This Saturday, I belatedly celebrated two birthdays with my girl-friends; a luncheon at Da Nico’s in New York City’s famous Little Italy. Now, to get to Little Italy you have to pass through the equally famous and bustling China Town. Both of these areas of lower Manhattan are a “must see” in every tourist guide book and therefore jammed packed with people from all over the world taking in the sights, sounds, taste and smells of these historic districts.
I ascended from the subway onto Canal and Lafayette Streets, the hub of China Town, at 10:30am. We were not meeting until 1:30 so I had plenty of time to wander the streets with my camera to capture some of the neighborhood architecture and ethnicity as I made my way through the throngs of visitors and locals. The shop owners had just opened their doors and the hawkers were already outside enticing the passersby with the best and cheapest prices for their wares. Hanging from the awnings and homemade displays of each shop were hand bags, shoes, hats, fans, umbrellas, jeans, scarves, shawls, flip-flops, T-shirts, jewelry, and thousands upon thousands of NYC souvenir gee-gaws for people to take home as a fond reminder of their trip to New York City. There are street artists too, who for a small price will immortalize your name on a long rectangular pre-printed paper canvas in flowing colorful script interspersed with Chinese good luck and happiness symbols. I couldn’t help myself and bought one for each of the birthday celebrants.
Along Canal Street there are Chinese fast food carts with thin delicate noodles entwined with savory meats and vegetables packed in Styrofoam containers, if you prefer to eat on the go, or you can choose from the many restaurants offering Dim Sum, and stuff yourself with a wide and delicious variety of delectable dumplings.
When I reached Mulberry Street I made a left and stepped into the heart of Little Italy and watched as the restaurant staff prepared for the hungry afternoon crowds. Tables were put outside on the sidewalks and covered in festive cloths, brightly color umbrellas were popped open, bus-boys rushed by balancing long stacks of chairs to be placed around the tables. Next, shiny silverware and sparkling glasses were put out alongside tiny vases of flowers and lastly the laminated menus listing mouthwatering Italian dishes were laid opposite the forks and knives. There were gifts stores nestled in between the restaurants and cafes just in case you missed a trinket or two in China Town.
There are hawkers here too, but they are enticing the passerby not with touristy treasures but with delectable dishes of pastas, chicken, veal, and seafood prepared in rich sauces that will make you swoon with caloric happiness. If you are a pizza lover you’ve come to the right place. You have a wide choice of hot, crisp, crusty, cheesy pies accompanied by a bottle of the finest Italian wines. For dessert you have your pick of cafés to enjoy a leisurely cappuccino or espresso and a mind blowing creamy cannoli; as advertised by some poor guy who was wearing a king sized cannoli costume as he walked up and down the street handing out menus. A job you could not pay me enough to do.
As crowded, hot and noisy as these neighborhoods are you can’t help but get caught up in the festive tourist atmosphere and if you are like me usually wind up buying something that you really don’t need and walking away having spent way more than you intended, but somehow, feel you got a bargain.
With all of the incredible aromas assaulting my sensing and my stomach growling like a lion, I knew it was time for me to put the camera a way and get ready to eat, drink and be merry with my best friends.
The past few weeks I was involved in family photography which was fun and very gratifying but, I needed to get back into my urban groove.
When I walked out of the apartment this past Sunday, I had no specific idea of what I wanted to shoot. So, I let my photographic Muse provide the inspiration. As I walked through the neighborhood my eyes began to focus on objects that contained vivid color, striking contrasts (i.e., a bower of red roses arching over a row of grey garbage cans; love it!), grunge, interesting juxtapositions, repeating patterns and rough textures or had an element of whimsy.
I pointed the lens skyward, poked it into gardens and alleyways, under tunnels and train tracks, through fences and bushes and over walls. I walked up and down the blocks, scanning the urban landscape for subjects and proud of the cultural diversity of this Queens neighborhood depicted in murals by local graffiti artists.
The Muse was open to everything, encouraging me to be objective in choosing the imagery I was creating. We had a terrific time the Muse and I, strolling the streets of Astoria capturing the eclectic nuances that make up my urban home town.
I was very honored and pleased when a few months ago my niece Catherine asked me to do her maternity photo shoot. This was a new photographic venture for me so I was determined to make it a special and fun occasion for the new young parents-to-be.
These past few weeks Catherine and I had been emailing back and forth planning and scheming, preparing props, discussing poses and locations to shoot. She is due in early July and the best time for a maternity shoot is when the mother is at least 7 1/2 to 9 months pregnant. You want to capture the belly big and round, the mother at her most luminous in love and beauty and the father proud enough to bust.
We picked May 26th for the shoot, since that was the day the family was getting together at her mother’s house in Long Island for the Memorial Day holiday, combining two happy occasions. We did the shoot in the morning before the rest of the family and guests arrived so we would not be distracted. We had a gorgeous day and the back yard was a perfect back drop with colorful flowers blooming, the pool uncovered and shimmering blue, soft moist green grass for bare feeties and, cool enough not to mind being in the bright sun for over two hours.
I combined creativity with the conventional, the cute and the corny, the dramatic and the abstract, all with the “baby belly” as the main focus. The props we used were hats, dresses, books, chairs, scones, a bowl of fruit, mirrors, baby clothes, flowers, a “coming soon” sign, and a banner that my niece had made of her baby girl’s sonograms shuffled in between the letters of her name: Ellie.
When we had taken shots in every spot in the back yard we moved indoors for a couple of ”traditional” shots of the mother-to-be. In the living room I placed Catherine in a beautiful comfy high-backed chair with a pot of dried flowers on the floor to her right and on the wall two small square photos above her also to her right. Very minimal. The pose is relaxed and natural and she is looking straight into the camera. It is one of my favorite shots of her.
With Catherine’s and Danny’s permission I present their Maternity Memories. Enjoy.
A Tulip is the symbol of Forever Love.
A Cherry Blossom is the symbol of Female Beauty and Dominance.
A Magnolia Blossom is the symbol of Nobility, Perseverance and Dignity.
A Mother is the symbol of all of the above.
Wishing you a very happy Mother’s Day!
I arrived after 2:00pm and since the gardens close at 6:00pm I bypassed the many enticing floral gardens and hurried in the direction of the paths that would take me down to the river. On my way I stopped a few moments to photograph the magnificent Fountain of Life that sits at the entrance of the Mertz Library. I took photos as I walked through the forest of centuries old trees on mossy brown trails awed by the fact that this old growth forest actually exists in New York City!
When I arrived at the falls a calm washed over me. I tuned into the sounds of nature; the soft shushing of water cascading over the falls, birds singing high and sweet and the giggling rustle of leaves tickled by a breeze. The air was pungent with an earthy fragrance and I began to relax and slow down as I looked around for just the right spot to set up my tripod and camera. Patiently working around tourists and other photographers I found it a challenge to steady my tripod on the uneven ground and had to maneuver my camera under and over railings and rocky outcroppings to get the shot I wanted. Taking a break in between shots nibbling on my sandwich, I watched as the sun’s light moved over the late afternoon landscape, opening up light in some areas and casting shadows over others while mentally composing images.
The time flew and looking at my phone saw that it was six o’clock on the dot. Wanting to catch the 6:37 back to Grand Central, I quickly packed up my gear, sprinted back up the paths, out through the gates and up to the train station platform arriving with two minutes to spare!
Enjoy the slide show.
Saturday afternoon was warm with a brilliant sunny sky and a perfect day to spend at the beach. I jumped on the N train and 90 minutes later, I was in good old Coney Island. The train pulled in a little after 4:00 pm and I hurried from the station to meet with my friend Sharron who was waiting for me by Luna Park. Our photography goal this day was long exposures using neutral density filters and sunset shots.
I haven’t been to Coney Island since it was ravaged by hurricane Sandy and was very happy to see the boardwalk packed with smiling people strolling along eating hot dogs and ice cream as if nothing had changed. I took a huge gulp of the salt air and my heart gave a little leap as I tripped up the entrance ramp to the boardwalk. I couldn’t wait to start taking photos and get sand in my sneakers. I looked toward the ocean and saw there were large plastic balloons in the shapes of dogs, whales, witches and snorkelers flying through the air, people sitting on blankets watching the waves rolling in, lovers walking hand in hand and everyone happy to be out sunning themselves in this precursor to the summer season. I quickly took a few images from the boardwalk and then having met Sharron walked into Luna Park. We were both drawn to the color and crazy riotous sounds of shrieking children and adults as they flew, zoomed, swirled, titled, dropped, swooped or splashed on the many amazing heart stopping rides that are the essence of all amusement parks.
After an hour of noise we wended our way through the crowds and strolled down to the quiet calm of the ocean’s edge to set up our tripods, screw on the neutral density filters and try to capture the soft, cotton, misty effect created by focusing on the moving water using a very long exposure. This was my first time working with ND filters and at first was a little frustrated trying to find the correct exposure and get the effect that I wanted. I will say that out of the twenty or so images I did take, only 5 I felt made the grade. I enjoyed the experience though and will continue to practice until I feel I’ve mastered this fine art type of photography.
As the day wore on the wind picked up and it grew chilly and I turned my camera towards the setting sun. During the day the sky was perfectly blue and clear with nary a cloud, so the fiery red beach sunset that I had imagined was just not going to happen that evening but undaunted, I captured black and orange silhouettes and eye-popping starbursts instead.
Last Sunday, I took the subway to 25th Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn to walk through and photograph the infamous Green-Wood Cemetery. It was a perfect spring day to wander around in this peaceful and historic resting place. I am one of ”those” people who find cemeteries fascinating monuments of local history and Green-Wood has a pedigree of notable burials a mile long. The cemetery is a big beautiful woodland, with rolling hills, meandering paths and man-made lakes inhabited by geese, snowy egrets and other water fowl, and is now a designated National Historic Landmark.
I started my walk in the “public” lots looking for the older grave stones dating from the late 18th century to the 19th century. Worn down over the years to a soft bar-soap dullness, the headstone inscriptions barely visible or completely washed away. One can only assume that the descendants of these people have either died themselves or have moved away and started a new generation far from where their ancestors lie; the forgotten roots to the family tree. Some of these stones are slowly being covered up by weeds, dirt and grasses and will soon be gone from view. I spotted one grave marker that was so old the tree next to it was growing a wooden arm around it, a comforting friend for the years ahead. One slab stone that cracked horizontally and had grass growing between it looked like a giant’s foot print.
The inscriptions that could be read were short and simple some just a name or designation of who they were like mother, father and sadly baby. Quite a few of the tomb stones were cracked or broken lying among newer neighbors like the fire-hydrant shaped stone, obviously for the beloved family dog. A scattering of tiny purple flowers and bright yellow dandelions were growing among the graves adding a gentle warmth and color to an otherwise somber scene.
In the newer plots there were angels, cherubs, saints and gargoyles watching over and protecting all that slept beneath them. As I continued my walk and ventured further into this memorial park, I was momentarily taken aback when I first came upon a certain area below a hill. At first glance, it appeared to be a nice quiet suburban street with homes on sloping green lawns and stairs leading down to the paved street with a street lamp on the corner. Across from them on the lake shore, sat little pastel colored cottages. These homes and cottages were in fact, family crypts and mausoleums! I thought to myself, ”Wouldn’t this make an interesting and thrilling midnight walk on All Hallows Eve?”
Two pieces of architecture standing out among the mausoleums, statuary and stones are the main entrance gates, designed by Richard Upjohn. Brownstone Gothic spires flanked by two small buildings resembling a Swiss chalet and an Italian villa. And the newly renovated Chapel, designed by the same architectural firm that designed Grand Central Station, Warren & Wetmore.
Sunday’s visit only covered a fraction of this beautiful sepulcher landmark and I have plans to return in the fall and winter to complete my Green-Wood Cemetery gallery of images.
Note: In the morning as I exited the train station and walked up towards the cemetery, I stopped and took photos of an old relic of a building, the Weir Greenhouse, that happily has been purchased by Green-Wood and will soon become a visitors center. Although, it was enclosed by an impenetrable fence (darn it!) I managed to capture a few goods shots of the octagonal cupola.
Enjoy the slide show:
There is a magnificent magnolia tree in the front yard of a house that faces Ditmars Boulevard a few blocks from my apartment, and every year it explodes with beautiful, plump, delicate blooms and dwarfs the other magnolias around it. Each year, with camera in hand, I make a bee line for this lovely harbinger of spring that denotes the Vernal Equinox is in full swing. Although the tree sits behind a wrought iron fence, it umbrellas out and over the sidewalk and it enables me to get up close and personal with my camera. I’m able to stand right underneath a branch abundant with purple white blossoms and capture them with the sun’s rays illuminating the velvety soft petals.
Walking along the boulevard the bushes of forsythia draw me to them like a magnet, the tiny lemon yellow flowers quivering in the breeze; the bright color pleasing to behold after four months of cold bare grey. The garden daffodils, egg-yoke yellow and creamy white lift their ruffled heads and petal arms towards the morning sky. I meander across and down Ditmars, turning off every other street on my left or right, photographing anything just starting to break free from its protective pod or pushing up out of the ground. Each tree, shrub and garden I pass has a small colorful botanic sample of what is yet to come in the next few weeks as the sun moves closer, the days grow longer and the air is filled with the excitement of a new and fragrant season.
I’m at it again using the mirror feature in the photo-booth app with my iPad.
Each day I sit, an unobtrusive rider on the subway, patiently waiting for someone to sit across from me so I can turn them into a weird and bizarre alien. Some of my creations have double the amount of arms, legs, fingers and hands while others have only one leg, like a monopod. Most of them have no heads, and a few have no appendages at all. If they do have a head it is quite slim and their faces are narrow strips or compressed with no noses and maybe ears as features. I’ve captured them unknowingly as they were reading, sleeping, talking, or listening to music completely unaware of their metamorphosis. The other passengers sat oblivious to these strange and grotesque beings as the train barreled along to and from Manhattan.
I’ve collected quite a few of these images over the past few weeks and present them to you, my friends. I hope you enjoy them, and beware the next time you ride the subway and see me sitting there, you just might be my next unique alien creation! Bwa-ha-ha.
Dawn’s light glimmers on dew speckled leaves.
Butterflies flitter in the balmy breeze.
Crocus, the first to appear, wink slyly at the sun.
Their sisters, the Daisies, timidly join in the fun.
Mushrooms spiral out of the warm moist soil.
Trees aroused from their sleep awake with a smile.
A breath of wind inspires the Blue Bells to ring,
As Robins sing loudly the rites of spring.
Lilac and Lavender perfume the air.
Spring has arrived with diaphanous flair.
l’amore e il sole