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Photosbycate Weblog

A Photo Essay Blog

Archive for the category “Travel”

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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An Early September’s Late Summer Stroll

Summer is almost over and I had not paid a visit to The New York Botanical Gardens since March, when I went searching for signs of spring in the hopes that winter was finally leaving, allowing me to thaw out.  At that time the gardens still had patches of snow and ice on them with only a few tiny green shoots bravely breaking through the still frozen soil. This past Sunday, those same gardens were bursting with floral color and greenery in a mind-blowing array of plants, flowers, shrubs and bushes.

It  is still technically summer but, fall is just over the horizon so my first stop was a visit to the giant conifers that were packed with pine cones weighing down the branches. I ducked under the laden bows to capture the cones at eye level and the sun filtering through the trees highlighting a soft carpet of fallen pine needles. A tiny taste of Autumn.

Stepping out from the pines and onto the tarmac I refocused my sites and my lens on the late summer blooms.

The Seasonal Walk and the Perennial Gardens are a terrific place to just amble around, with no particular itinerary and no crowds to dodge, while the  flower and plant aromas travel on the breeze exciting the senses and relaxing the mind. My eyes traveled over the flowers observing color, size, texture, grouping, and lighting and then I would compose and shoot. Chubby bumblebees were out in full force this warm day humming and hovering around and adding just the right touch to my images. I passed through the vegetable garden which was in its last stages of producing with just a few late cabbages, lettuces and tomatoes, but their textures were interesting and a few were enshrouded in a delicate gauzy cobweb. I came upon a glittering copper-colored beetle taking an afternoon nap on a sun warmed leaf and a very inquisitive bug-eyed dragon-fly who smiled right into the camera, as if saying “cheese!”  In a shaded area of the vegetable garden was a much harvested broccoli patch with just a few remaining small buds where, I uncovered a clear oval droplet; a jewel of water set in the curl of a soft green-blue leaf. That was my favorite shot of the day.

Across from the gardens, in the parking lot of the train station was a Catalpa tree. I stopped to admire its broad green leaves and stringy foot long pods waving in the breeze and aimed my camera up, shooting them against a sky turned a rich blue by the late afternoon sun.

I look forward to returning to these gardens in the fall when there is a little nip in the air, the autumn flowers are in bloom and the foliage is in full color.

 

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A Riparian Ramble to Grant’s Tomb

The one thing about NYC that I find fascinating is the many parks that it has.  Most of them along the river fronts; shore lines that, for over a hundred years have been dominated by manufacturing and rail commerce. A shoreline not for the enjoyment of the people but, for the forward pull of progress. Today, that has changed and the shorelines of two of NYC’s biggest rivers; the Hudson (a.k.a. North River) and the East River have been transformed into public parks.  These parks have promenades for biking and walking, grassy banks strewn with big bulky colorful rocks perfect for having an impromptu pick nick or just sitting and watching the waters flow.  The images that accompany this post were taken on the Hudson River and within the peaceful scenic Riverside Park, which stretches from 72nd Street all the way up to 125th street toward my final destination of Grant’s Tomb.

Emerging from the subway station on the 73rd Street and Broadway side, I was greeted with a spectacular view of the gorgeous Beaux Arts facade of the grand old Ansonia Hotel, a much loved and recognized Upper West Side land mark.

Entering the Park at 72nd and Riverside Drive I was greeted by the sculpture of a pensive Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman whose life and works I highly admire. I then made a bee line to the waterfront to begin my photographic ramble of the day. As with all of the waterfront parks, there were bikers and runners by the score, out for a healthy few hours in sun, as well as people like me strolling and taking in the sites, sounds and smells of a beautiful warm summer day.

I spent a good deal of time taking photos of the 79th Street Boat Basin facing Guttenberg, NJ. The basin was filled with all of the great nautical bits and the flotsam and jetsam that I love to photograph accented with a few brown mallards sunning themselves on a waterlogged piece of dock. Continuing northward I came to the end of the  concrete and asphalt promenade and was now on a grassy tree lined riverbank similar to the banks of the East River in Astoria Park; one could scramble down the rocks to get close enough to dangle a foot or two in the water.  I followed a narrow foot path in the grass stopping every few feet to photograph some cotton like weed, wild flowers or ivy crawling over the rocks or the rock’s colorful geologic striations.

The highway at some point separates the park from the water front and so at 122nd street I had to back track to 104th street and walk through a tunnel to get into the “heart” of Riverside Park. Here is where you lose all sense that you are in NYC. A small forest of trees with peeling brown bark and lemon yellow limbs surrounds you as do the sounds of birds and the undulating sh-sh-sh-shushing of the cicadas.  I walked entranced up the wide lanes and down stone stair cases, and up again onto stone overlooks, letting the peace and calm envelop me.  The only other sounds were that of children happily shrieking, as is their won’t, as they played on the swings or swung from the dangling rings of a playground obstacle course. There are baseball and soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts and miles of paths to traverse. A recreational haven for everyone.

The park is also known for the many historic and poignant monuments that are part of the this northern area of Manhattan also known as Morning Side Heights and, the most popular of all is Grant’s Tomb; located at 122nd Street.  When I stepped out of the cool shade of the park my eyes were dazzled by the bright white tower of Riverside Church and most amazing is that it was not enshrouded in scaffolding, as is almost every famous and or religious building and monument in Manhattan! This will be a go back trip with a faster lens to capture the interior of this church.

I grabbed a few shots and then tore myself away and walked over to the Mrs. and the General’s place of rest.  It too, was clean bright white and sits at the end of a bower of trees where one walks through and then up the stone stairs leading into the entrance of the mausoleum. Before entering I was completely side tracked and smitten by some unusual sculpture. Free formed multicolored mosaic stone benches that slithered around the perimeter of Grant’s Tomb, like a huge multicolored anaconda; a very whimsical contrast to the solemnity of the place. The sculpture is called the Rolling Bench and was designed by artist Pedro Silva and the architect Phillip Danzig.

Before catching the M5 bus back downtown to 72nd street I spent a few minutes taking more exterior shots of Riverside Church and surrounding buildings, unfortunately some of these were under renovation (there’s a surprise!) and miles of protective netting. Exiting the bus at 72nd and Riverside I chose to walk up 73rd for a few parting shots of the Ansonia.

Enjoy this view of the Upper West Side.

 

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Stalwart Survivors of the World’s Fair

This past Saturday I was back on the #7 train but, this time for a visit to Flushing Meadows Park, home of both the 1939 and 1964 world’s fairs. I was there to photograph the landmark Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion, remnants of the 1964 world’s fair that I attended and mentioned in my post of last week . Click here to read.

Strolling on the boardwalk that leads into the park among gaily flying American flags and banners, advertising the US Open now taking place at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, I spotted the train yards where the #7 trains spend their leisure time when not shuttling people to and from Manhattan. I’m developing quite an affection for this subway line. :)

Once in the park I walked up a path shaded by a bower of trees that opens up to the breath-taking site of the Unisphere; an imposing silver orb of open worked stainless steel, against a blue sky gleaming in the sun and awash in a continuous spray of cool water.  It was just as I had remember it, fifty years ago – HUGE! I still felt the same awe as I walked all around its metal girth taking photo after photo, trying to come up with a new perspective with each shot.  The spray attracted children who would run laughing and yelling through the streaming aqua jets and I was careful to note which way the mist was blowing so as not to get my camera wet. When I had arrived the skies were blue and cloudless but, within an hour Mother Nature sent in a bank of white fluffy clouds that nestled down low behind the Unisphere, blending in so well with the frothy white jets of water that, it looked as if this celestial ball was teetering on the end of a water fall.

Happy with the Unisphere photos I created so far, I walked towards what was left of the New York State Pavilion. This was a source of great fascination to me when I was 7 years old because, it looked like something out of a science fiction magazine.  Now, a half century later, it is a skeleton of  discolored metal and concrete bones standing silent and stately. No longer alive with spellbound visitors wandering its observation decks, or walking its once beautiful floor of red Terrazzo tiles; no longer a center of attention. As I stood looking up at this past relic of the future, alight in the afternoon sun, its glamour and elegance still shown through. And, as I did with the Unisphere I walked around and around looking for and finding the abstract lines, curves and angles that mesmerized me all those years ago.

The sun was climbing higher in the sky and I wanted to get a few more shots of the Unisphere before heading home with maybe a sunburst above its crown and look for more distinctive views from within the park.  In my ramblings I found two of the sculptures that grace the many lawns in the park that lead to the Unisphere. My favorite is the “The Rocket Thrower” by Donald De Lue, and my second favorite the Freedom of the Human Spirit” by Marshall Fredericks.

As I was exiting the park I was delighted to see the Further Bus, a real working monument to the  psychedelic 1960’s once driven by Neal Cassady of the infamous Beat Generation (see Jack Kerouac or I should say “read”.)

Enjoy this blast from the past, man! Peace.

 

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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.

Enjoy!

 

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iCostume

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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