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Rain or Shine was the Event so, Off We Went

We bought our tickets ahead of time so no returns, and boarded our train despite the rain. Cold Spring’s Holiday Candle Light tour was planned for this day along with Claudia’s “29th” natal day. It rained and rained and rained, it even poured, then it rained some more.  The candle lights were snuffed by the wet but, we duly registered at the town hall where we met and picked up a map and a ticket for the open house tour.

At the doors of each house we donned little blue paper booties because our feet were wet and we would not mess up the floors. The hospitality was warm and friendly and we were thankful to be dry. A quartet Christmas Caroling entertained us on the porch which brought a tear to my eye. Then we sallied forth back out into the rain. It rained as we went from house to house, it rained as we sat eating brunch, it continued to rain as we splashed up towards the holiday craft-fair at the church. There were not many people there at this holiday fair and can you guess why? Need I say it again? Haven’t your heard? I won’t even say that four letter word. The shops were full of gifts for the season and we saw no reason not buy a trinket or two since the waterworks outside were coming down in buckets, we thought well f–k it.

Despite this sodden tale of wet and woe we really had fun as we always do wherever we go, because that’s what friends are for and I really need say no more!

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Abstracts and Addictions

I just cannot take a nice long walk on a Sunday afternoon or any afternoon for that matter, without taking a photo; it’s an addiction. As I walk, arms swinging, humming a tune and happy just being outside, my eyes begin “seeing” and before I know it I’m pulling my iPhone from my pocket. What aroused my addiction this day was a slight change in direction and walking along 19th Avenue. I normally do not walk along this road because, it is very desolate and inhabited only by sleeping tractor trailers taking a break from a long days haul.  It didn’t take too long before I noticed that there really was not much to the scenery so,  I popped on the fish-eye lens just to see what kind of abstractions I could create.  The sky was a quilt of clouds and intermittent sun , any surrounding trees were bare with gnarled branches; perfect backdrop to the mundane subject matter. I concentrated on brightly colored vehicles that would pop out of the scene including cars and buses in the mix if they had some sort of personality.

I captured a handful of images and satisfied put the phone back in my pocket and continued my walk to Astoria Park; my original destination. On my way back home the sky which had turned grey was now back-lit by the sun which cast an opalescent sheen to the East River highlighting the cat-like arch and swerve of the Hell Gate Bridge.  I slid the phone from my pocket. I needed another hit.

The tide was out enabling me to scramble down among the craggy rocks and get a “down-under” perspective for these images.  I kept to the river bank shooting north then south until I came to the end of the park where I put my phone back in my pocket, temporarily quelling my habit until, the next time I’m out walking the streets of Astoria Queens in search of another photographic phix.”

 

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They’re Gritty, They’re Grimey…They’re “Dirtaaaay”

Enough of the pretty flowers, leaves and other things, time to get back down to the street level schmutz. The day after Thanksgiving was cold with biting winds as I prowled beneath the tracks of the N & #7 trains at Queesboro Plaza; the mass transit hub of Long Island City Queens, capturing the urban grungescape. Since it was so cold and the sun was playing  hide and seek behind thick grey clouds I stayed pretty much near the train tracks (mostly to make a quick get-a-way back home when I could no longer feel my fingers and toes) and I ambled only a few blocks in any direction.

There was some construction going on and once again my photographic endeavors were challenged by chain link fencing and plywood walls forcing me to search until I found an opening or chink in the perimeter no matter how small. The plywood walls had diamond-shaped viewing cutouts but, they were covered with a dirty, smudgy plastic and although at first disappointed, I found they added an interesting effect to the images. The chain-link fencing was much smaller than normal and I had an eye-crossing time trying to focus through the spaces. At times I just gave up and used the fencing as an abstract pattern fronting the image.

I left in any normal grain or noise in the images and used an HDR program which, added additional grain and this combination helped me attain that “dirtay” look.

Enjoy the this urban stroll but, put on warm coat.

 

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Through a Picket Fence

I step through a white picket fence
The hinges rusty and squeaky
The garden smells of autumn
I’m drawn to the house
Warm and welcoming me
I open the door
I’m greeted with love
This must be home
This must be Thanksgiving
Enjoy!

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iPhoning Around

This afternoon while taking a walk along the East River in good old Astoria Park, the sun was shining and the sky was blue with streaks of thin white cloud and the river was calm and reflecting like a mirror. I quickly pulled my iPhone out of my pocket, knowing that I had only a short window of time when the tide would change and the rare smoothness of the waters would wipe away the gorgeous reflections of the Hell Gate and the Triboro bridges that span this great river.

A few weeks ago as I rode the Metro North Railroad up to the Botanical Gardens I turned in my seat and faced the window. I attached the fish eye lens to the iPhone and waited as the train pulled out of the tunnel beneath Grand Central Station. As the train barreled along  I held the iPhone up close to the window and captured a series of photos as we streaked through Harlem toward the Bronx and over the Harlem River Lift Bridge. I’d forgotten about them until today, when I reviewed my photos from this afternoon.

Enjoy this little eclectic group of images that I pulled from my pocket.

 

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The Last of the Autumn Wine

Tis November and autumn’s colors have peaked with multi-hued brilliance, allowing the trees to settle down for a sleep and a snore until spring elbows them awake to leaf once more.

I ventured into the wetlands at the Bronx Botanical Gardens this past Saturday and, what a little bit of Eden this is.  A meadow turned red and brown with flora of purple, gold and yellow. Two ponds, mirror smooth connected by a low water fall rimmed with native grasses, frilly ferns and picture perfect Pitcher Plants.

Along the many garden paths to follow there is the Meadow Path where stands a grove of River Birch trees and a huge grey boulder split in half. A short walk along the Woodland Path is the Rock Garden; a wellspring of alpine flowers, woodland plants and a cascading waterfall.

I spent the afternoon walking around capturing the light and color of this small oasis of nature in New York City.

Enjoy a sip of the fall vintage.

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A Village Enveloped in Ivy

We Gals were thwarted this past Sunday, by circumstances too numerous to detail here in this blog, from a scheduled visit to Rhinebeck, New York. Fortunately, we had a plan B and put this into action arriving at Cold Spring, New York ready for a day of small town entertainments.

The uber-friendly village of Cold Spring in Putnam County, New York, is one of our favorite get-a-ways when we just want to spend a day outside of the city wandering around with no particular itinerary and no major decisions to make except, where to brunch. This day, it seemed, the whole world had the same idea as We 3 because, I have never seen the place so busy with tourists in the many times we  have visited and it took a lot of patience to get a photo without a group of people in it. As soon as you step off the train it is a short walk along the platform which leads you right onto Main Street, the epicenter of Cold Spring. Here you can catch a trolley car to Boscobel and Garrison Landing, both great places to visit. Main street is full of antique shops, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, inns and lovely colorfully painted houses.

The sun had left us when we exited NYC and the skies of Cold Spring were dark grey which turned my photographic theme for the day from scenic autumn to small town autumn. As per the title of this blog almost every building is covered with beautiful English ivy that burned flame red and orange so there was plenty of color for me to capture. The town was costumed for Halloween and the shop keepers where just opening their doors and putting their wares out onto the sidewalk to entice the passersby, offering me plenty of “street stuff” to photograph.

Windows and doors were my dominate subject matter as they were framed in ivy and painted blue, purple, yellow and bright red. I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated by red doors and happily found two that satisfied  this attraction. From time to time as I walked up Main Street I would veer off onto a side street to photograph the beautiful historic homes with their wide wooden porches  and ginger bread roofs against fall’s deep colors.

We had brunch at Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill and a late afternoon cup of coffee with dessert at the Foundry Cafe. A sweet ending to a sweet day.

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An Armory Castle Isle

Claudia, Janice and I were off again on the 2nd of our one-day-get-a-ways riding the Metro North Railroad’s Poughkeepsie line straight up to Beacon, NY. Once in Beacon we walked a short distance to the water’s edge and boarded a ferry which took us up the Hudson River towards Pollelpel Island better known as Bannerman’s Island and the amazing but crumbling Bannerman Castle.

Disembarking, we all gathered on the landing at the base of the island taking photos and excitedly chatting to each other as our guides introduced themselves. We were then herded up a winding wooden staircase to the top of the island where, the aged castle greeted us upon metal crutches in regal but, fragile state. We had very dramatic sky the whole day and when a ray of  light beamed down through a dark cloud it lit the castle like a celestial spot light. Although worn and weathered the castle still retained its pink brick color which was emphasized by Autumn’s beautiful warm hues that surrounded this emblem of a 19th century Scottish-American entrepreneur.

This was not your run-of-the-mill castle, in fact, it was built to house tons of explosives, ammunition and other accouterments of war, by Francis Bannerman VI. He and his father built up a military surplus business near the Brooklyn Navy Yards after the American Civil War, which made them gilded age millionaires. The good people of Brooklyn, fearing that some day they might get blown to smithereens, ask Mr. Bannerman to find another home for his possibly unstable stores. And so he did. He purchased Pollelpel Island in 1900 and in 1901 built his Scottish Castle. He obviously didn’t live in the castle but, he did build a smaller castle like mansion further up and back on the island where, he and his wife raised a family and his military salvage business continued to prospered until his death in 1918.

I found the place absolutely fascinating and just lost myself in the ruins over grown with weeds and flowers from the once loved and cultivated gardens of Mrs. Bannerman. Since the Civil War was responsible, in a way, for the Bannerman’s success there is a noticeable cannon ball motif found in the design of both the castle and the mansion. I stumbled upon concrete cannon balls everywhere I walked peeking out from under thick layers of colorful vegetation. On one side of the mansion a piece of the facade had fallen off exposing the inner wall which was rimmed by brick and surrounded by laurel leaves carved into the surface. Above this design is a tiny tattered confederate flag held in the fingers of an uniformed arm and above that, you guessed it, a cannon ball.

The foliage in this part of Duchess County was more colorful than down in NYC and the lighting as I mentioned earlier was even more dramatic as the sky was now grey and filtering the suns rays diffusing the light and enhancing nature’s colors making them just pop!  There were oak, walnut and horse-chestnut trees that freely littered the ground with their reddish brown nuts. Walking around in the damp cool air, I really felt like fall was here.

The afternoon was beginning to wane and the clouds sprinkled us with drops of rain, a signal for us, along with growling stomachs, to head back down to the ferry and back to Beacon where we chowed down at Poppy’s Burgers & Fries. Oh, those wonderful salty crisp fries! With full bellies we wandered around Beacon for an hour before heading back to the train station where we sat on the water front platform, shivering in the chilly evening air while waiting for our 6:12 train which was going to be 25 minutes late! Mother Nature though, sensing our discomfort sent forth a fiery sunset to warm our hearts.

Enjoy this unique bit of New York history.

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Foraging For Foliage

Although it is mid-October here in New York City, we do not see peak foliage until close to November. On Sunday, undeterred by nature’s tardiness, I decided on a nice long  neighborhood walk  in the warm sunny weather, searching for the autumnal colors wherever I could find them.

Most of the trees and bushes were as green as a summer’s day but, one or two had taken the lead and turned to vibrant yellow or gold, rimmed with touches of red. Some trees had just a handful of leaves, a small leafy bouquet, in orange and amber among the deep green. The ground was littered with leaves that were the first to turn, transforming from supple green, to red to crisp crunchy brown and ornamented with big tawny acorns; their cupules tossed like tiny French berets in the soil.

I passed a house whose chain link fence had a riot of crawling, creeping, twining flowering ivy, completely covering it with blooms in blue and white and dark purple. Plump autumn berries hung from bushes in hues of gold and coral and a flitting Monarch with stained-glass wings in Halloween colors of black and orange landed on an amethyst flower right in front of my lens!

In Astoria Park I looked for and found color in the bushes and wild plants growing along the East River, gilded and illuminated by the sun. I used these bright plants as frames for the bridges and passing tugs guiding ships up the river.

My home town of Astoria displayed more color than I had thought and happily, there is still more to color to come.

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Mums, Drums and Gourds Galore

Yes, I was back at the Botanical Gardens in the merry borough of the Bronx for the latest exhibit Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden held in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.  This exhibit was all about the majesty, beauty and serenity of an autumnal garden filled with chrysanthemums and other flowers of the fall. Walking into the exhibit was to walk into a harvest of color in varying hues of red, orange, yellow, gold, brown and purple, displayed in perfect diagonal rows, rising hills or bountiful cascades.

To keep the slender stems of the mums straight each bloom was supported by a white sturdy wire that ended in a whirling hula-hoop swirl at the top which supported their delicate floral heads. There were big fluffy tight-fisted mums, others relaxed and unfurled their petal fingers; some were wiry, spider-like and stretched their tactile petals out to spook the passerby, while a few had rippling, tissue delicate petals and my favorite a vibrant flat mustard yellow flower with spear like petals and intense presence.

Absorbed in photography my attention was suddenly diverted by a driving pounding rhythm outside of the conservatory. I walked out to the lawn where a crowd was gathered sitting on the grass watching a group of  Taiko drummers performing with thunderous precision.  Children and adults were mesmerized by the percussionists, keeping time by tapping their feet and bobbing their heads, or playing “air” drums then, exploding into applause after each piece.

When the group took a break I walked over to the Haunted Pumpkin Garden, alive with laughing shrieking children and wild with menacing jack-o-lanterns, crazy pumpkin monsters, grasping pumpkin spiders, white gourd ghosts hiding under giant spotted squash mushrooms. Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere, making you aware with a shivery little tingle that  Halloween is almost here.

 

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