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Photosbycate Weblog

A Photo Essay Blog

Archive for the category “Photography”

Mentally Snapping Images and Making Photos

When I’m riding the subway, whether above ground or under it, I find myself looking through the windows and doors of the subway cars and taking mental snapshots of what I see to store in my memory for later use. I see a pattern or a texture in the frame of my mind’s eye, not quite sure what to make of it but, I know I will come back at some point and capture what I saw with my camera. I do this too, as I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train and scan the scene around me. The tracks below my feet, the platform facing me from across the tracks, the turn styles, the girders holding up the ceiling of the tunnel, etc. All have a special appeal to me to make them into a photograph. A snapshot of urban life.

Saturday, I rode the N train to Queensboro Plaza, where I switched to the Flushing bound #7 train. My plan for day was to get off at each consecutive above ground stop and start creating some photographs from the mental images I’ve stored up.  I began with the platform at QBP before boarding the #7 that just had just pulled in and getting off a few minutes later at 33rd and Rawlson Street, the start of my journey and, continuing until 111th Street. The ride took me through the Queens “melting-pot” neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona; alighting on to the sidewalk only once, at 46th & Bliss Streets to take a few photos of the vaulted ceiling beneath the Queens Boulevard Viaduct.

At each stop I prowled the platform looking for and trying to match my earlier mental images as well as finding new things to capture; like the stained glass windows at Rawlson Street, brightening up the dark passageways with welcoming colorful light. Each station was dominated with horizontal and vertical lines. These pieces of wood and rusted steel with patches of weeds growing between the cracks or caked in decades of industrial paint, are what I see each day as I ride the rails and what pinged my urban imagination.

The straight shooting lines of the train tracks as they stretch out  to infinity, smoothly swerving right or left carrying giant silver segmented caterpillars filled with human beings peering through windows – lost in thought. Although, these tracks run up the middle of the street they are unbelievably close to the buildings below them, practically just a long jump to the roof tops.  Of course the roof tops were just photographic manna for me. The apex of homes, shops, restaurants and commercial buildings covered in a riot of graffiti, a maze of air conditioning vents,  open air shafts, tarred over sky lights and a veritable forest of satellite dishes. A smattering of paint cans and ladders and for some unknown reason a pedestal fan that stood apart from the rest of the gritty, grimy roof top residents with nowhere to plug itself in. On one roof were two cages, I thought at first they were pigeons cages, but they were made of iron bars not chicken wire and there were no signs of pigeon feathers or poop. It kind of creeped me out as I can’t imagine what they were used for but, they did make for a thought-provoking photo.

At 111th street, I spotted the giant silver orb of the old Unisphere still standing in Flushing Meadow park, a last and fond reminder of the 1964 World’s Fair that I went to with my Mother, brother and two sisters; I was 7 years old and the memories of that day are as clear as if it were yesterday. Also, peeking over the trees were two more remains of the fair; the rockets from the U.S. Space Park and the ruins of the Observatory Towers.

Leaving memory lane behind me, I boarded the Manhattan bound train and headed home, my camera stuffed with photographs.

Enjoy the ride.


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Fluffing Up the Images

Yesterday, was our annual jaunt to Staten Island to spend the day with our good friend Olga for a bit of lunch at the South Fin Grill, a long leisurely walk on the South Beach boardwalk, capping it all off with a very satisfying few hours in Olga’s garden. We drank champagne, ate sweet delicious pastry her handsome husband Tolya baked while sitting back talking about everything and anything. One of the great and fulfilling things in life is being surrounded by good friends.

Before we boarded the X1 Bus which would take us through downtown Manhattan and over the Verrazano Bridge, I took a few urban images around 34th & 35th Streets to jump-start the photographic day.

We have walked the South Beach boardwalk many times and although, it was a picture perfect day,  the scenery had not change much and trying to come up with a new perspective on a much photographed and familiar seascape was trying. So, this morning while sipping my coffee and reviewing the images I decided to “fluff” them up some, give them a little razzle dazzle to removed the sameness. That is what post processing software is for, isn’t it? I used Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro for the black and white. A few of the images I left as they came out of the camera because I liked the composition and the color as it was.



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On Saturday, I met my friends Janice and Claudia in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to experience the Costume Exhibit; Charles James: Beyond Fashion.

The exhibit is split into two sections; on the first floor in the Special Exhibition Galleries and on the ground floor in the Costume Institute’s Anna Wintour Costume Center.  Already being on the ground floor, we wove our way through the crowds and passed into the first part of the exposition. The first thing you notice is that it is in near total darkness with just small spot lights illuminating Charles James works of fashion. I did not have my DSLR with me but did use my iPhone and my favorite fish-eye lens. There was no flash allowed and I was surprised at how well the little camera inside my phone worked. The images are very noisy  and soft but, that was only to be expected and I was able to compose to my heart’s content not having to worry about lighting and exposure, only to point and shoot.

What makes these productions of Charles James so interesting is their creation; they were not just designed and sewn together but were constructed almost like pieces of architecture. As you look at each dress your eye cannot help but follow the detail in the  line, curl, curve, fold, angle, swirl and tuck of material. You found yourself  admiring them as you would a sculpture. The dresses were made in two or three pieces and then fitted together to create a glamorous “frock” to be worn by rich and famous women.

Leaving the Anna Wintour Costume Center we passed through the European Sculpture and Decorative arts section marveling at the mind-boggling emotive statuary and entered the second and final part of the exhibit. Here there were exotic looking dresses, and angular suits that could have been worn in the 1950’s or the 1915’s. These models were not as dazzling in design as the ball gowns but, they did impart a distinguished glamour all their own.

Leaving the world of couture behind us we briefly passed through the Egyptian exhibit and I grabbed a few quick parting shots as we exited the museum for lunch at a little French cafe.

Bonne Soirée!



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A Park Grows in Governors Island

Last year I visited Governors Island for a sneak preview of the creation of a new 30 acre park on the south end of the Island. I was there in October, on the last day before the Island closed to commence full construction operations (click here to read my blog post of that day.) Governors Island has now reopened.

My friends and I put our walking shoes on and boarded the Governors Island Ferry at Pier 7 in lower Manhattan to see what was new, revisit the old and enjoy a sunny summer Sunday wandering through this new park. When we exited the ferry at Soissons Landing, we passed through the 19th century, Castle Williams, a circular red sandstone fort that can be seen jutting out from the island and is a familiar point of historic reference in New York Harbor. Exiting the fort we walked south along the river promenade that would take us into the newly created Governors Island Park.

If you love to walk or ride a bike, then this park is perfect; spacious, unencumbered by crowds and vehicular traffic with beautiful water front views. Smooth new paths have been created that flow through play grounds, ball parks, and seasonal gardens which, at this time of year were full of bright purple and yellow cone-flowers, busy with bees and butterflies.

The children’s play lawn has huge cobwebs of rope and wood to climb on and plenty of grass to run wild. Governors Island is known for showcasing unique art and sculpture as a kind of open air art gallery, and across from the playground is a wide expanse of lawn where a huge sculpture of a giant twisted hanger is on display, dotted all around with old-fashioned Adirondack chairs to sit and contemplate. Liggett Terrace boasts a giant blue telephone receiver, hung up on a tall forked pole!

In my opinion the best part of the park is Hammock Grove. Yes! Ten acres of open grassy space (when the trees grow up around it, it will be a shady grassy space) peppered with bright red rope hammocks strung between wooden poles. My friends immediately made a bee line for them. The Hammock Grove is such a novel idea and much better than hard park benches. How nice to be able to come to a quiet outdoor spot, stretch out on a gently swaying web of comfort, rocking away the time reading, taking a nap or counting the clouds in a blue sky. And, they are wide enough to snuggle up with your favorite someone.

Further on, we entered Liggett Terrace where my friends spent a few minutes, (while I ran around taking photos), sitting under the shade of the trees, sipping cool drinks, listening to the cry of seagulls and admiring the newly landscaped grounds. Passing through Liggett Arch, on our way back to the ferry, we walked along Colonels Row and I took a few minutes to photograph some of the old mansions, built at the end of the 19th century that, were homes to the commanding military officers and their families of that period.

The park is not complete yet, but is still growing and by next year new man-made hills rising 80 feet above the harbor, will have sprouted up on the island offering an incredible 360 degree view. I’ll be there to take it all in.

The Trust for Governors Island

Enjoy the tour.

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Surf, Sun & Fun

Fourth of July was grey and rainy all day but, the Fifth of July was blue skies and plenty of summer sunshine. I put on the bathing suit, filled the back-pack with goodies, sunscreen and a towel, grabbed the beach chair and away I went to Coney Island to spend the day lounging in the sun and swimming in the deep blue sea.

I had not been back to Coney Island since I captured the ice encrusted pylons and snow covered dunes on a frigid day back in January so, it  was a pleasure to be there again when it was all thawed out. The waves lapping lazily against the shore line, people in all shapes, colors and sizes diving into the cold but refreshing water, Luna Park alive and kicking once more and the boardwalk packed with strolling crowds of fun seekers.

I settled myself right next to the pier close to the water’s edge, reveling in the sounds and smell of the ocean that stretched out before me.  For the next four hours I swam, walked, napped, read, ate and of course took photos. I did not bring my DSLR with me but, I did have my iPhone. I walked among my fellow beach bums and sun worshipers, observing humanity at its best; doing nothing but relaxing and having fun.

There is a brand new attraction on the boardwalk and it is a huge orange twisty, turning, swirling, heart stopping ride called the Thunderbolt! I watched as people sitting three abreast climb straight up towards the sun and then plummet straight down only to be pulled up and looped around and around and around then swoosh! Up and down and up and down then shot straight back to the starting gate. There was also a new kick to the age old and nausea inducing Tilt-A-Whirl. Instead of tea cups the riders sit in the belly of  big fat brightly colored dragons swirling around in a dizzying spin that made me queasy just standing there taking photos.

Sun-kissed and tired I brushed the sand from my feet, combed the salt out of my now crisp hair, and left the sun and fun behind me walking back to Stillwell Avenue where I boarded the N train for home and a welcoming shower.


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Freedom Was the Reason

Freedom Was the Reason

They came from far and wide.
They sailed side by side.
They walked together hand in hand,
Bringing their hopes and dreams to a new land.

I wish you a very Happy Independence Day!

Forever Free!


Viva St. Antonio Abate

“Summer’s here and the time is right, for dancin in the streets!” *** Last night on the first night of the first day of the summer solstice I strolled along Ditmars Boulevard to join in the festivities of the annual St. Antonio Abate Feast!  Each year at this time in this small village of Astoria, from 35th to 38th streets the neighborhood comes out to enjoy this annual Italian feast with games, rides, music and food.

I arrived there around 9:00 pm just after sunset, and the streets were jammed packed with crowds of happy people eating, laughing and dancing. There were gaggles of giggling girls showing off their youthful figures, bunches of bashful boys dressed in teenage attire of T-shirts, shorts and sneakers. Toddlers wide-eyed and adorable clutching newly won prizes. Parents and their children playing games of chance and skill. Elder couples holding hands and listening to the band playing Italian songs.

The aroma of frying onions, peppers and sausages rose up around my nose as did the fried chicken and cheese steak.  But, my favorite Italian festival food is the Zeppole. I patiently waited in line, my mouth-watering as I watched the vendor fill a white bag of these fried pillows of dough and then shower them in a snow storm of powered sugar. That first bite is absolute caloric heaven.

I made the mistake of taking my Sony A-77 which does not do well, at all in low light conditions and therefore my images have deafening noise.  I thought at first of just trashing them but I really like the excitement that I caught. So, I gussied them up a bit and I plead artistic license in presenting these images.  Just put your fingers in your ears to drown out the digital uproar and enjoy a few moments at this, the first of the summer fairs.

***”Dancing In The Streets” was written by Hunter, Ivy Jo / Gaye, Marvin P / Stevenson, William. Recorded by Martha And The Vandellas.

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Up On The Roof

Oh, what a glorious day it was on Sunday.  Not only was it Father’s Day, but it was 80 degrees, low humidity, plenty of sun and I was strolling along the Manhattan Bridge.

I exited the #6 train at Canal and Lafayette Streets and continued walking along Canal until I got to Bowery where the pedestrian walkway begins.  It is right across the street from the land mark building of the former Citizens Savings Bank (now occupied by HSBC) with its beautiful gold domed roof and huge clock sculpture flanked by two beehives; symbols of thrift.

Like the Williamsburg Bridge the Manhattan Bridge walkways are protected by high fencing on either side. But, unlike the Williamsburg, the top half of the fence is chain link and the bottom half is open metal work in a lattice pattern. The spaces between the metal slats were big enough for me to poke my camera lens through and get unobstructed shots. Unfortunately, I had to squat down to take the photos; walk- squat- shoot; walk- squat-shoot; walk- squat- shoot and so the day went. Oh, my knees and thighs; they still hurt! The N, Q & R trains that run across the center of this bridge seemed to barrel through every five minutes and resting my lens on the lattice-work was out of the question unless I wanted “artistically blurred” images. When I needed to stand and stretch I would take photos of the bridge’s trusses and towers, graffiti marred columns and archways.

The views of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge, Dumbo and basically a good portion of NY Harbor were gorgeous but, I so enjoyed the views of the roof tops. As you ascend up along the bridge’s walkway you get a terrific view of the apartment roofs tops above the busy bustling streets of China Town. The typical urban roof top is a world of black tar, clothes lines, satellite dishes, rusted antennae’s, broken ladders, crusted paint cans, bric-a-brac, and old shut up chimneys all covered in the pervasive graffiti.  Urban roof tops can be a great place to sit for a few minutes to get away from it all “when this old world starts getting me down” as The Drifters sang in their 1963 hit, *Up on the Roof.  When I moved into my first apartment, at age 19, it had a large spacious roof that over looked a good part of Queens and the Manhattan skyline. During the summer I would climb up the stairs with my beach chair and a thermos of iced tea to spend a few peaceful hours with myself and a good book.

There is a marked difference in the roof top demographic when you cross over to the upscale Dumbo section, (i.e., a brand new enclosed rooftop tennis court with lounge chairs!) I saw a woman and her Siamese cat on their spacious lanai sunning themselves above the dusty streets of Brooklyn. She too, had her iced tea.


* Up on the Roof, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

Are ya singing it?

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Fenced In

I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge, this past Saturday, entering on the Manhattan side at Delancey Street and walking until I reached the end stepping into Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The weather was perfect and I was looking forward to shooting the aerial views from the pedestrian side of the bridge.  This proved to be a challenge since the entire walk way is protected by chain link fencing and that there was no opening in the middle of the walkway, as there is in other bridges I’ve wandered over. I was definitely disappointed but, looking around me I saw that this bridge is truly amazing in that it seems as if you are walking through a giant Erector set.  I was enclosed in a webbing of steel girders and metal fencing.

The traffic on this bridge is equally amazing. Aside from the two walkways on either side of the roadway; one for bicyclists and one for bipeds, running straight up the middle on the upper lever is the J, Z  & M subways and below that, cars, trucks and other vehicular traffic. When a train shot past, the whole bridge seemed to rattle and shake and I thanked whoever it was who invented image stabilization.

Overhead was a maze of crisscrossing metal, at my feet a worn graffiti painted road and from left to right more steel and the ubiquitous chain link fencing.  It was time to get clever with the camera as it was going to be an abstract kind of day.  I saw lines – lines running vertical, horizontal, perpendicular, parallel, at right angles, forming triangles and bisecting each other as they curved into arcs.

As I mentioned before, the hardest part was keeping steady as I squinted and focused my lens through the tiny square fence links to capture maritime vessels sailing up the river or, one of the huge globe lights that sit on the outer edge of the bridge; making sure the background was sharp and the foreground, the fence, in soft focus.  I managed to keep my balance as I bent back in a dizzying stance shooting up into the many riveted trusses and making starbursts of the sun peeking through them. The people crossing the bridge were great subject matter too, with bikers, runners, skate-boarders, and walkers like myself, in all manner of dress and all happy to be out and about on a gorgeous spring day.  Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge is less crowded and attracts more locals than tourists and since the bikers have their own lane there was less chance of getting run down, allowing me to divert all my attention to my photography.

Until one day, when you can walk the bridge yourself, walk with me now through my words and imagery across this notable historic New York City Landmark.

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Astoria Grows My Urban Rose

Every spring I take the train out to the botanical gardens to look at and photograph the gorgeous blooms of the season: Orchids, Magnolias, Lilacs, Tulips and the like. But, when it comes to the rose, Astoria is the place for me. This little urban village in Queens, has some of the most beautiful roses in every shade and shape and all I have to do is walk around my neighborhood to get beautiful photos of them.  And that is exactly what I did yesterday.

With my Sony A-77 SLT and the Zeiss 16-80mm lens, I sallied forth on to the street to spend the day poking my lens into other people’s gardens and capture those beautiful, colorful blooms.  I did not have to walk far, just a block away and I was already pressing the shutter.  In composing these shots I wanted their natural urban environment to come through and you will notice that theme throughout the gallery. It is amazing how a rose or flowers in general can brighten up or make beautiful even the most grungy of areas. I can’t tell you how many garbage cans were surrounded by a huge bush of roses.

Besides the heady fragrance of the rose I love how the silky smooth petals turn and curl gracefully as the flower grows. I zoomed in to get a bees-eye-view to pull the viewer’s eye into this delicate vortex.  The roses were not shy, they poked their furled heads out of gates and fences, reared up toward the sky or cascaded down to the ground to mingle among the grasses.  They turned their faces so the sun’s rays could light up their botanical bodies, diffusing soft yellow light to each petal.

When someone tells you to stop and smell the roses, do so. You will be given a momentary reprieve from the stresses of the day and a chance to marvel at nature’s beauty right at the tip of your noses.

Enjoy these gifts of spring.

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