Welcome to the fine art blog of San Diego photographer Stefanie Poteet. Here you will find photographs of everything from vintage hot rods to rubber ducks and everything in between.

If you are interested in Stefanie's wedding and event photography or portraiture, please visit her client blog.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Seen Better Days... 32 of 365

Virgie's was one of those unexpected finds on my Route 66 trip a few Thanksgivings ago. I did enough research to know I needed to drive through the main drag in Grants, New Mexico but didn't find photos of every sign. It was part of the fun really.  
I looked up Virgie's after I returned home and discovered it used to be a bit more impressive back in it's glory day. That arrow used to be a large semicircle, not just a straight line, and there was neon. Oh the neon...

The sign geeks keep talking about a time machine. I seriously hope someone's working on one.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thunder Only Happens When It's Raining... 31 of 365

Yes, I'm a sucker for song lyrics. I'm also a big fan of neon thunderbirds. I have no idea what a thunderbird actually is... I think cars first and my brain jumps from thunderbird to fire bird to fire chicken... but that's another story. But somehow these colorful, hawk-like birds have made their way into vintage neon culture and I adore them.  
This one sits atop his perch in Riverside, California. There are several more I need to photograph, but he was my first thunderbird and for that, he's a little special. 31 down.... way too many more to go!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Abbreviations FTW... 30 of 365

This poor 66 Motel in Holbrook must feel like it gets no love... it's on the other side of the freeway from the more popular side of town and I'm guessing it's less well known than say, the Wigwam Motel. But the sign is beyond amazing. I love the graphic details, the colors, and the faded Bank Amercard lettering is the cherry on top.
I'm not going to lie, I stayed at the Wigwam Motel, but the next time I'm in Holbrook this place is the first one on my list.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How I Miss You Goody's... 29 of 365

I've shared one of my photos of the Goody's sign before, but I'm in a nostalgic mood this evening and I still can't quite accept the fact that Goody's is gone. 

Jeff's Sporting Goods tried, I know they did. They used a similar font for the letters, kept the base and just painted it green. But no matter how much I love green... it is my favorite color after all... there's just nothing like this sign. 
Boomerang "G"s should have never gone out of style. 
Tomorrow's post makes this an even 30. Who knew it would be so challenging to do this every day for a month...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's that Time of Year... 28 of 365

I photographed this sign in a rougher part of Los Angeles a few years ago. I usually study my signs, walking around, searching for different angles and selecting the one I like best. Photographing this sign was different, even with a friend nearby I felt uncomfortable and rushed myself. There was no study, no observation. This was snap and run, quite literally. 

For some reason after I made it home to upload photos and edit, I didn't given this one a second look. I ignored it simply because I didn't think it was the shot I wanted. What a difference a few years makes...
As a side note, I hate corrugated cardboard, but man do I love that texture when it's part of a sign. So hypocritical of me, I know.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It Takes a Village... 27 of 365

A Route 66 gem in Barstow, California. It's air conditioned, there's chop suey, and a three part neon arrow. I love it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The WB... 26 of 365

It may not be the WB I grew up on... but it's definitely my favorite. This one is along Route 66 near Yucca, Arizona. Want something bigger? Head to Albuquerque.
"I shoulda turned left at Albuquerque" - Bugs Bunny
Happy Friday, Happy weekend, and good night!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The River is Everywhere... 25 of 365

Those motel letters make me giddy... Thank you Los Angeles for all that you have. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stick a Fork in it... 24 of 365

I seem to be maintaining a breakfast theme? I mean cups of coffee on signs two days in a row... those waffles must really be sticking with me. 
And now back to preparing for this weekend's San Diego Vintage Flea Market... so much to do!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blame the Waffle... 23 of 365

I just had a Roscoe's waffle for the first time last night and I must confess, I want more. Breakfast has been on my mind ever since. I just want a short stack of waffles... is that too much to ask?

Somehow I'm not surprised that with last night's awesome breakfast for dinner on the brain, I somehow settled on tonight's image.

The Jelly Donut is a sign I discovered on the way to another sign, someplace else. I hadn't seen it before, but definitely had to pull over and snap a few shots of the sign against that sky. The arrow really brings it together for me, and I wish it still had it's neon. The clouds don't hurt either.
Signs with arrows and desert skies...
Twenty three down, more than I can count at this hour to go. Hooray for progress and Tuesday nights.

Oh and Roscoe's, please open a restaurant in San Diego.I'll go to Hash House for my cinnamon apple pancakes, but my waffle cravings are all yours.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nights Like These... 22 of 365

Tonight's photograph was taken earlier this evening and has already been shared on every other social media platform I have. But it's personal, and special, and worthy of this project. I love that my favorite musician, a vintage theatre with beautiful neon, and a group of like-minded fans, have come together on this night for the last four years for a worthy cause. It's nights like these that are forever burned in my memory. 
Happy Veteran's Day, Happy Birthday to the Mother Road, and Happy 11/11. Good night. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Save Me... 21 of 365

Rescued, but seemingly missing a piece or two, I found this wonderful sign in a private yard with several other signs, both small and large. I was hoping the property owners might be home to shed some light on their amazing collection, but I wasn't so fortunate. Maybe next time...
Three weeks down, 49 to go. Until tomorrow...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Glow Baby Glow...20 of 365

The downside of weekend road trips is having so little time to photograph so much material. Night shooting can be limited, especially if you're only in town for one night and you don't know what still lights up and what doesn't. I also prefer night shots during blue hour, when there is still color in the sky. But every once in a while I get lucky, and even if I don't have my tripod I manage to pull off a hand held shot.
Giftfair? Sounds like fun.
While visiting a friend in LA we stopped by China Town. I left my tripod in the car... I have no idea why... and went wandering. The neon in the main square is amazing and is so bright it actually made hand held shooting possible. I loved the different colors and fonts, and outlining rooftops is something that should have NEVER gone out of style. 

I hope to make another trip to LA soon, and perhaps hit up China Town a little earlier, tripod in tow. 

It's almost been three whole weeks and my project is still going strong. See you tomorrow for the 21st post in the series. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dreaming of Breakfast... 19 of 365

There's this place in San Diego that has become my favorite guilty pleasure breakfast joint. It's not a place I can get to during the week, and its PACKED on weekends, but it's worth it. My dish of choice... apple pancakes... and I've been craving them for a good long while. I might actually be able to have breakfast there tomorrow, and that possibility is definitely what inspired tonight's image selection.
My time in Portland was extremely limited so I wasn't able to sample any Hot Cake House fare. I'm hoping my next trip grants me more time and better weather. Fingers crossed.

Happy Friday evening all. See you tomorrow, sometime after breakfast anyway.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I Got Five On It... 18 of 365

Tonight's post is a sign you've definitely seen if you've ever driven on Highway 99 through central California. This palm reader sign appears to have been built just to advertise to travelers passing by, and the only thing separating this sign from northbound traffic is a chain link fence and about twenty feet of land.

If you ever hope to tell my fortune, you better have a sign like this. There are so many points of awesomeness I don't even know where to begin. Tonight it's the knuckles that make me laugh, and the creases in the hand. I keep searching for a triangle in the pad of my hands but I just don't see it. Artistic license is definitely at play...
How many "five" jokes can I make before it gets old?
Perhaps tomorrow it will be the stars that amuse me, or the not quite right, slightly uneven gap between the fingers. There's just so much character, it's hard to resist.

Tonight's programming has been brought to you by the number 5 (x 3 +3 of course) and the color teal. Happy almost Friday.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Feeling Empty... 17 of 365

The Spanish Trail Motel is the prime example of a beautiful but sadly abandoned motel in Tucson. The motel sports, a spaceshipesque circular lobby,  some very googie adornments that give the appearance of undulating roof top at one point, and a font that would make any type junkie swoon. And then of course there's the sign...
If it weren't for the motel's name on the side of the building, I would have never known anything other than "Trail". That arrow blows my mind, but I wonder what else sat in the now empty boxes both top and bottom. My internet research has turned up nothing, but I'm going to continue to try to fill in the blanks. It's just too cool to not know.

I'm looking forward to the long weekend and am incredibly happy my week is more than half over. See you tomorrow evening for my 18th post of this crazy little project. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Evolution... 16 of 365

I found Arlie's by accident in Lake Isabella. Despite the early hour I think they were open as I was photographing this sign. Up all night perhaps? It seemed unlikely for such a small town but who knows.

This sign makes me ponder its evolution. I wonder if it's always been Arlie's, or if that white panel was a replacement. I wonder what it used to say in the pointed oval that now sits empty. And I wonder if it has always been brown and red. It's a bit of an odd combination, and I can't think of any other sign sporting those two primary colors.
On another note, the clouds in Lake Isabella that morning were fantastic. I'd like to take them with me every where I go. I really need to get on honing my super powers. Good night!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Flagstaff, Round Two... 15 of 365

I've had the opportunity to photograph parts of Route 66 through Flagstaff just twice. The first time I somehow missed the Western Hills Motel. How you miss a neon chuck wagon and horses beyond me, but I did. Thank heavens for return trips.

The second time I was in Flagstaff I had somehow failed to recently charge my camera battery, pack a spare or bring my charger. I'm still shaking my head at myself for that one. Not wanting to miss anything, I got REALLY creative. Compose the shot with the camera off, adjust my polarizer as needed for the light, turn on the camera, fire away, turn off the camera and move on to the next sign. There was no chimping, no moments to pause and I check. I didn't review a single shot taken that day until I'd returned home after the weekend. I will never make that mistake again, but have to admit it was a bit of a fun exercise.
There are still parts of Route 66 both west and east of Flagstaff I need to see and photograph so I have a feeling the Western Hills Motel and I will meet again. But until then, I got it.

Happy Monday everyone. I'll be back tomorrow for number sixteen.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spin Me Right Round... 14 of 365

It's been two weeks and I seriously need to break my habit of posting so late. I know I'm a night owl but this is getting ridiculous.

Anyway, tonight's offering is from San Jose as  promised. It was taken earlier this year when the days were much longer and photography without the aid of a tripod was possible well into the evening. I was lucky enough to be palling around with my sign geek friends Josh, aka LostSanJose and his wife Mayra when they drove me to the Food Bowl. Now there are several levels of cool to this sign. First off, it says Food Bowl. Second, the top spins in a totally random fashion. Third, there are three different fonts, all in neon. Fourth, it SPINS. Obviously I was immediately smitten with the sign and spent a good amount of time snapping away looking for the best shot. In the end it was the clouds that drew me to this one, and now here it is.
It's spinning left, no wait, ...right...wait.....there it goes!
Two weeks down, fifty more to go. See you tomorrow for a pretty well known Flagstaff motel. Any guesses which one it'll be?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Girls...13 of 365

The large Dancing Girls sign is another downtown LA find, within walking distance of the Orpheum and Los Angeles theatres. Old and faded, I loved the S hanging from the last tie down. But in color this image just didn't have that pop for me, the light blue and pink colors lacked oomph. The light I needed just wasn't there. 

In editing I wanted something to highlight the tubing, the rust and peeling paint. I wanted those five letters to shine. I tried to make a color edit work... I love color... but it just wasn't there. No amount of editing can replace good light. I needed contrast. I wanted to see the age of this sign, the patching with tiny nails, the fading paint. Black and white wasn't quite right either. Too flat or too dramatic, I couldn't find a middle ground. I almost moved on to another image to edit and share for the evening, and then I tried sepia. I think it's done.
Glowing red no longer
Lucky thirteen is done... see you tomorrow for fourteen of 365. I'm thinking tomorrow's post will be from San Jose...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Somewhere in Stockton... 12 of 365

Another late night, another must post before going to bed moment. I am slightly more awake tonight than yesterday though. The lack of a required wake up time tomorrow morning doesn't hurt either. Thank heavens for the weekend.

Tonight's post was taken somewhere in Stockton. It was never on one of my maps, I'd never seen it and never knew it existed. But one day I got off the freeway in search of gas and there it was. I have to go back, but I think this first round portrait is worth sharing.
Target's inspiration? I think so!
Next time I need to take this from the top of a stair car and get rid of those wires. Lead wires for the sign I understand, but the rest have got to go.

See you tomorrow for the thirteenth installment. Good night!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie... 11 of 365

It's late, I'm tired, but it's here...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Going to the Big House ... 10 of 365

If you've ever taken a trip down Highway 99 through the heart California, chances are you've passed this sign a time or two. I must have passed it a quite a few times before signs were my thing, but I'm certain I missed it completely. The Casa Grande Motel is still operational, and it stands alone along the west side of the highway in Madera.

It's a rather simple sign, three colors, clear lettering, yet still charming. Heading southbound the neon has been stripped from the top motel lettering, but as best I can remember the other side of the sign still glows bright red at night. And the Casa Grande lettering is hanging in there as well. I love the cursive lettering effect the neon creates as the yellow tubes pass over black paint.
I'm wondering if the name ever deterred visitors... 
And hey, who doesn't love sunset colors and palm trees? I know I'm a sucker for both. 

Ten down, 355 to go. As a disclaimer, tomorrow's post might be a little late, but I promise it'll be up before I go to bed. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Trifecta... 9 of 365

There are so many elements that can contribute to a sign's quality. Some keep it simple... neon all the way. Some are more complex and mix materials, or have been refurbished so many times they've become nothing more than a hodgepodge of stuff. Personally I'm a fan of neon tubing and large light bulbs, but every once in a while I'll come across a plastic fantastic sign that is definitely photo worthy.

Today's post has all three of those things, neon up top, old plastic in the middle, and a bulb lined arrow to round out the bottom. It reminds me of a certain Circus Liquors for some reason... just something about the feel. It must be the type.
Big Top lettering for the win!
You'll find Canyon City Liquors on Route 66 in Azusa, California. The business is still operating and like their sign, has a little bit of everything.

I'll be back tomorrow for my first double digit post of this fun little endeavor.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Everyday I'm Hustlin.... 8 of 365

Before hustlin' made its way into lyrical history, it was captured in animated neon across the United States. Speedee, a little man with a hamburger face and quick walking legs was the original McDonalds mascot. He graced the sky before the famous golden arches, and was eventually replaced by Ronald McDonald in 1962. Like most vintage neon, not many Speedees still exist. I found this one in front of the oldest operating McDonalds in Downey. I love the six different neon legs, more arms than I can count and that wink. Oh yeah, and there's a bow tie.
Ladies love the bow tie...
 They just don't make 'em like they used to. Until tomorrow... Eight down, 357 more to go.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kickin' It Old School.... 7 of 365

Someone once asked me if I had a photo of an old Dairy Queen sign. At the time, I didn't. I'd never seen a vintage DQ sign like the one she was looking for, let alone photographed it. And then there was an impromptu Route 66 trip through parts of Arizona. We found Williams, and there it was...
Blizzard, anyone? 
I can't believe the weekend is over. Happy Sunday night everyone. I'll see you tomorrow, for eight of 365.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Accidents Happen... 6 of 365

When traveling for sign photography purposes I'm a planner. I research, I map, I select my shooting order based upon level of importance aka awesomeness if I have a limited amount of time. I don't want to miss anything, let alone anything good... it's an "all the things" sorta need. Yes, you can mock my perfectionism, I'm okay with it.

It's a rare occasion when I find myself in a car with my camera in a place I've never researched, or, for that matter, heard of. In fact it's only happened once, and somehow there were signs...  I guess accidents do happen.
Once a Motel sign, now someone's driveway marker. I'm only immensely jealous.
It may not be epic, but I was pretty darn excited to find it. If you're ever in Lake Isabella you should go looking for it. Six down, 359 more to come.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Perfect Place for a Friday Night... 5 of 365

Who here remembers tropical storm Hillary? Show of hands? That's right... nobody. I wouldn't either, if not for the fact she ruined a few solid hours of shooting in Tucson with her high winds, cloud cover and rain. I hung in there with the best of them, but after I started getting pelted with pebbles I decided to pack it in before any equipment was damaged. You can bruise me, scrape me or make me bleed, but I'll be damned if you're going to scratch my lens. But back to Tucson...

If you've never been to Tucson you absolutely MUST go. It is a veritable smorgasbord of vintage neon signage, with some of the most unique signs I've had the pleasure to see. I've already posted a fair amount of my Tucson images to either my Etsy shop or my Flickr page but there are a few gems I haven't gotten around to editing. Tonight I'm digging one out of the archives, simply because it sounds like the perfect place to spend a Friday evening. Of course I'm at home blogging and making cream cheese icing, but that doesn't matter. The Crossroads restaurant is apparently pretty darn good and worth the drive to the edge of town. I'll be going back to Tucson to capture the rest of the signs I couldn't shoot thanks to Hillary, and the Crossroads is on my list for lunch.
Yes, that's a neon beer mug.
Happy Friday night folks! See you tomorrow for the six installation in this crazy project of mine...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Moody Marquee.... 4 of 365

I know I'm a little late, but the clock hasn't struck midnight on the west coast yet which means I have not turned into a pumpkin and missed my deadline for the evening. Besides, I have a good reason.... a consult with a couple about their future wedding photography is a perfectly good excuse to be behind schedule.

As it turns out, that same couple is the inspiration behind tonight's post. The groom works on sets for a non-profit company involved in theatre productions. After our evening meeting I came home and began searching for tonight's photo of the day and found this...
Downtown LA's very own theatre, down the street from the well known Orpheum
It's a bit moody and definitely different than my usual style, but it's a perfect end to my Thursday and it's my fourth of 365. Good night everyone.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bowl at the Wheel... 3 of 365

Today was a rather overcast Wednesday, from the moment I woke up until the sun set. It's been pretty hot down here though lately so for the time being, I can appreciate it. I also don't usually attempt to shoot signs on weekdays...

Unfortunately not every weekend is bright and sunny either, even in southern California. So, until I develop my Storm powers more completely I, like all other photographers, have to deal with the light, sky and backgrounds nature gives me. And when photographing something far from home, well, I just have to work with it.

Today's offering is one of those such days. A friend and I drove out to Oxnard from his place in LA one Saturday, hoping the clouds would break as we approached the coast. I'd been trying to get to Oxnard FOREVER and with the Wagon Wheel Motel being razed I wanted to capture a few shots of the motel and bowling alley signs before they fell into complete disrepair. But the clouds didn't relent and the closer we came to our destination the more and more definition was lost in the sky. By the time we made it to Oxnard the only thing above us was gray soup. Not knowing when I'd be back, I photographed the signs as best I could, working with the diffused light and nondescript background. I hope I make it back soon, but until then, at least I have this.

Here's to Wednesday and a week that's more than half over. Three down, 362 more to come!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reno's El Ray... 2 of 365

Reno has a wealth of small motels with colorful vintage signs. And there's no clear motel row like some other cities I've visited. Instead the mom and pop places seem to be in clusters around the downtown area. Find one and you'll find four more. It makes for some fun exploration on foot, wandering from place to place with camera in hand. The El Ray is on Arlington in the midst of several other motel signs, across the street from the Sands Casino. I know what you're thinking... it's not that Sands sadly.

Boomerang signs... amazing.
It's unclear if the El Ray is still operating as a monthly rental place, if at all. The plastic panel that once read motel is completely gone, but there is still a building on the property and I was definitely unwillingly eavesdropping on a woman's telephone conversation while snapping away pictures of the sign.

Two down.... Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Love... 1 of 365

The past week has been a flurry of photo related list making, remaking, amending and doing. For every "to do" item checked off that list, I've easily added three more. Like all things worth doing well, my photo work never ends. But things are happening, and I'm excited.

Somehow in my brainstorming I had this zany idea to post a photo a day for the next year. Most 365 projects involve creating a photo a day... this isn't that... no no. While I would love to create an image a day I am proud enough to share, there are a few reasons it isn't the project for me right now. This silly project of mine is editing and thoughtfully posting one image per day.

I know for a fact I have photographs of at least 365 signs, cars and roadside wonders hiding untouched on my computer. If I didn't take another photograph for a year I'd still have enough material to share with you every day until October 20, 2014. This is absurd and wonderful but it needs to change. Add to this backlog the fact I haven't blogged since February of this year...whoops!... and my project is the perfect. Welcome to day 1 of 365.

Today's beautiful sign is none other than Baskin's Auto Supply in Fresno, California. Fresno has it's rougher neighborhoods... beware motel row... but it also has a pretty fantastic collection of neon. Baskin's is most likely the best maintained in town and it's in pristine condition. A neighboring shop owner said the business has been owned by the Baskin family since 1917, and it seems the sign was built in 1956. The sign is currently listed on the Local Register of Historic Places for Fresno, but I haven't found a National Register listing. At least not yet.
I love proud neon sign owners. Love them!
If you ever think I'm slacking on this project, feel free to hassle me at any time. One down, here's to 364 more.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Motel Monday - The Blue Angel

The Blue Angel Motel signage as seen from Fremont Street. A separate sign welcomes visitors from East Charleston Boulevard. 
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting several like minded photographers in Las Vegas for a sign geeks meet up. We toured the Neon Museum and the town, seeing as much of the vintage, googie and kitsch as possible.

The most fantastic part for me was being surrounded by people who share my passion for vintage neon, and the amount I was able to learn from them in less than 48 hours was extraordinary. I learned about bygone signs in Portland and Reno and giant signs still standing in the bay area. Sadly I also learned that the Blue Angel Motel on Fremont Street is to be demolished in the near future. A new development is set to be built in the Blue Angel's place, and the Para-A-Dice motel across the street has already been razed. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony in December 2011 Las Vegas Weekly posted this article about the fate of the iconic Blue Angel, designed by the sign geek famous Betty Willis. Ms. Willis is deserving of her own post, so I'll have to share more about her later.

Since the ribbon cutting ceremony the Blue Angel Motel has been vacated and now sits with the windows boarded and a chain link fence circling the building. Despite this, it seems that the development project has now stalled without any visible progress. According to this Las Vegas Weekly article update, there are still plans to save the Blue Angel herself if the project moves forward. I'm hoping the additional signage is part of the preservation and restoration plans. I love those giant neon arches.

I think perhaps my favorite photograph of the motel on our trip was taken by Lost San Jose. You can find it here... 

Happy Monday,