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.
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…
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.