Anonymous in a big city…

legssq

I like the feeling of being anonymous in a big city. No one knows me so it is easier to remember who I am.

Roses are for Pretty Girls
Advertisements

Some favourite places in New York City…

In my previous post, I talked about and pictured a favourite building in New York — the Flatiron Building.

Here are a few other favourite places. On this trip, the rain prevented me from going to Central Park — the best park in the world in my opinion —  but I’ve made images there on at least two other occasions.

Union Square Park, which is down around 14th street, was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same two who designed Central Park. You can see the same design philosophy at work on a much smaller scale. I find it fascinating to read about  how they so consciously used trees and plants, paths, tunnels, bridges, berms and ledges, and water features to affect people’s experience of a park.

Grand Central Terminal is another place I’ve photographed before — but I keep going back there because there’s so many beautiful details to shoot and so many ways to shoot it. And this time I was there on Thanksgiving Day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, so it was bursting at the seams with people. It’s an incomparable place to people-watch. I could do it for hours. Actually, I think I have.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had some exceptional meals in New York — some mind-blowingly amazing meals in fact. The most unbelievable ever was at Eleven Madison Park, where we went to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday some years back. My sister and I thought such a milestone birthday was deserving of a special meal — and I’m sure it will be the only Michelin three-star restaurant I will ever eat at in my life, so I treasure the memory and the event it marked.

Another great meal was at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono on one of my last trips, which was so busy that we could only get a reservation at 10:00 pm. But so worth the wait. I didn’t eat there this year, but I did go back to take a picture of the place, which is in Gramercy Park, a favourite neighbourhood to walk around in.

Of course, I have many more favourite places, including the Metropolitan Opera — where this year I had the good fortune to see world-famous soprano Anna Netrebko perform in Manon Lescaut. Sadly, I did not get a good picture of that amazing place and experience. It will have to live on in my mind only.

couple-grand-central-bw

My friend, the Flatiron…

flatiron-2016bw

I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper — the Flatiron building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.

H.G. Wells

I’ve written about it before and I’ve shot it before. But there I was again. Drawn like a magnet to the Flatiron Building in New York City. It was a sunny day this time and the particular angle of the sun behind the building made it a challenge to capture.

I was a bit blinded by the light, actually. And I didn’t have a tripod or any filters either to help the situation technically. Still, I like how this image turned out. It captures a feeling I have for the building.

Like many innovative buildings, the Flatiron was not universally well received.  Architectural Record thought it was awkward, and criticized the large number of windows (the horror!). The New York Times called it a “monstrosity,” The New York Tribune describing it as a “stingy piece of pie,” the Municipal Journal & Public Works called it “New York’s latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers” and the Municipal Art Society went as far to say it was “unfit to be in the Center of the City.” But popular sentiment eventually won over the critics and now this is one of the most beloved buildings in the city.

I am by no means alone in my fascination with the Flatiron. This building has been the focus of esteemed photographers like Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen and it has been painted by Albert Gleizes, Paul Cornoyer and other American artists. It has appeared in the writings of O’Henry and scores of television shows and motion pictures.  Even before its completion in the early 1900s the Flatiron Building was one of the most recognizable and most reproduced architectural images in the United States.

It was so good to be back to hang out with the Flatiron, and I know this good friend will be waiting for me to enjoy on my next trip to New York.

 

 

Being taken by New York in black and white…

 

fire-escapes

Shawna Lemay wrote recently in her rich gift of a blog, Transactions with Beauty: “There is a point one reaches in one’s creative endeavors that … you find yourself covering familiar ground, repeating, circling back to familiar themes and concerns.”

I had just returned from New York City and I was going through my images. I definitely recognized myself in those words. Yes, that is me, for sure.

I’ve gone to New York City three times now since 2013 with more on my agenda than seeing the sights and experiencing some of the best music and art a city can offer. (Which I love to do, by the way.)

But I also strive to come back with images — not just snapshots — that encapsulate what thrills me about New York. And I do find myself considering the same subjects and themes over and over. (See my previous posts — I did a 7 part series in 2013.)

When I look at my gallery called New York City in Black and White, which contains images from more than one trip, I see that I am drawn to arches, windows, reflections, symmetrical and geometrical architectural shapes, buskers, young lovers, and silhouettes and shadows, just as a few examples. I am also fascinated by the contrasts between old and new and the built and natural environment.

(And whatever else I’m doing, I have to find time to shoot the Flatiron Building, my all-time favourite building. In a previous post, I talk about my obsession with it.)

But even as I tend to return to the same preoccupations with my photography, either consciously or unconsciously, I find that something has changed in the way I see. More and more I am struck by a “flash of perception” that hits me fast and furiously and it is a distinct frisson of excitement that compels me to turn my camera in a certain direction. Something I see feels fresh and new to me. Most of my very favourite images have come about this way.

I’ve noticed too that my memories associated with where I was and how I was feeling when I made these photos are much sharper and longer lasting than when I was merely documenting a scene, or even recording a nice memory. The image can bring me right back to the time it was taken with all the details intact.

I know that less and less I want my photography to be about looking at the world and saying to myself: Ah, that’s interesting or beautiful, I should take a picture of that.

It is the times when I am “taken by a picture” — even if I don’t quite know why — which always mean the most to me.

the-smooch-2016-edition

 

street-corner-shadows

Converge…

manhattan steel-for blog

 

Still on my New York City kick {smile} I’m joining today with The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Converge.”

Not only does this image convey “convergence” to me, but so does the experience of New York.

“To come together from different directions; to meet.” That is what happens here.

Different people with different habits, preferences, beliefs, attitudes, practices, backgrounds etc. etc. coming from very different places meet here in a huge, diverse city like New York; they rub up against each other, sometimes to positive effect, sometimes not, sadly.

Much as I like to surround myself with the cocoon of the comfortable, the easy and the familiar, I also like to voyage out to see what life is like in very different places. I like to be challenged by what I experience. Just as change can be energizing, so can confrontations with difference.

The truth is we all have to come together and get along somehow in this world. Being unable to identify with the lives and ways of those who are not like us can set us up to judge, objectify and ultimately hate and hurt those who we consider “the other.”

The vital need to stay open and strive to find common ground in our common humanity is one thing that New York City will always symbolize to me.

Other posts on New York City:

The City is Like Poetry

Central Park in Black and White and Colour

 

On the move in New York City…

 When I’m in New York, I just want to walk down the street and feel this thing, like I’m in a movie.
Ryan Adams
peopleon the move

Under Bethesda Terrace

One of the things I love most about New York is the energy and movement. Walking, cycling (if you’re insane), driving (if you’re insane), riding buses, subways, taxis and carriages — even sailing — people around you are always going somewhere. And if you only have a few days, you want to be going somewhere — everywhere — too!

Laid out on a grid system, New York is one of the easiest large cities in the world to get around in. We generally walk, and walk and then walk some more. But I’ve also figured out how to get to places like Brooklyn and the Cloisters way north near Harlem by subway and bus without too much trouble.

And here’s what happens when you stop for a moment to figure out where you are and where you’re going next — a New Yorker stops to ask if they can help you find something.

It happened twice this trip and it’s happened every single time I’ve travelled to New York previously —  all 11 or 12 trips!

I agree with Bill Murray:

My favorite thing about New York is the people, because I think they’re misunderstood. I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are.

This time a kind woman approached us in Central Park as we were finishing up our photography for the day. And a sweet male cyclist came up to us as we were stopped in Times Square looking at the Jumbotron.

Yes, New Yorkers are always moving, but some do take time to stop to help travellers.

 

Central Park in Black and White and in Colour

central park boaters copy

Last fall, I did a 7-part series in this blog featuring images of New York. It’s such a visually rich city and I had such a good time shooting it that I was thrilled to have the chance to make another trip this fall.

Last year I signed up for a photo safari called “Iconic New York.” It was a great fun to discover key spots in Midtown Manhattan with fellow photographers and get tips to improve my photo skills. You can read more about it here.

Me and my sister on the Bow Bridge. Photo by Rob, Photo Safari leader.

As I was going to be travelling with my sister Elena this time, who enjoys photography as much as I do, I suggested we sign up for another safari — this time in Central Park, a place we both love.

Ever since my very first trip to New York back in the early 80s, I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Central Park. I appreciate its enormity, its diversity, its intelligent and beautiful design and the way it is open and accessible to everyone.

Public green spaces are vital to liveable city life — and Central is one of the most exceptional examples in the world of how that works. New Yorkers love it — and so do visitors from all over the world.

Our group met at the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace and concentrated our first shots around that area. Leader Rob, a professional photographer, offered useful pointers and suggestions before and after we made our images. I particularly enjoyed discussing composition with him. He gave us demos and also gave us plenty of time to wander on our own.

There were four of us in the group, which turned out to be very congenial — two Canadians (my sister and I) and a man from Australia and a woman from New Zealand.

We then gathered under the arches and practised shooting in low light and high dynamic range situations.

After that we moseyed on to the Bow Bridge, which proved to be a great vantage point for shooting the boaters on the Lake and the Loeb Boathouse. The day had been forecast to be rainy, but we did not get one drop. It turned out to be gorgeous with lovely light.

Before we parted 2 1/2 hours later, we also spent some time in the famous tree-lined Mall.

Elena and I spent the rest of the day continuing to explore areas of the park we hadn’t been before (such as the Ramble) as well as returning to spend more time around the Bethesda Fountain.

This is where I made some of my favorite images — and happened to look up just at the right time to catch a young couple ready to kiss. It was a “decisive moment” as Cartier-Bresson would say.

The whole area was packed with people taking pictures and enjoying themselves and the excellent free entertainment. It was obviously a magnet for romantic wedding pictures as everywhere we went we saw brides and grooms posing together. To get my images with fewer people in them, I had to be patient and wait for just the right time.

The colours in stone and tile work under the Terrace are beautifully soft and subtle, which makes for lovely colour pictures, but the stone arches and interesting architecture and light also suits black and white photography perfectly.

So I did both.

It was a still a bit early in the season for the really vibrant fall foliage (not to self: go a bit later in the fall next time), but there was enough of a change to make the background scenery pop a bit.

I found that alternating between my wide angle zoom (24 to 85 mm) and my telephoto zoom (70 to 200 mm) gave me a good variety of focal lengths to capture the images I was drawn to.

These are only a small group of my images of Central Park, as you can imagine. I just may have to do another post on this very special place!

smooch

I surprised myself by being fast enough to capture this “decisive moment”.

arches band

The Terrace arches in black and white.

bride

With their beautiful light, couples flock to the Bethesda Arches for wedding pictures.

bubbles

These giant bubbles must have looked magical to the little ones. Hey, they looked magical to me!

boathouseLR

The Loeb Boathouse reflected in the waters of the still Lake.

elena

My sister focusses her camera on some of the beautiful details of the Arches.

sherry and rob

Elena took this one of me and Rob discussing a shot.

Inside each of us…

astor hall

Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.

Mary Oliver

I just returned from a rejuvenating trip to New York City. I love that city with an inexplicable passion, and have ever since I first travelled there in the early 80’s. And it’s a feeling that has come back each of the 12 or 13 times since then.

I went this time, for many reasons, but partly to make images. In every location we visited, others were taking pictures too. Now, many of these pics were no doubt travel snapshots and the ubiquitous selfies that are taken to prove to friends you went somewhere…

But I think the urge to photograph New York goes deeper than that. Everywhere you look in New York, there is so much visual richness and energy. I am convinced that visitors reach for their cameras and phones in an effort (not always totally conscious) to try to capture and take home some of the beauty and awe they experience.

At least I know I do.

This was taken in the magnificent Astor Hall of the New York Public Library.

August Break, Day 3

windowgrandcentral

August break, Day 3, Windows

This month I’m joining Susannah Conway and many others around the world in the August Break project.

I hope to post a photo a day, inspired either by the daily prompt or by something around me.

Today’s is not a new image. I shot it back last October. But I’ve been working on reprocessing older images with newer techniques lately, so this is new in a way…

The prompt today is “Window” and I thought I’d offer the massive grandeur of the 75-foot Beaux Art windows in Grand Central Terminal in New York. This gorgeous building celebrated its centenary in 2013, as you can probably guess by the “100”.

I also wanted to share the work of an artist who is new to me and who has grabbed my attention this month.

It’s not often I find a photographer’s whose whole body of work makes me sit up and take notice. Today I’d like to introduce you to the work of Helen Boyd, who lives in the beautiful English Lakes District.

I stand in awe of photographers who can convey a distinct mood with their photography, along with a sense of place and story. Helen’s shadowy minimal landscape shots certainly do that for me. She is a master of the subtle gesture. The way she captures wisps of colour enchants me, as does her lovely black and white work.  She blogs at Helen’s Journal and is on Facebook too. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more from Helen.