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Photosbycate Weblog

A Photo Essay Blog

Archive for the category “Photography”

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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Remains and Reminders of the Past

My friends, Claudia, Janice and I took the ferry to Ellis Island this past Saturday. It had rained in the early morning but, for the rest of the day we had brief periods of sun and BIG sky. The clouds were just wonderful; ominous and huge like hovering spaceships. The sun, fighting for dominion would slice through a purple-grey mass illuminating the water and causing nearby clouds to turn bright white as they ballooned above our heads. The boat was packed with a happy excited tourist crowd as we pulled away from the shores of Battery Park heading out along the wide deep Hudson River to spend the day walking in the footsteps of our ancestors.

When we arrived on the island we stopped at the entrance to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum; here I separated from my friends to spend a few moments walking around the perimeter of the island and getting some photographs as the sun won a temporary battle with the clouds and shone with a warm determination.

Admiring and photographing the beautiful views of the Manhattan and Jersey City skylines, I came upon the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. A large silver oval wall behind the museum,  inscribed with the names of hundreds of immigrants that passed through Ellis Island; only a fraction of the twelve million people who graced its halls and entered into a new life in America.

My last name is Franklyn, my father was Maximillian Peter Franklyn and it says so on my birth certificate, but we found out through a family genealogist, my nephew-in-law, Damian DeVirgilio, that my father’s real name was in fact Feinstein and his family was from Warsaw Poland. He had seven siblings; six brothers and one sister. Even with Damian’s detective skills we could not discover if he was born here or if  he, with his family, immigrated to American and if so, when? Or why, he chose to changed his name and never once mentioned his large family or his past to either his wife or  his four children. And as he deserted us when I was nine, leaving for work one day never to return or be heard from again, until his death, his past will always remain an enigma.  But, curiosity got the better of me and I walked along the wall until I came to the F’s and found a few Feinsteins and a Max Feinstein Family; if these are relatives of mine I’ll never know but, in a quirk of sentimentality and for family posterity I took a photo of these names. Walking further on I reached the R’s and ran my finger down the list until I found the Ryan’s. These were my mother’s people, she being Mary Camilla Ryan, she went by her middle name Camilla and her friends called her Cam. My brother was named after our great-grand father Patrick  H. Ryan who in the 1870′s founded the Ryan hotel in Blanchardville, WI. My maternal great-great grand parents immigrated to American from Ireland long before Ellis Island opened, they most likely passed through Castle Clinton. Again, I enjoyed looking at the names and taking a photo of the Patrick Ryan’s to show my brother and sisters.

I walked back through the  front entrance, so I could experience what it was like to walk through those huge doors into the Baggage Room, where so many wide-eyed people from far away lands walked with all of their worldly belongings clutched in their hands. This is where  they dropped off all of their suit cases, trunks, boxes, valises, baskets, and bags for safe keeping before being herded into the Great Hall, a.k.a., the Registry Room.  I found this formidable hall just fascinating with vaulted ceilings, where two flowing American Flags hung,  and large arched windows where light poured through igniting my imagination. This was the room where the immigrants were “processed” and where the urban legend of name changing  or rearranging happened to either make it easier for the authorities to pronounce or to suit their new American lifestyles. I walked through a doorway that took me upstairs where there were rooms full of incredible photos of people. Hundreds of faces peered out at me their large glassy eyes following me; these were eyes of wonder, bewilderment, fear, excitement, courage and pride. I stood staring back trying to feel what they were feeling; wondering what they were thinking.  These were they eyes of people who gave up everything they had, said goodbye to everyone they knew to sail away to a world as foreign as the moon; It was a last chance, a roll of the dice. They were young, they were old, they were poor but, they all shared a dogged determination to make it.

There were rooms that held the old relics of the dormitories, hospital and kitchen that served the islands immigrants before they took the ferry to New York or New Jersey, or sadly, were sent back where they came from.  These items were still covered with the dust of memories. An old decrepit piano stood behind a wicker chair, who played it?  A rusted muffin tin hid next to an enormous cooking pot with giant ladles hanging by its side. A medical table with privacy curtains  like dried mummy skin next to a peeling supply cabinet.  The dormitory room held rows of cots that hung by chains from the ceiling; a scant woolen blanket folded at the head of each bed. Porcelain communal sinks and old subway tile glistened in the sun. I was lost in another time.

I eventually met up with my friends again as I walked through the Peopling of America section behind the Baggage Room. Here we learned of the real history of the immigrants as they tried to assimilate to the new culture and how they met with derision and prejudice, failure and success. In other words the good, the bad and the ugly of coming to America. Sadly, I learned that Africans passed through Ellis Island not as immigrants but as property to be sold at auction and to begin their lives here in this new world as dehumanized slaves. We learned of the plight of the indigenous people of this country and how they watched as their land was sold in cheap parcels to anyone who had the cash in hand and the grit to travel across the West. We listened to the many stories of the animosity and fear towards the Chinese. But, through it all these people, these tenacious, ingenious, wonderful people persevered and grew strong, worked hard and made a better life for themselves, their children and their children’s children and consequently for all of us living here now.

The purpose of  history is to learn from the past. There is a saying; history repeats itself. I don’t believe that. I believe that we make the same mistakes over and over again. We want to forget and sweep the past under the rug. That is why a place like Ellis Island is so important because it does not let us forget but instead teaches us to correct our errors of the past and to look forward to the future and not be afraid of  but, to embrace  diversity.


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No, this post is not about Disney’s adorable animated big eared baby elephant. It is though, about the neighborhood in my second favorite borough Brooklyn, known as DUMBO which, is another of those “kitschy” NYC neighborhood acronyms for, Down Under Manhattan Bridge Organization. You might have heard of the others: SoHo = South of Houston (street); NoHo = North of Houston (street); TriBeca = Triangle Below Canal (street) and NoLita = North of Little Italy. All fun NYC places of interest and history, by the way. So, with all that said last Sunday I took the ferry from Long Island City, Queens sailing south along the East River on the Brooklyn side passing Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg and stopping at my final Destination Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Last summer I blogged about my first visit to Brooklyn Bridge Park, taking the subway and walking all along the river promenade but,  I never made it past The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory ( who could?) and forgot about the beautiful Jane’s Carousel that sits between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Therefore, the purpose of this trip was to capture that whirling equestrian ride and wander around the shoreline of DUMBO. Note: a slight photographic digression in the first 9 images which are from Long Island City as I walked to the ferry landing in Hunter’s Point Park. I can never get enough of that neighborhood. :)

When I disembarked at the ferry landing in Brooklyn, there were the usual crowds of tourists and locals milling about enjoying the sun and chilly spring weather amidst the backdrop of  New York City’s notable attractions. There was a wedding party arranging themselves on the pier for the photographers and, as I marched down the gang-plank towards land, I couldn’t help taking a few quick shots of the bride and her merry maids trying to control her voluminous veil as the wind blew in strong and annoying gusts.

Like many of the old industrial neighborhoods along the East and North Rivers (a.k.a. Hudson River) that, in their heyday, were giants of the manufacturing and shipping industries, have now become a mix of living museum and mixed demographic lifestyles. As I detoured away from the shoreline, the streets of a hundred or more years ago were still lined with the old and once decaying brick and graffiti strewn warehouses and buildings; now receiving re-gentrifying face lifts. Nobby sturdy cobblestone spread out before me embedded with the abandoned lines of rail track directing the ghosts of rail cars to and from the spirits of awaiting boats and barges.

In striking contrast to these post industrial surroundings, the cheery colorful Jane’s Carousel is juxtaposed to a tiny urban beach head of tumbled rocks and boulders with a back drop of an abandoned building dotted with dark sightless windows. As one walks along the beach, the contrast is intensified by the delightful shrieks and laughter of children and adults riding a herd of painted wild horses with flying manes and flared nostrils, taking them on a dizzying circumvolution adventure.

In processing these images I used an HDR filter to not only enhance the gritty details of an inner-city scene but, to bring out the particular aura of  an old neighborhood pushed out from behind the curtains of the past into the future for another chance at a life. Enjoy the ramble both in words and images.

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Ēostre – Pagan Goddess of Spring

Walking with the Pagan Goddess of Spring,

Is quite amazing and awe inspiring.

She caresses each tree with a smooth translucent hand,

Provoking branches to sway and sigh across the land.

Evoking tight pods of tiny new leaves

To be coaxed out by the sun’s celestial energies.

The flowerets twirl up and out of the ground,

Shaking out full heads of colorful petals, unbound.

With petite supple feet this Goddess treads,

And as she steps a soft carpet of grass does spread.

Her mother Gaia sends forth a warm welcome of fragrant breezes.

The daughter responds with a bounty of flora that pleases.

Embrace this Season of Regeneration.

Enjoy this Easter Celebration.

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