February 13, 2107
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For this month at the Phoenix Camera Club, the theme was neon lights. Neon lights are fast disappearing icons of Americana roadside attractions. I traveled to Mesa, Arizona, which is in the Phoneix metro area in search of neon signs. My destination was the Starlite Motel with the diving lady. This is a famous animated sign, but you will not know that from my 3 second exposures so that I got all of the sequences at once. This sign was blown down in a severe wind storm a few years ago, but was reconstructed. I found several other neon signs on Main Street Mesa at the Deserama Mobile Park and the Hiway Host Motel. There are also a couple of older photos from the famous Flamingo Casino and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.
As a chemist, I feel that I have to inform you how neon lights work. Neon is a rare gas element discovered in the atmosphere in 1898 by Ramsay and Trevars. They explored the properties of neon using electric discharge glass tubes which emitted a brillant crimson color charteristic of neon as excited electrons in higher orbitals dropped back to a lower orbital. Larger quantities of neon are produced during the liquification of the gases mostly oxygen and nitrogen in air. By 1910, Georges Claude, a Frenchman and owner of a air liquefaction plant, invented neon glass tube lighting which is essentially a variation of the electic discharge tubes. The glass tubes can be bent into a variety of shapes and coated with other elements to give up to 100 different colors.