Sign In, Please

By Roger (2 November 2015)

When I'm traveling with my camera, I like to grab some photos of the more unique parts of wherever I am: street scenes; local events, like parades and festivals; tourist sites; and, of course, signs. Signs? Yes, signs.

I've been doing this for a long time. They have been used in my personal slideshows and, sometimes, for work, as the sign below. Most of these photos won't end up in your portfolio, but, hopefully, that isn't your prime motivation when you take the camera out to play. There are still many reasons to snap photos of signs.

Gone, but not forgotten

Since signs are everywhere, you won't have any problem finding them. You won't be able to miss them once you start paying attention. I rarely return from a photowalk without one. Make it one of your challenge photos.

While most people don't make slideshows as often as we used to – and millions of family members rejoice! – today's technology has made them much better to sit through. Lightroom can help you put together a nice slideshow, with transitions and accompanying music. You can also use a small sign photo, in a photobook, to give the reader the a location marker or name of a building of the photos they are viewing.

Virginia has many “Love” signs, from the old “Virginia is for Lovers” tourist campaign to draw tourists. They're all over the state. I've seen, at least, a dozen of them. I'm not sure how many they put out there, but three of them are within an hour of my house. They have all ended up in my camera.

The Luray, Va, sign is near a playground, so, obviously, it fits well with photos of the grandchildren standing on it. That reminds me, we'll need to go back there to update the photo with the two that weren't born when I took this photo.

The perfect sign for grandchildren

You can use a sign photo to remember facts about events or locations. As a history buff, I'm always interested in those historical markers along the road and have stopped at many. But when you don't have time to sit and ponder the world as it existed back then, take a quick snapshot. You can finish reading about the location in your office.

I don't want you to think I never put any thought into my sign photos. I'm always on the lookout for something more interesting than a simple snapshot. When the conditions are right, signs can be captivating subjects, especially advertising. They are usually colorful and designed to catch your eye. Throw in some reflections from a window and a freshly rained-on awning, and you get something nice.

Memphis, TN

How crazy can you get with this stuff? Well, Mark and I went to the neon sign graveyard while we in Las Vegas. They took our money and let us into an outside enclosure, with signs that had been discarded by the casinos. And we had to sign up for a designated time to get in because there were so many other crazy folks who wanted a chance to look around. Believe it or not, it was worth it. (You can see more of those photos here.)

So, give those signs some of your time the next time you're out there. Just the process of looking for the good ones will help you exercise your eyes and challenge you to make something of what you find. We can all use some of that to keep things fun.

Don't forget to move in close, sometimes

Memphis Blues

So I got to take a LONG road trip this last weekend; 2600 miles in 5 days.  It was an EFCubed photo expedition. We stopped in Memphis, TN, on our way out to Oklahoma, just to shoot photos on Beale Street—the home of the Blues.  As you know it was somewhat warmish, ok, some would snivel that it was Damn Hot, so in the afternoon, there was no one out on the streets.  As evening approached, people started to come out from the cool and wander out into the streets.  Beale was blocked off, as there was a concert and festival scheduled for that evening.  Along the sidewalks musicians were performing a wide range of blues and rock. These kids were out on the street, trying to raise a few dollars as well.  The skies started to get  a little overcast.  I had read that the signs on the street were pretty interesting, and I love to shoot signs wherever I go.  However, in the daylight, they were pretty flat.  As we wandered down the street, that overcast sky rapidly turned dark and threatening.  Huge fat drops of rain started to fall.  Luckily we were right outside B.B. Kings bar and restaurant, so Roger and I ducked in.  Almost as soon as we crossed the threshold, the skies just opened up.  Lightening cracked and huge peals of thunder shook the whole building.  We watched as the rain started whipping down the streets horizontally, pushing the outdoor umbrellas over and inside out.  Good thing we had beer and BBQ to help us wait out the storm.  It never did stop raining, so we didn’t get all the photos we wanted.  We ran across the street and managed to capture some of the cool neon signs when the rain let up a bit.  I liked the reflection in the window and shot about 10 pictures to get this one I kept. 

They cancelled the concert and a lot of disappointed young kids went streaming past us, soaked to the bone, headed home.  We managed to get back to the hotel without getting too soaked, but have to go back to “the right side of Memphis” to shoot a lot more photos.