This is part 2 of my posts on “vintage” signs that are worth photographing in the Phoenix area.  Part one focused on Grand Ave from downtown Phoenix to Glendale.  Part 2 heads out to the East Valley in Mesa, AZ.  It is appropriate that all of the signs in this post are on Main St. given the “All-Americaness” of a Main St. in the US and the truly American invention of the roadside motel and neon sign.  Mesa’s Main St. is dotted with several classic roadside motels from the middle of the last century when a family road trip was the ideal summer vacation.  There are several other businesses along this stretch of Mesa that followed suit with the classic neon signs of their motel neighbors.  That makes for a great photography outing in Mesa day or night (although I shot all of these signs when they are at their best – glowing at night).

When heading out to Mesa if you stick to Main St. between Lindsey Rd. and Dobson Rd. you will be able to capture most of the better signs that are still actively maintained and lit most nights.  Check out my Photography Guide Google map that pin points each of the signs in this post.

Also, if you are going to attempt the night shots be sure to refer to my posts on improving night photography and ISO.  Keep those tips in mind so that you get the best photos possible.

Click on any of the images to see a larger version.

Photo of the Starlite Motel Neon Sign, Mesa, AZ This sign is one of my absolute favorite.  It is also the first one you will come to if you start at the east end of the route at Lindsey Rd (see Map Guide).  It belongs to the Starlite Motel and features a woman diving into a swimming pool.  The sign lights up in four stages starting with the woman at the top jumping off, then she is in mid dive, and finally hitting the water (the 4th light is the water at the bottom that lights up when she hits it).

Here are a few tips to help you photograph this vintage neon sign:

There is a parking lot to the west of the motel on Main St. that for me, was the ideal spot to shoot.

If you want to capture all of the steps lit up at once make sure your shutter speed is slow enough.

Play around with different shutter speeds, apertures and ISO to get the ideal shot.

A little post processing editing may be necessary to get the coloring and balance just right.

Pat's Bicycle Shop Vintage Neon Sign, Mesa, AZAm I allowed two favorites?  The Pat’s Bicycle Shop sign features an in-motion arrow and a classic bike with the word “Schwinn” next to it.  I also photographed this particular sign during the day and posted it as a Photo of the Day a while back.

The same general night time photography tips for the Starlite above apply to photographing the Pat’s sign as well.  The parking lot in front of the store is ideal for capturing the sign.  If you want to get more than the sign itself try from across the street with a telephoto lens.

Hambone Bar and Grill Neon Sign - Mesa, AZ The Ham Bone Bar and Grill sign is next door to Pat’s Bicycle Shop.  It is a combination of neon and the more common lighted panel so it strays a bit from the “vintage” concept of the other signs in this post.  But it is representative of a business that is trying to maintain the look and feel of the area with a classic style sign.

Sally's Fabrics Neon Sign, Mesa, AZThe Sally’s Fabrics sign is not what you would expect for a fabric store.  It is rather large and of course neon and has been described as a “Vegas style sign.”  Although it might be a bit subdued for Vegas.  I was not able to find anything on its history, but the store itself has been around for quite some time.  So even if the sign is not technically vintage, I give Sally’s Fabrics props for maintaining the look and feel of its Main St. neighbors.

Bill Johnson's Big Apple Steak House Neon Sign PhotoBill Johnson’s Big Apple Steakhouse has been part of the Phoenix area for about 45 years.  The signage on Main St. just west of Stapley in Mesa doesn’t seem to date back quite that far, but the steakhouse has gone with the neon theme of Main St.  The steer in the middle is more contemporary in its design, but you still get the overall effect.  The “Let’s Eat” sign at the left is not the restaurant’s main sign, but as I was photographing from across the street in the Sally’s Fabrics parking lot I was not able to get a  good shot of the main sign.  You win some, you lose some.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the classic signs posts in the Phoenix area which will have more from Main St. in Mesa.

2 Responses to “The Best Signs to Photograph in Phoenix, AZ – Part II”

  1. Coco

    on March 14 2011

    To comment on the Sally’s Fabrics sign. It isn’t a standard sign for a fabric shop because for many years prior to Sally’s, it was a country/western restaurant called “Marshall’s”. (:

  2. Mike

    on March 14 2011

    Thanks Coco! That explains the sheriffs star at the top. I appreciate you filling in the details.

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