Downtown Cape Panorama

This panorama photo is made up of six aerial photos taken April 17, 2010. It ranges from William Street on the left to north of Broadway on the right. The western boundary is just beyond Fountain St. The gray parking lot at the top left is Cape’s City Hall on Independence

Most panoramas are taken from one spot and the camera swiveled on a tripod. In this case, the “tripod” was Ernie Chiles’ plane flying along at about 100 mph. Because the angle was constantly changing, there is some freaky distortions of the buildings on the edges of the photo, particularly St. Vincent’s Cathedral on the left. Still, it’s a neat effect. I made it larger than usual, so you may have to scroll around to see it all.

 Broadway Theater was a panorama

When I shot the interior of the Broadway theater, I stitched together six photos to show the whole room. It’s a way to cover a wide area if you don’t have a super wideangle lens.

The super-secret assignment

I haven’t fooled around much with panoramas because they were a real pain back in the days of film and paper prints. One day The Big Boss called me in and said he needed some aerial photography done for a super secret project for someone he wouldn’t name. I wasn’t supposed to discuss the assignment. Some days you ask questions. Some days you salute and say, “Yes Sir.” This was the latter.

In 2012, you’d call up Google Earth and have what you wanted in minutes, but this was in the days when the Google Earth guys were still wearing diapers, so that wasn’t an option.

The chopper ride was the fun part

So, I chartered a helicopter, took the door off, put on a safety harness, stood on the skid and leaned out into space so I could shoot straight down as much as possible. It was cool. Because the boss wanted a couple block area covered and in close detail, we flew multiple grids and I banged off a couple hundred frames. That was the easy and fun part.

When I got into the darkroom, though, I realized that I wasn’t as smart as Photoshop is today. No matter how straight to the ground I had tried to hold the camera, there was always a slight angle that kept the prints from lining up.

The next day, I spread out enough prints on The Big Boss’s floor to just above cover the whole shebang. I explained the technical problem, then I handed him two sheets of aerial photos of the area from the county’s tax assessor. He said I wouldn’t need to muck with making the prints; the county photos would do fine. (He was pleased enough with my ingenious solution that he didn’t think to ask why I hadn’t done that in the first place.)

So, what was the whole super secret deal about? I have no idea to this day. From time to time I’d drive through the neighborhood to see if any changes were taking place, but nothing ever sprouted up. I don’t know if the project was scuttled or what happened. At least I got a neat chopper ride out of it.

Other downtown shots

Downtown Cape Girardeau from the air and ground (includes other links)

Common Pleas Courthouse from the air

St. Vincent’s Cathedral and downtown

Backstage at Broadway Theater

Yesterday you saw the public areas of Broadway Theater. Today we’ll go backstage and into the dressing rooms and basement areas. [Note: the photos are dated 12/16/2010. They should have been marked 2011. That’s what happens when you are working at 3 in the morning. Thanks to Gail Jackson Brown for pointing that out.]

The Broadway was a full-blown theater with an orchestra pit and a stage where vaudeville actors performed.

Dad used to talk about pulling his little wagon loaded with sheet music for the woman who played the piano during the silent movies. Because we all know that Steinhoffs never embellish the truth, none of us ever challenged him. In 2007, I made my usual Sunday night call back to Cape. Mother said she had read the obit of the woman who used to play the piano in the silent movies. She was 101.

Dressing room walls are bare

A lot of old theaters I’ve been in have autographs of actors scrawled all over the walls backstage and in the dressing rooms. The only marks I could see here looked like they might have done recently with lipstick.

If these dressing rooms are typical, an actor’s life was far from glamorous. The rooms were tiny, with a bare bulb hanging from a cord from the ceiling and two bulbs over the mirror.

Rheostats controlled lighting

These  knife switches and huge rheostats were used to control stage lighting.

Frugal, for sure

I think this is my favorite photo from Down Below. This drawer of pencils was pulled out over what I assume to have been a work bench. Some of the pencil stubs weren’t over an inch long. THERE’S a guy who didn’t waste anything.

How to “paint” with light

I’ll go to about any length to keep from using flash. I’m not very good at it and I don’t have the equipment to do it right. Sometimes, though, you have to shoot where there’s no available light available.

There was a little light in the room in front of us, and there was just enough light coming from a room behind us to ALMOST keep me from tripping over a pipe. I perched the camera up on a rickety tripod and set the shutter to stay open for 20 seconds. I had Friend Shari push the button, then I walked around the room shooting off my electronic flash in the dark corners of the room. That’s called “painting” with light.

When I was at Ohio University, about half a dozen of us lit up a building that was about two-thirds of a block long using this technique “just for fun.” (Photographers have a strange idea of fun.) It’s a lot easier in this day of digital photography when you can see your results immediately.

The key is to have enough light to bring out detail without having hot spots. I have one that’s better lit, but I’m holding it for the blooper tape. The shadow of the camera and tripod show up in the frame.

Photo gallery of backstage Broadway

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

Broadway Theater: WOW!

I’ve always had a mental checklist of places I wanted to photograph in Cape. High on the list was the Broadway Theater. I shot the exterior in 2001 when it had a cheesy facade covering the original brick. I shot it in 2009 from the outside, but could do no more than peer through the glass at junk and a faded carpet inside.

I told someone, “That place is either one match away from an insurance claim or a strong wind from a roof collapse.”

Phillip Davis is starting a business

About two weeks ago, I saw the doors open and some kind of display on the sidewalk. I walked up and introduced myself to Phillip Davis, who is leasing the building for the next 18 months to sell beauty supplies, clothing and cellphone accessories from what used to be the lobby. He said I could look around, but I couldn’t take any photos without getting the OK from the owner. It took a week, but Phillip and I finally put all the pieces of the project together.

Jim Stone, Shari Stiver and I were supposed to have a mini-reunion the previous weekend, but Shari begged off because of bronchitis. I knew I was going to need a helper on this job and I knew that Shari had been a general contractor doing building rehab in St. Louis, so I asked her if she felt well enough to come down to help. She jumped at the chance to see the landmark building.

Phillip told us to meet Qiunan Tang, a SEMO student from China. He opened the place up, flipped a bunch of circuit breakers and let us have free run. We spent four hours combing every inch of the place and could have spent twice that time except that I needed to shoot something else that afternoon and Shari had to get back to the big city. I’d like to come back and do the job with some additional lights.

Pictures ARE worth thousands of words

There are some stories where you just have to get out of the way and let it tell itself. I’m not going to bog you down with a bunch of history or I-remember-whens. I’ll let you folks do that in the comments. I look forward to hearing your memories. In this case, pictures ARE worth thousands of my words.

This is a composite of six photos stitched together into a panorama by Photoshop. That’s why there’s ragged white space around the edges. I was working with a tripod with a leg that was trying to collapse, so all of the frames weren’t exactly square with each other. I wanted to have the best detail possible, so I locked the “film” speed at 200 and opted for long shutter speeds. Click on any photo to make it larger. I made the panoramas about twice the size of my normal horizontal shots so you can see the detail in the photos.

Let’s just say the Broadway WAS spectacular and it’s still in remarkable shape. The seats are in good condition (plastic arm rests with cup holders have been added); most of the wall sconces are intact and working; the seats in the balcony have been removed and the projectors are gone; the orchestra pit has been floored over with steps that lead to the stage. Many of the rich tapestries that lined the walls are still hanging.

There’s some peeling paint and some plaster has fallen off, but there’s no major leaks apparent, no rodents scurrying around (although birds have gotten into the building and left their deposits in a few spots) and no obvious signs of mold.

Other Cape area movie stories

Photo gallery of the public areas

These photos were taken in 2001, 2009 and 2011. Tomorrow I’ll run a gallery of places the public has probably never seen: the dressing rooms, mechanical areas and basement. There’s almost as much space below the theater as there is in the seating area. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the photo to move through the gallery. What do YOU remember about the theater?