I love New York City.
To those who don’t live here, it just can’t be described. It’s a giant web of lights, colors, sounds, smells (yes some nasty ones, especially in the summer on the 7 train), people, places and things. It’s a living, breathing, growing entity which can never be duplicated or matched. I’ve been other places, and most are “lets go to this district and see something” but all of the big apple is something to see. You can find as many interesting things on the south shore of Staten Island than in the middle of 42nd street. All you need to do is look.
I always find it a shame how many New Yorkers don’t look. They hustle along to and fro and never stop to admire the city around them. The faces they past, the colors in the sky, the smells in the air. (I’ve found some incredible pizza joints following my nose.)
But it’s my responsibility to be the one who does look, isn’t it? It’s my eye – and my lens – that’s supposed to be catching those sights, and even though I can’t bring the scent of the freshly cooked slice to you, but I can make it look so damn good you’re dying for a bite.
I’m not the only one, thankfully, and I’m in no way one of the best. Take James Maher for example. The miles he strolls around this city, camera in hand, would probably put him to the moon and back. He captures street life at its best, and most honest. He blooged the other day about setting a tripod on a street corner and what walked by and now I find it a thought that won’t get out of my head. Wouldn’t that be something? Just set up and see who stops. In this city, the cross section of life you’d capture would be amazing. Might be something I have to try. Stop by his blog, if you’re from the city you’ll see things that feel like home, and if you’re not… well, this is New York City… enjoy.
Here are some of my favorite NYC shots. I don’t many of the faces and people that make up the city, I guess I’ve been concentrating on other sights for now. Maybe I should grab that tripod. Anyway … enjoy.
A year ago, I blogged.
I remember feeling that day, as I wrote, the desire to hone my HDR skills, and to grow as an artist, so I thought I’d look back and see what the year has brought.
I’ve spent quite a few hours studying the work of the great masters Jason St. Peter, Lincoln Palmer, EasyPix, the genius Andy Hornby and the HDR magician Louis Trocciola. I’ve made notes of their techniques, the way they frame their shots, and their subject matter. I’ve exchanged emails with them, chatted, and picked their brains on the subject. I’ve learned little bits from all of them and added them into my skills. I bought what I consider to be the best HDR program on the market, Dynamic HDR by Mediachance, which in my opinion blows Photomatix out of the water. Coupled with Lightroom (which is the rock that my photography software is built on) and Photoshop, I’ve created a strong arsenal of HDR tools. My Nikon D90, which ironically, I prefer without the bracketing feature, delivers the images I take with unmatched clarity and color.
But there’s still something needed for a perfect HDR shot. I wish I could tell you what it is, but part of me feels that I’m still searching for it. Sure, I see it occasionally. The way a tree looks next to the path in the snow, or the way another path disappears into the autumn trees. A ship sitting in a river, docked along side a pier, my kids playing in the church steps or Rob delivering a power chord as he jams along with The Midnite All-Stars. I can’t even describe what it is a see, but as occasionally, when I look through my lens, I see the world in layers of light and color.
It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I make some pretty crappy HDRs, and those never see the light of day, my ratio is getting better and better.
That’s what I’ve done in the past year, lets see what happens in the next one…
Here are some of my favorite HDRs from the past 365 days…
… and that will probably be the funniest thing I write all day.
See, St John’s cemetery is anything but new, and it’s definitely not new to me in any way, shape or form. My Great-Grandfather, Otto, was a night watchman there. When Otto, his wife Marie, and my grandparents, passed on, they were all buried there. The first school I attended was across the street from it and for the better part of 8 years I spent more time staring at it through the windows than I did the blackboard. The church I grew up was attached to the school and it was the first thing you’d see walking out of the doors on a Sunday morning. My parents bought a house, and raised a family, on a street that ended looking at it. I spent four years of high school standing at a bus stop right in front of the same cemetery.
And yet… I guess I never really saw it until today.
I took my camera and left my wonderful new apartment, all finished and clean and warm, and headed out the door in search of something. I haven’t used my camera for much more than simply documenting my construction for the past month, and I was itching to find something out there. My feet turned towards St Johns and I thought a cemetery would be good way to get back into the swing of things, even if it was just boring old St John’s.
I thought of Otto as I walked along the paths. I wondered what he saw when he was there. I wondered if he ever got the chance the see the long shadows cast on the ground that I was seeing. Did he find the same tiny hints that spring is rapidly on it’s way that I did? Did smell the cool “still a lion” March air?
All this things I found, and this boring old cemetery provided me with some shots I am happy with. Whats old is new again and all that…
Strolled around Williamsburg today. I dunno, maybe it was that I stayed up to the wee hours last night reading the blog of the HDR master Louis Trocciola but I just kept seeing all the great color and detail around me.
Now I’m in no way trying to copy his work, even if I tried I couldn’t get close. Visit his blog, and look at his images and let me know when you jaw finally closes. I’ve also been learning a lot at my favorite photo stomping ground Your Photo Forum from the HDR masters there, Jake Easley and Lincoln Palmer. Their stuff will blow you away. They’re both great guys too, and I’ve gotten lots of help and advice from them.
For now anyway, I’m still trying to find my way in this art form. Not every image will work as an HDR, and if nothing else, I’m getting better at taking a photo and making a mental note to run it through Photomatix when I get home.
Here’s what I saw today…
What is it about the places we’re not supposed to go? What is that thing that resides in all of us – no matter how good and well behaved we are – that pushes us across the line, under a hole in chain link fence, or inside a door that’s usually locked? Ok, it doesn’t hold true in such an extreme for all of us, but it’s human nature to do what we are told not to.
So immediately I was curious as I walked through Forest Park last week and saw two police officers stop by the side of the park path, get out of their car and enter the woods. They walked down hill and disappeared from view. The natural voyeur in me kept me there waiting for them return and was disappointed when they came back empty handed. They drove off, and I just had to know what they were looking for. As soon as they were out of site, I followed the path.
My sense of adventure was overcome by my stronger sense of self-preservation as I descended lower down the embankment of an abandoned railroad crossing. A overpass carried the park road over the tracks. The tracks themselves almost seemed to stop a few feet on either side of the overpass, they actually continued, probably for quite some miles, but the woods had eaten them and they were now lost on the forest floor. I stopped and looked around, deciding it was unwise to continue any lower. The cops had been looking for something, or someone down here, and come up empty handed. I certainly did not want to be the one who found it, especially with all my camera gear. I decided to return again, with a friend, so someone could watch my back.
A week later, I was back, this time with my friend behind me. We descended down the hill and under the underpass. This was clearly a place for the despondent – the addicts, the homeless, those with no where else to go. Today however, it was empty except for the two of us. We walked around and I shot the graffiti strewn walls. We carefully walked along, stepping on the dozens of empty plastic baggies once probably filled with heroin or something other reality escaping drug.
I realized as we explored that the police were obviously checking to make sure that no one was down here, either shooting up or setting up a home. We both quickly decided that this was probably not the best place to spend a fall afternoon – a warm bar with a cold beer would be a better place for us.
We climbed back up to the park road and left the world under the underpass behind us.
I’ll voice a pretty unpopular opinion of mine.
God/Yahweh/Buddha/Allah/Whatever does some pretty fucked up shit. I’d love to sit down over a few beers with him/her and discuss autism, SIDs, and a whole host of birth defects. Later on, after shots of Jack Daniels we’ll discuss rapes, molestations, hurricanes, mudslides and finally 9/11.
But even if my Dad and I disagree on the first paragraph, we do agree on what he kept repeating today… “I hope they have fall in heaven.”
Autumn is when they days slowly grow shorter, the wind gets a distinctive bite to it and the trees shake away their boring green overcoats to show off an brilliant display of colors that would put any big box of crayolas to shame.
Yes, we have trees in NYC, and yes they even have leaves, and fall in NYC is an event no one should miss. Of course, taking a drive an hour north through Harriman State park is an even better way to experience the majesty of this season.
IMHO who ever is behind the scenes, pulling the strings is getting alot of things wrong… but Fall is definitely something that’s right.
I still scratch my head when people say my photos are good. Ok, yes, I’ll admit even I think some of them are, but I think it’s tough for me to accept the fact that something that brings me such peace and joy is also something that could touch others.
This doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling I get when I get positive remarks on my work by other photographers. I’m the past few months I’ve begun to follow work of photographers that I basically idolize. I get advice and pointers from brilliant minds like Chiller, Lincoln Palmer, Sue Henry and of course the amazingly talented Jon Mikal who have become a real a “photographic family” to me at YourPhotoForum.com.
Each month at YPF there is a Photo Of The Month Contest. The really unique aspect of this contest is there is nothing submitted for it. Instead any member of YPF can nominate another member’s work for the contest.
The first time I was nominated I was blow away. I didn’t win… hell, I didn’t even vote for that photo! The winner that month was well deserved but then the next month, I was nominated again and this time I won! I still don’t think I’ve gotten over the shock of that!
Well last month I was nominated again and I was ecstatic. Then… another photo was nominated. Then… another!!! When voting began last week I had 3 entries in the contest and I’m proud to say I won. (LOL.. had good odds, right?)
and the winner…
So if you’re a photographer, and you’re looking for a great forum with some real supportive and encouraging people – not to mention the most amazing collection of talent I’ve ever seen, stop over at YourPhotoForum.com. Hope to see you there!
Of course we had to stop at the JFK Museum at the old Texas Book Depository and walk through Dealey Plaza & up over the Grassy Knoll. I didn’t even find it odd the Dallas had never been there before despite living in the area her whole life, I mean I’ve never even been to the Statue of Liberty myself.
The museum itself was nothing more than a maze of billboards of photos and quotes outlining John F Kennedy’s rise to the presidency, snippets of speeches, and framed photographs of him handling the Cuban Missile crisis, being at the White House with his family, and just generally being the handsome young vibrant president that I learned about in school.
The years progressed through the displays until finally it centered around the trip to Dallas. The photos of him landing at Love Field were neatly placed underneath a quote by Nellie Connally, wife of the Texas Governor, ”You can’t say the people of Dallas don’t love you!”. Dallas and I read that and she tightly gripped my arm.
Well apparently one of them didn’t. Or a few of them. Or whatever. I really don’t want to go drifting into the netherworld of conspiracies and who did what to whom or how or why. I drifted away from Dallas as she looked at the frame by frame display of the Zapruder film. I found myself being drawn closer to the corner of the builder. Against the very edge of the building, behind a large plexiglass floor to ceiling divider, were stacks of boxes, the same kind of boxes, and in the same arrangement as they were that day.
This is where they say he shot from.
The mood of the museum changed for me after seeing that. It became a bit less whimsical and a tad more somber. Minutes earlier Dallas and I joked around on the elevator upstairs and she jokingly mocked me for not wearing my headphones which would guide me through the exhibits, but now all we talked about was that day. Our moods had grown less whimsical and more somber as well. I gazed out the window, down to the streets below, a similar view that the assassin had that day. Glancing at the photos on the walls I noticed how little had changed, although being a thoroughfare, there really wasn’t much to change.
I realized Dallas had moved on, and I found her in an area of exhibits profiling the aftermath. A small TV in the column played Walter Cronkite breaking the news over and over. I thought about how difficult it must have been to get the words “We are being told now, the president is dead.” out to the rest of the nation. We silently moved past photos of the world at morning. I paused at a the photo of John Jr saluting his father’s coffin and remember my father once telling me that image always moved him. The power of photography.
The photos of sadness were replaced with ones of anger as we moved on to another display, this one of Oswald under arrest, being questioned and finally being killed himself. Dallas broke the silence, which I didn’t even realize we had held since looking out the windows by telling me the detective there was once her landlord, but couldn’t remember his name. (hey, was it Leavelle?) We moved from there into displays of the Warren commission and the hearings that followed.
A short time later we were down on the street, entering Dealey Plaza itself. As we walked along, we noticed someone had painted “x”s in the street, making the two places where bullets struck President Kennedy. Dallas I were shocked yet amused that someone would need to be so macabre as to pinpoint these exact spots. It seemed every tourist there wanted to take their photo on these “x”s, dodging into the street as soon as there was a break in traffic.
We continued up, along to the Grassy Knoll, which has been taken over by a steady troop of conspiracy theorists. Unimpressed, we walked back down to the street and back towards the book depository / parking lot. I saw a break in traffic, stepped out into the street to the “X” that was painted there, raised my camera and took a shot.
For a moment, time seemed to stop around me. I looked down and noticed my foot was on the “x”.
This was the spot.
This is where it happened.
This is where the bullet pieced his brain.
This is where the President was killed.
This is where a man, a husband, a father, lost his life.
This is where that handsome, young, vibrant hope for the future took his last breath.
The traffic resumed and I scurried to the curb, yet a bit of chill was still inside me. Dallas took my hand, not even sensing that was exactly what I needed at that moment and suggested we walk around a bit “to look for these cows.” I agreed, mostly wanting more than anything to shake the chill from my bones, and the oppressive heat of the Texas sun soon did the trick. Soon we were laughing again. The chill was gone. That moment 45 years ago slipped quietly back into the past.
Not just pizza, but Pizza. The best pizza in NYC, John’s of Bleeker street. At the corner of 6th Ave and Bleeker street there is on the cities many vest-pocket parks, a small triangle with a beautiful fountain in the center, Father Demo Park.
On this beautiful late Saturday afternoon, the kind of summer days the city was made for, there was piano player in the park. A young red headed man, who played a baby grand piano on dollies. Even though I couldn’t wrap my head around him dragging his instrument of choice through the city streets, I even made a joke about him living in Brooklyn, we enjoyed his music. I took his photo a few times, but the angle and the damn light pole behind him was working against me.
So my eye began to wonder, as it always does. There are so many sites to absorb, for my lens to set upon. The girl reading her book in front of the fountain or the guy next to her, oddly enough listening to his IPOD. There were a few tourists, more locals. Some lilies were striving in the summer heat. The traffic and the world rushed by. The sun was beginning to sink. Across Bleeker from the park stood Lady Of Pompeii church. Its magnificent multi arched steeple and simple cross set against the sky.
I raised my camera and shot.
I posted the photo the next morning and was pretty much stunned by the reaction to it. Within 24 hrs it was my second most commented on, and my third most favorited image.
It’s one I’m happy with too.