The Fabulous Fox Theatre – Part 1

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to be part of a photography group that was allowed to photograph the interior of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.  If you’ve been to the Fox, you know what a great photographic opportunity this is.  If you haven’t, “Grandeur” (with a capital “G”) is the word that most comes to mind.

The Fox Theatre started it’s life in the 1920s as a Shriner’s temple.  It was designed to look like a mosque, with an indoor Arabian courtyard, a sky of flickering starts, drifting clouds, and canopies overhanging the balcony.

A shot of the second floor lobby of the Fox Theatre.

Throughout the years, it was an active movie house, in addition to hosting concerts and operas.  In the 1970s, however, the industry had declined and the Theatre was slated to be torn down to make way for the local telephone company’s headquarters.  Since the ornate theater had been such a part of people’s lives in Atlanta, a “Save the Fox” campaign was started, and they were successful in raising the funds to keep the Theatre alive.  In 1976, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and today it’s viewed as one of the premier venues in the country.  (If you’d like to read more about its history, please visit the Theatre’s website.)

Back in 2008, I’d had an opportunity to photograph the Fox as part of a photo outing hosted by Showcase School of Photography.  I learned at that time that it’s very, VERY difficult to get into the Fox to photograph it.  Showcase had been trying for years to get in.  The trip this past Sunday was the first one I’d heard of since the 2008 trip.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure to make the most of the opportunity.  It’s not always easy to find inspiration when the pressure is on, and the interior is very dark and difficult to photograph, so I was a bit disheartened by this shoot.  I left not feeling very confident that I’d taken many good shots, and that I’d done myself a disservice by not utilizing the four years of photography experience that I’ve gained since the last time I was there.  There were some obvious shots that I didn’t get, and some places that I simply missed checking out.

Tonight I started working on the photos, however, and I’m pleased to say I’m getting more out of the photos than I thought I would.  I’m about half way through, and while I’m still not sure they’re going to turn out as well as my photos from 2008, I’m pretty happy overall.

The Egyptian Ballroom in the Fox Theatre.

Want to know what two things made an absolute difference in being able to get decent shots?  A tripod, and shooting RAW.  Some of my exposures were well over 30 seconds, and even 1/30 of a second is risky without a tripod.  And even with such long exposures, without RAW files, I could never have gotten the details in the shadows without blowing out the highlights.

Anyway, I’m hoping to finish post processing this week and will probably post some more images.  In the meantime, you can check out what I have finished on my Flickr site.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I may have a chance to go back again this year.  If I do, I’m going to focus on those areas that I missed this time, and hopefully remember the lessons I learned from this experience.


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