnight, and that was the first test of the setup. She was convinced that Link was some kind of Devil Worshipper. I heard Link always stopped by and got aquainted with the local Law officers before he started work. That and the commission from the railroad kept him out of trouble.

Gawd, where would one come up with several hundred or several thousand flash bulbs these days?
Link coordinated his shots with the train company and crews. Notice that on many shots, all the smoke spewing from the locomotives, that was not normal operating procedure, as it was very wasteful of coal. Any engineer that did that during normal operations would be sure to get in hot water. AFAIK, there were no retakes. His shots were totally planned and conceptualized.

As for the flash coordination, they were fired by some type of sequencer that Link may have devised himself. His knowledge of lighting was very sophisticated. He usually worked with one assistant, spending hours setting up the lights and wiring. There is a photograph of Link and his assistant on the cover of Vicki Goldberg's book on the history of photography.

Don Bryant
 

Monophoto

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NW 1103, Hotshot Freight, Eastbound, at the Iaeger Drive-In, $4,000.00

On the hot night of August 2, 1956, Winston Link created what has become his most famous photograph. The Iaeger Drive-In was located on the N&W's main line, and the movie that evening was “Battle Taxi,” a film about the Korean War. Link placed Willie Allen and Dorothy Christian in his 1952 Buick convertible, and set the view camera above the car on an extension tripod. The back of the camera was then adjusted to place the image in perfect focus from about six feet to infinity.

This photo required two exposures on separate sheets of film, one for the image on the screen, and the other for the rest of the photo. The two negatives were subsequently printed on a single sheet of paper and the resulting print copied on a new negative. It was one of Link's largest setups, requiring 42 No. 2 flashbulbs and one No. 0 (on the couple) to light the photo of time freight No. 78 moving fast eastbound towards Petersburg, Virginia.
 

donbga

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Thanks for sharing those details. However I have seen a version of this print with the jet on the movie screen that was physically cut and pasted into the print. I'm curious to know why.

Don Bryant
 

dr bob

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Well, it just goes to show you that this site is a remarkable source for everything. When I first connected to the internet in circa 1993, one of the first “surfs” was for O. Winston Link. There was virtually nothing. Until tonight, I never tried again. I give much appreciation to all who gave the good information and the museum link. I pass through (near) Roanoke often and will visit soon.

One reason I was so interested is that I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Mr. Link in 1955 when he was photographing and recording near Virginia Tech. I own the first three LP recordings. The best, IMO, is “Thunder on Blue Ridge” with the sounds of distant train whistles echoing through the mountains. It is not just a collection of artifacts but a symphony of sounds, really – memories from my youth. It had an effect….
 

Alex Hawley

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The Museum site talks a bit about his lighting technique. It says O. Winston was educated as a civil engineer (strange how engineering drives one to photography - how many of us are engineers?). He designed and built the sequencing circuitry himself. I was totally wrong about opening the lens then firing the flash bulb separately - that was what he did NOT want to do. He carried thousands of feet of wire; sometimes it would take up to six days to get everything set up.
 

ksmattfish

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donbga said:
I have seen a version of this print with the jet on the movie screen that was physically cut and pasted into the print.

I saw a print of the O.W.L. Drive-In like this at the Nelson Atkins Museum in KC. I think it was part of the Hallmark Collection. I had read the version of the story that said it was printed on a single sheet, and was sort of shocked to obviously see that the movie screen was pasted on. I still love it.

I like how in some of his photos if you look close you can see the flash units, particularly when the train is in the background.
 
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