Grasp The Moment Photography

Posts tagged “urban

O.M.F.

Even hard rockers have to look good right? Well the guys in O.M.F. thought so. If you’re not in the loop, O.M.F. or Ol Mofo’s is the Brooklyn based hard rock trio made up of Hank Dunne, Danny Lugo and Joe Cos. These guys have been rocking for years in different projects and now that they’ve finally come together, the result is nothing short of explosive. Danny is a master of the bottom end and keeps the groove moving as Joe lays down the beat. Hank’s guitar roars through it all. They crank out some great original tunes written by Hank & Joe.

I met them at their weekly rehearsal at Dragonheart Studios in Greenpoint. The place was quite a location. Inside an old warehouse complex, the place was full of amazing locations where I could spend hours shooting. The textures of the cobblestones, terraces, stairways and old exposed brick was a rock photographer’s dream come true. The guys and I ran through a few shots before they got down to the business at hand and began rehearsing their latest tunes. They’re working on an album, and getting ready to storm out of the rehearsal room and onto a stage near you.

Check them out on their reverb nation page … here


Creature Of The Night

Ray Wylie Hubbard sang “there are two kinds of people in world, the day people and the night people.”

I guess I’ve always considered myself a night person, especially after taking a job on the overnight shift. Some people don’t like the night, perhaps they’re afraid of the dark. I’ve always seemed to revel in it. The stars come out and the moon bathes everything in a musical light. Beautiful music is made on dark stages, and fireworks would be powerless at high noon. And honestly, there’s noting to be afraid of.

Danny’s a night person too. He’s one of those people who seem to made for the dark, so much so I don’t know if I’ve actually seen him during the day. Before you start conjuring visions of Danny with ashen skin and fangs, let me just explain that Danny’s a musician. Most of the times I’ve seen him he’s been throwing down the groove with his monster bass lines or wielding a solid guitar. He’s the founder of Loudhouse Radio, a show dedicated to bringing the music of the undiscovered to the people. He also works the graveyard shift, and we usually chat on-line through the night. More important than that, Danny’s a hell of a guy. Danny’s one of those rare individuals in life that would give you his shirt off his back even if he was butt ass naked. Proving that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, Danny’s not only a Boy Scout leader, but a strong believer in God and a dedicated family man.

So when Danny called me looking to get some photos to help advance his music career, I didn’t hesitate to help, and I suggested we do it at night. I scouted out a few places and a found a spot which had almost as much character as Danny did. Lighting the site was a challenge, but I’ve been researching a lot, and I was able to accomplish most of what I wanted to pull of.

Danny’s happy with the results, which is the main goal. Especially since he spends so much time helping others, its good to give back.

All the shots of Danny can be seen here… on my site

I’ve got some people to thank for their invaluable help with this shoot. Of course we choose the hottest night of the year to do this, so standing in a back alley at 90+ degree heat wasn’t easy on any of us, but as usual, there was Kim as my beautiful assistant. She’s getting good at it … even starting to know what “Hey, I need the thing for the thing.” means. Of course Danny for being so co-operative even though he was sweating out buckets. Then there was Eugene who kept a watchful eye over us as we did what we did on a pretty mean and desolate street. Finally I gotta give credit to Melissa Jill Hester at Melissa Jill Photography. I found her blog in the hopes and getting some inspiration and ideas on wedding and event photography and was surprised to find a whole series she wrote on how to use off camera speedlights. For me it was a lot of “Ah-ha!” moments which I definitely was tapping into through the night.


Drops

…and the oppressive heat wave that is strangling the city continues for another day.

The only good thing about weather like this are the afternoon end of the world thunder storms we get. The sky gets this greyish black color, the wind starts to blow hard, and the temperature drops briefly.

And then boom. Fat drops fall from sky. Thunder booms through the air and the entire world lights up with a crash of lighting. The drops fall faster and faster until everything is covered in a solid curtain of rain. Some people run for cover, others dance in storm. In minutes though, it’s gone. The storm clouds move on, and the heat returns. The puddles that were formed only a little while ago on the concrete dry up and disappear. The trees and plants do all they can to hold the precious water they just harvested. Tiny drops sit on their leaves and petals. To a flower, it’s a matter of survival, this tiny drop of water provides what it needs to make food, to grow, and to make it until there’s another summer downpour.


Summer In The City

Outside it’s so hot, the sidewalks are melting into a puddle of goo. I’m sitting protected from the disgusting inside my apartment, breathing in recycled air-conditioned air, listening to the hum of the machine in the window that’s keeping things bearable.

This is what summer in NYC is like. We have miles of shore line where we can play in the spray of the ocean waves and substitute a breeze coming off the water for the AC for awhile, but getting to them are the hard part. The roads are choked with traffic, and are twice as hot. Once there, good luck finding a small sliver of real estate in the mass of humanity there.

So yesterday as the thermometer began to explode, we tried to seek relief in whatever form we could – namely a handful of water balloons and a few buckets of water. It didn’t last too long, but it was a delightful escape for a little while.

Stay cool everyone.

PS … Don’t forget to vote for me in the 2011 PDN One Life Photo Competition!!


Makes Phone Calls Too

I love my Iphone.

I find the world is divided these days into two groups. Those who have smartphones and can’t live without them and those who don’t understand why we have them in the first place. I’m obviously in the first category.

I used to love my Driod, but it locked up all the time, would never receive calls properly and sucked battery life. So when I noticed I had a free upgrade at the exact time Verizon was coming out with the IPhone… well the rest is history.

Now I can do all the funky stuff that smartphone users can do. (No, I’m not blogging from my phone.) I can Google absolutely anything at the drop of a hat, like why barns are red. I watch myself cross the street on a map in real time. I can instantly locate coffee shops when we wake up in a motel room in strange cities – this alone makes it the most invaluable tool since the wheel.

But this isn’t a geek-blog, so let me get to the point. The damn thing has a camera too. A 5 megapixel camera actually, which when coupled with Retina display makes images pop. The display is so good that I’ve loaded some of the images off the site to my phone to show clients. The camera is fast and crystal clear. It’s great for those times I don’t have my DSLRs handy.

But the really cool thing is the Hipstamatic app, which arms the built in camera with a dozen different vintage films, lenses, and flashes. It’s the definition of cool. I play with it a lot, especially when I’m at my “real job” and my cameras are at home. It’s also great when I don’t have the time or the luxury of using my DSLR, like standing in line at Ferrara’s Bakery or when I find a random Dylan quote scrawled on the wall of bathroom.

And the damn thing makes phone calls too!


New Gear At The Catfight Boutique

Yesterday was Christmas all over again.

Except I was my own personal Santa and no one came down my chimney. I did, however, walk away with some pretty sweet ass presents.

To help my growing business, I made a serious gear investment, and walked away with the new Nikon D7000, a new Nikon SB900 flash and an amazing Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens.

What do all these numbers and jargon mean to non-photographers? Umm.. I got some really awesome shit!

Yesterday there was a lot of personal stuff going on with the kiddies, so even though I physically picked up my new gear yesterday, I wasn’t able to play – I mean learn how to use it. And learn is an accurate description because the D7000 has more controls than the space shuttle, and I feel I need a PHD to master them all. The lens… that’s gonna take a heck of a lot to get used to…

So this morning, I woke bright eyed and busy tailed, my mind racing of all the places I could go and start my training. I sat there, sipping my coffee, creating a mental itinerary of all the places and things I could see, and didn’t really even hear what Kim said to me.
“What?” I asked, “You want to go to a flea market?” I said with doubt and disbelief until I remembered that yes, we were planing on heading to see our good friend Noel at her new shop “Catfight Boutique”. So, I took the new toys along and as the girls chatted, I snapped away. Nothing special, but a learning process, part of the ultimate goal of me becoming better and better.

Oh … and if you’re ever in Queens, definitely stop by Catfight Boutique, Noel’s actually got some really cool stuff.


Home Sweet Home

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.

Lots more of my Big Apple shots can be seen on my web site … here..


Sunday

Just another Sunday in New York City. Unseasonably hot, yet Kim and I ventured into Manhattan for a stroll, and of course a stop at our favorite bar on planet earth.

We wandered through a street fair in SoHo, taking in the sights, sounds and all that is Manhattan.

I got to play with my new toy, the MB-D80 Battery Grip which is why I realized all my shots are portrait. I spent the afternoon playing with the new shutter button.

Nothing special, but that’s what makes Sundays like this so special. Being in the place you love with the person you love doing what you love…. and a cold a beer.

Fruit

Tassels

Glasses

NYC Fire Escape

Cold Beer On A Hot Day


The Tree Outside My Window

I find it most ironic.

After a year, almost exactly, of living off Uncle Sam and getting my weekly unemployment check, I’m back at work. As if that wasn’t good enough, I’m back doing what I did in the past, and I didn’t have to settle for a minimum wage monkey job. I work for a company that’s been around so long, I don’t really worry about it going under. They’ve given me a laptop, a cubicle, a blackberry, and a paycheck every week. Best of all, they like me, and so far they keep wanting me to come back the next day.

I work in the three data centers the company owns, two existing ones, and one that we’re bringing online soon. Its that new facility that I’ve been going to every morning. Its a beautiful facility, and very secure, and that’s where the irony comes in. Every door where I swipe my ID card past the reader and then lay my finger on the scanner to verify my identity before gaining access has a list of rules on it. Rule number one is always the same. “No photography in the data center.”

Ironic, right?

We’ve been breaking that rule, however, but it’s not what you think. Since the guys in suits aren’t gonna come by to see whats going on, I took my mom’s old point and shoot to work and I’ve been documenting our progress. I uploaded the photos on Friday into the company library and actually got an “ata boy” for them. Again, ironic.

My D90 has been in its home above my PC unused on a daily basis since I started. I get up in the morning, suckle on the sweet teet of the coffee maker, check my daily round of blogs and sites, and get ready for work.

And all this time, that tree outside my window watches me. It’s beautiful. A brilliant burst of color, and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that my parents bought this house because of the autumnal grandeur of that tree. Yet, all I’ve done was glance at it as I walked through the kitchen to the coffee pot and back. I mean I had to go to work, I’m a data center technician, and we don’t have time for trees, I mean we don’t even have time for photos at work.

Then it dawned on me that I wasn’t at work yet.

But then again, does what you make who you are or does who you are make what you do?

I grabbed my camera, and ran downstairs, passing my dad reading the NY Times who didn’t even blink that I was in my PJs and heading in the back yard. I was only out there for a few minutes until the cold got to me, but in that time I remembered something that I had forgotten.

Yeah, I’ve got a job, but I’m also a photographer.

The Tree Outside My Window

Fallen Leaves On The Floor

Fallen In The Flowers

Leaf

Autumnal Grandeur

Leaves In The Water


… grows in Brooklyn

With the strong summer sun sneaking away into autumn, I grabbed Time Out magazine and flippd through it looking for something to do. As if the editors were aware of the situation, I found an article “Things To Do Before Summer Ends”. There on the list was a place I had heard about, but never been to, The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I grabbed Jenn McGowan, who grabbed her daughter & friend and off we went deep into the bowels of Brooklyn.

Ok, “deep in the bowels” isn’t that accurate, but it was in Brooklyn, nestled on the side of Prospect Park. It was the first trip there for all of us, and I was amazed how I had never been to this beautiful spot in my city. Jenn and I walked around clicking away as the girls tried to find the prettiest flower for her to shoot, and the ugliest for me. (Kept them busy, didn’t it?)

We wandered the manicured gardens, which were blooming in some spots, past bloom in others. We watched the turtles in the Japaneses pond bask in the sun, and would chuckle at the rare siren or car horn in the distance. For awhile we felt we were as far from downtown Brooklyn as one could get, strolling along in a floral paradise.

The lily pads in the reflecting pools were brimming with dragonflys which danced from flower to flower. The girls raided the gift shops, and even I got a “starving artist” pin. We walked through the greenhouses, each dedicated to “dessert”, “rainforest” and “temperate”.

I’ve commented in the past that I often view taking of flowers are boring, and my mind hasn’t changed. However, no one could ever deny the absolute beauty of a delicate flower. No one could ever not be amazed at the unique detail that gets poured by mother earth into every single petal on every single flower that blooms.

We left the gardens amazed at the beauty we had just witnessed, and I was happy I found another treasure of New York City.

Pond

Garden

Purple Lilly Pad Flower

Purple and Green

Black Eyed Susans

Dragonfly

Water Lilly Bud

Crown Of Thorms

Rose


Discarded

I wonder what a road feels like.

A road is the thing that takes us from point A to point B and back again. It speeds by under the tires of our big fuel guzzling SUVs without even a glimmer of appreciation. Sure, perhaps we’ll glance out the windows at the trees whizzing by, ooh and ahh at the houses and scenic views, but mostly they go unnoticed.

Today I left the house with a new word in my pocket. Its a word that should have been so simple that I could have completed it by the time I reached the corner, but something wasn’t there today, I couldn’t see anything through my lens, no matter how far I walked, especially when it came to seeing that word. I walked farther along until I came to a pretty busy road that runs through a park, one of the biggest roads in Queens. It gets pretty wooded, the two lane black top snaking through a forest which most of the area would look like if not for the work of man.

The word I had come to look for had already slipped so far from my mind that I could barely even remember it. I carried my camera in my hand listening to the whizzing cars rush past me. In between them, the silence of the woods returned only to be shattered within seconds by another passing car. As I walked, I became aware of the road. My eyes drifted along and I began to notice not only the road, and as I said, how ignored and unloved it was, but even worse what was left along side of it. Trash littered the curb, things tossed out a car window, discarded by the owner.

We live in a society being eaten alive by our own garbage. I don’t want to interject my own feelings on global warming or how we’re beating our planet to a horrid death, so I’ll just leave it as saying I was appalled by the litter around me.

I looked at all the trash around me, I looked at it through the lens of my camera, and when I was done, I did something I never do when shooting, I destroyed what I found. Using a plastic bag I found at my feet, I cleaned it up. I picked up the trash laying along the road, stuck it in the bag, and threw it all in the garbage can supplied by the nice people who run the park

My life is in a bad place right now, I have little control of my fate, I’m desperately looking for break, praying for a way to get back on my feat, with very little that I can actually take control of. But this… this I was able to fix… so I did.

Yes, I know it will be back tomorrow, and no I wasn’t able to get all of it, but the bits that I did not only made me feel good, but made that stretch of road that much nicer to look at … if someone else would ever decide to slow down and appreciate it.

Oh … and I left the toilet… it was too big to carry.

Trash 001

Trash 002

Trash 003

Trash 004

Trash 005

Trash 006

Trash 007

Trash 008

Trash 009


You’re As Mighty As The Flower That Will Grow The Stones Away

Spring is our yearly second chance.

We die through the winter, everything becomes cold and bleak, and even a fresh white blanket of snow eventually turns to a ugly gray eyesore piled up on the curbs of New York City. The wind chills you through to the bones, and I at least, make my way through the streets muttering “There is no reason for weather like this…” and usually a profanity or two.

But soon, the winds die down, the sun peaks from behind the clouds a little longer each day, and you’re not so pissed that you forgot your gloves at home. Winter has left us, and spring has arrived.

Every year around this time I watch the ground. Yes, contrary to what some people think, there are actually patches of ground here in New York City. I’ve always had a piece of it right outside my back door, well, my parent’s back door. Its a small section of property that we here in Queens call “The Yard”. My parents have always taken pride in their yard, it’s a mix of a quiet place to eat BBQ – or actually any meal cooked in this household between June and September when it’s not raining – and a small slice of nature that my parents tend to, consisting of a few flowers, some tomatoes plants and lots of ivy. There’s also a cherry tree that my brother Mike somehow picked up, I don’t remember the story, and remnants of the old magnolia tree that I spent countless hours playing on in my youth.

In my mind, it’s the most beautiful yard in the world.

It’s also the yard that I’ve watched the winters of my life fade away, and the springs sneak in before the summer heat.

What a perfect place to go with my new camera, right? Only one catch, of course, I hate taking pictures of flowers.

I told this once to someone I love once. They bore me, I said, not moving, giving you all the time in the world to frame it, switch lenses, get closer, work on that really nice shot. She said to me, that I should look at it as a thing all photographers need to do, and every really good shot of a flower as one step closer to never having to take a photo of a flower again.

So hopefully these will get me closer to that goal. And if not, I’m not too worried, because no matter how hot the summer gets, and how cold and nasty the winter winds blow, I know all I have to do is wait for spring to return home, and I’ll get another chance.

Spring Rain

Spring Blooms

Spring Approaches

The First Tulip

Yellow Tulips

Pink Tulips


Desperate Desolation

I’ve always wanted to crawl through an abandoned building. I’ve secretly wished I lived near old run down farmhouses, I’ve dreamed of the photos I could take there.

For personal reasons, I’d rather not say anything about where these are from, it’s still too painful.

My father just sang Monty Python’s “Keep On Looking On The Bright Side Of Life” to me, so I think I’m gonna try that for awhile, he usually isn’t wrong about these things.

Desperate Desolation

Window

Window Lock

Light Bulb

Doorway

Volume

Broken Window


The Underpass

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.

Disappearing Tracks

Painted Rail

Spray Paint

Painted Pillar

The Underpass


Colors In The Cold

It would ultimately turn out to be the coldest day of 2008 and the year had barley just begun. I didn’t have work, though I didn’t bother telling anyone that, so I decided to drive around and enjoy the quiet for a bit, and of course, see if I could find some photos.

I drove through parts of Queens, into Brooklyn, not really sure where I was headed. I eventually wound up in Greenpoint, and drove up and down street after street looking around. It was afternoon, the sun was low in the sky and like I said, it was freezing outside, only complete morons would be out in the fresh air.

So of course I parked my car and walked into the East River State Park on Kent Street. Surprisingly, I found some other people there. A bunch of teenage boys did tricks with their skate boards and looked at me with a sort of disdain that I had somehow violated their sanctuary. I traveled past them to the short of the East River.

Across the river the city was engrossed in the afternoon rush, millions of people thrust themselves into subways and buses to get back into the safety and warmth of their homes. But here in the park, the waves of the river just washed slowly against the shore. Seagulls found their dinners in the rocks and remains of the pier. A perfect example of the peace and tranquility that could be found inside the noisiest and vigorous city on the planet.

I sat and enjoyed it for a while, until, despite the fact I was bundled from head to toe, the cold began to creep into my bones and I needed to move to get warm again. I took some shots of the shore, the birds, the waves. The sun sank lower and lit the skyline of Manhattan in a brilliant light. A walked a little further and notice the reminisce of an old pier jutting into the water, and old forgotten relic of days gone past which some one had decided to “redecorate”.

Graffiti Skyline

After I photographed it and moved on I had noticed more and more of the graffiti, especially once I left the park, walking past the skateboarders who seemed thankful for my exit. Some of it was colorful, some of it was plain. Some was artistic, others was just downright offensive. I turned and walked down a deserted street. Along one side of the street ran an abandoned factory, it’s floor after floor of broken windows . This too was embellished by a street artist.

Doorway In Brooklyn

I continued down the street which dead ended at the river. At one time it looked as if a pier had run out from the street into the water, but now only a few beams remained. It had become now a jumbled, tangled mess of garbage, twisted steel and old forgotten wooden beams. A fence had been put up to keep out trespassers, and of course it had a large hole in it, so I ventured in. BY now the sun had really begun to set, the cold had become even colder, and I was no longer feeling as brave as I did when I wasn’t on a deserted street in Brooklyn with night quickly approaching. I snapped one photo, before getting back to the safer side of the fence.

Sam's Peir

As I drove around the streets, night had fallen and the colors I had seen earlier had all melted into the yellowish hue of the city street lamps. I threw some Miles Davis into the CD player and drove into the night, eager to discover what I could find there.


Here Today…

Max Creek sings “Blink goes the eye… and a moment slips by…”

How true. We don’t even fully appreciate how lucky we are to see what we see at the exact second we are meant to see it. But I guess that’s the job of the photographer isn’t it? To drag the experience from fleeting into frozen in time.

Truth be told… despite skill… despite everything else… there’s a hell of a lot of luck involved. Sure you can be set up right where you wanna be, right where you know you’re gonna get that shot dreams are made of, but if you pissed off some supreme cosmic being that morning, you might not get squat.

Like I said, it’s the right place, but just as important is the right time. Case in point… “The Steps Down”.

This stair case and I have a history of sorts. It’s a few short blocks from where I was born and raised, however it’s in the part of the neighborhood I was told consider “shady”. It leads from the street above the sidewalk in the underpass below. Besides riding my bike past it when I was a kid, I’ve done a few things there I don’t want to pubicily comment on. It’s always been graffiti strewn, usually with broken bottles around it, but the new 24 hr gym that bought the building across the street from it seems keeping that down.

So after a pretty annoying Sunday evening, I carried my stuff to the staircase. I set up and took a few shots, hoping I had captured what I set out to.

Steps Down

I was pleased. Judging from the comments on Flickr I guess some other people were too.

But like I said, it’s the right place… and the right time.

I took this staircase today, trudging from my parents back to the tree house where I live. As I guess you can probably guess by now, the graffiti was gone. It was all completely painted over. No, I didn’t have my camera, and even if I did, I doubt I would have taken anything anyway. This moment for me is forever solidified in the colors and textures of the image above. I’m just thankful I was given the opportunity to see it when & how I did, and to present it to you.


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