I am the owner of a brandy new iPad Mini. I traded in two old lenses and a camera through the Amazon trade in program and, received enough money to buy the iPad. The first thing I did was to download any and all photography apps and magazines and have been immersed in iPad heaven for the past two weeks. Yesterday, I decided to try the camera on the iPad on a walk around the neighborhood.
I took a few test shots and was happy with the crisp clear amazingly well exposed images. Since the camera was doing most of the work the only thing I had to worry about was composition and making sure I held the iPad in a firm grip. It was an early spring day with blue skies and puffy clouds but basically unexciting being early in the season and no color other than in the sky. So, the question was: What to shoot?
There is an app that came with the iPad called Photo Booth which comes with nine preset effects and after a little experimentation I chose three of them to work with: mirror, kaleidoscope and swirl. I used these for the rest of the day especially the mirror image. That preset transformed the landscape from OK to Oh Boy! Everything I shot took on the look of a Rorschach test. It was fantastic. I loved what I was capturing and by just positioning the pad a little to the left, right, up or down you could control how wide or thin the mirror image should be. Bare branch trees became wooden cathedrals, and bridges split in two and hovered in mid-air. Any of those annoying things that get into your shot and you would normally remove in post processing, looked great because they were perfectly matched on either side. Tiny fractal faces appeared in the seams and crotches of the abstract designs that were created by this effect. This same effect when focused on the gnarly knots of tree trunks turned them into huge alien monsters!
As I walked along the street I switched to the swirl affect which moved like a mini hurricane across the screen. I would wait until a car, truck or bus would pass by and get caught in this swirling vortex as I tapped the screen. It worked just as well with passing tugs and barges on the East River as I waited for the unsuspecting ship to get sucked into and stretched through an imaginary black hole. The kaleidoscope was fantastic on wide angle landscape and close up shots, splitting the images into broken crystalline pieces of color and texture.
The best shots I took and my favorites are of a man trying to get his parachute to launch itself in the middle of Astoria Park. I have no idea where he thought he was going but the ‘chute provided a wonderful big colorful subject for the mirror effect. At times the man holding the ropes disappeared completely as I angled the pad to create a surreal image of the parachute that seemed to appear out of thin air against a fantastical back drop of the Hell Gate Bridge through the looking-glass.
Enjoy these preposterous trippy little images of a day in iAstoria.
There is something about a cold grey day that fills me with a strange magical excitement. The clouds take on an ominous thrilling look and trees, buildings and bridges look black against the somber sky. It is quiet and few people are to be seen. This Saturday was just that kind of day as I took my morning walk to Astoria Park. I looked up at the sky and wished I’d bought my camera with me but, then I gleeful remembered I had my iPhone with me and the trusty Hipstamatic app which would add the perfect aged, grainy, dark effect to the images I had been seeing in my mind. This was going to be a good day.
The newly laid asphalt pathways; coal black with bright white symbols for bikers, skaters and pedestrians started me off. The pathways turned and snaked through the park and pulled the eye along to a distant point. The gnarled arthritic branches of trees and bushes along the frigid water’s edge were perfect frames for the Hell Gate and Triboro Bridges.
Twenty minutes into my walk the winds picked up and the sky grew misty with tiny flakes of snow that stung my face and fingers as I tried to capture the seagulls floating gracefully in an up draft of wind. I walked further north toward the end of the park as the flakes grew fat and fluffy flying everywhere at once. Out on the water, the distant buildings barely visible in the mist a large maritime vessel appeared out of the cold white vapor on its way up the East River.
Turning in away from the water I walked through the park where the snow was starting to powder the landscape bringing out the textures in the bark of trees and adding a thin icing to the leaves of winter plants. I walked in and out of the trees and followed the paths to a clearing blanketed in white and let the snow swirl around me. I stood upon the public deck to the Astoria Pool looking out at the magnificent view flanked by the two famous bridges taking images and remembering the hot summer childhood days my siblings and I spent there. Walking to the other side of the deck I looked down at the cascading stairways that lead to and from the entrance of the pool that had accumulated a dusting of this first of winter’s snow. Towards the afternoon the snow turned to rain and I turned my cold and wet feet towards home and hot coffee.
This morning the sun was shinning bright, the air cold and crisp and although not as exciting as yesterdays mini snow squall it did provide me with some fantastic winter subject matter. Ice. During the night the drop in temperatures froze any puddles that had accumulated in yesterdays rain. The frozen water cracked into spider web mosaics and knife-edged triangles of ice. A slushy foot print was frozen in time until a warmer day erases the memory. Left over autumn leaves and tufts of dried grass were also enveloped victims of nature’s frosty magic.
Stay warm my friends winter is just beginning.
Saturday, I embarked on a three hour voyage to learn about and photograph the historic lighthouses of New York Harbor. The tour was sponsored by the National Lighthouse Museum and the Working Harbor Committee.
At 9:45am we boarded the high speed ferry Sea Streak at pier 5. Now, this ferry is just fabulous for getting people to and from New York and New Jersey in record time but, as a sight seeing boat, not a good idea. Because this boat went at such high speeds it was very bumpy, kicked up gale force winds and enough salt water spray to think you were at Niagara Falls. I spent a good deal of time trying to keep my balance, wiping off the lens and sticking my camera under my jacket to protect it from the elements as best I could. The boat did slow down and idle in front of the lighthouses so we could get a good look and take a few images. But, I knew right away my shots were not going be great due to the spray and that I could barely keep my balance. I just kept on shooting as did the other photographers who were in the same boat as I was (pardon the pun.)
When viewing the images on the computer the salt coating on the lens gave the same look as the old 1940’s movies where they smeared Vaseline on the lens to create that soft glowing blur. I used all of my artistic digital darkroom talents to turn these photographic lemons into lemonade. I converted all of them to black and white, applied a sepia finish which sharpened some of the blur and pulled out any detail. The “salt” blur actually worked well on a some of the images but most of the shots were deleted because the blur was too much and you could barely make out the subject of the image. The last four images are an exception to this. I kept them because the blur had a very dream like in quality to it. The images I took of the pier before we embarked on our harbor tour obviously did not experience blur problems but I converted them to sepia just the same because I felt it gave a nice aged look to the wooden planks, beams and poles.
Despite all of the above, I did enjoyed myself and captured images of the following lighthouses listed in order of appearance: Fortwadsworth (SI); Coney Island (Brooklyn, NY); West Bank (SI); Romer Shoal (NJ); Navesink Twin Lights (NJ); Great Beds (NJ) and last but not least Old Orchard Shoal (NY).
Each lighthouse has a unique history and for me the two most interesting light houses were the Fort Wadsworth, sitting on top of the old Fort Wadsworth Battery Weed under the Verrazano Bridge and, The 150 year old Navesink Twin Light houses with their medieval castle architecture. One of my favorite lighthouse shots though, is of Old Orchard with a man in a small boat fishing at the foot of the Light house while a flock of socializing Cormorants napped, groomed feathers and chattered on the top of the light house. A very picturesque moment.
Although these lighthouses are no longer in use, due to modern GPS technology, they still stand as historic monuments and museums. Reminders of the importance of the maritime industries that serve the ports of New York, New Jersey and Staten Island.
This past Sunday I went meandering around Long Island City looking to add to my urban grunge photo collection and happened upon the “southern” waterfront of the East River at the end of 5th Street and 46th Avenue. I was immediately attracted to the old rusting barges and rundown warehouses and made a bee line to the water’s edge to spend a few happy minutes photographing these old river relics.
When I had finished taking photos of the old boats I noticed brightly colored kayaks along the side of the dock. These belonged to LicBoathouse.org. I spoke with one of the representatives of this organization and I was told they provide kayaking tours of the East River. I was absolutely fascinated and was given a tour of the boathouse, which is in an old meat smoking factory now owned by a company called PLAXALL. The original old company logo of a bull’s head and a large letter F can still be seen on the corner-stone of the building. This building also houses a bicycle re-”cycling” center , another terrific ”green” gem in Long Island City.
Once inside the boathouse head quarters I spoke with the people who lead the kayaking groups and took a few photos of the kayaks, life jackets and other equipment and of course the now empty huge meat smoking chambers. Apparently kayaking the East River is very popular with adults as well as children who enjoy this type of riparian adventure. What makes these tours so special besides the great learning experience and fantastic views of New York City is that they are absolutely FREE! Can’t get any better than that!
Monday, I continued my urban grunge sojourn in Astoria visiting Socrates Sculpture Park an outdoor museum, and finally Hallet’s Cove both adjacent to each other on Vernon Boulevard. I was in my element with plenty of industrial detritus to photograph. The park did not have any current exhibits on view at this time but there are a few permanent pieces like Curtain, a project conceived by architects Jerome Haferd and K Brandt Knapp. This piece is a combination of architectural structural framing with plastic chain link partitions and enclosures. It reminded me of a white chain link weeping willow and I just loved walking around and through it taking off angle photos. Just as you enter the park there are three sculptures of young African American teenagers in life style poses. My favorite was the basketball player; I could have sworn he was real. I had the good fortune to meet artist, Chanq-Jin Lee preparing for the installation of her piece called Floating Echo a giant inflatable Buddha which will be on exhibit on September 9th. I took a few photos of her team loading a floating platform that will be transformed into a Lotus flower that the Buddha will sit upon in the calm waters of Hallet’s Cove.
The park as well as Hallet’s Cove are on the East River facing Roosevelt Island and Manhattan. As usual my attention was drawn to the shoreline and to all of the old debris from forgotten docks, piers, railroads and warehouses that line this part of Western Queens. A small new dock sits among the remains of the old docks where a little pea green boat was tied up and is used for people who want to take a row on the water (weekends only.) On the tiny beach at Hallet’s Cove I found myself walking the few feet of sandy “beach” taking shots of twisted rusted metal sticking out from large tumbled pieces of concrete that at one time were part of a pier. I left the beach and I walked along Vernon Boulevard to the promenade of a housing project to capture the park and the cove at a wide angle distance with the dilapidated piers reflecting in the water.
I hope this blog motivates you to kayak the East River or make a visit to Astoria Queens to wander through an outdoor museum or sit and relax in Hallet’s Cove on the shore of the East River. Enjoy the photos below.
Last Sunday, was a picture perfect day and with camera in hand I went on a most unusual but fascinating boat exploration of Newtown Creek as part of a Hidden Harbor tour. As you know I have a fascination with urban grunge and this trip gave me ample opportunity to capture images of industrial exploitation that would not have been possible on land. Our tour guide and narrator was Mitch Waxman, who is a blogger, photographer and historian for the Newtown Creek Alliance.
The tour group met at the NY Water Taxi “stand” at Pier 17 and the boat left at 11:00am beginning our three hour voyage up the East River with expansive vista’s of South Street Seaport and the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges before moving into Newtown Creek.
Once on the creek the scenery was not your picture-post-card views unless you consider toxic waste one of them. Newtown Creek unfortunately has the undesirable distinction to be one of the most heavily used bodies of water in the Port of New York and New Jersey and one of the most polluted industrial sites in America. The water is a noxious mix of discarded toxins, gallons of spilled oil, and raw sewage from New York City’s sewer system! You would need to wear a hazmat suit to go for a swim and would be considered insane for doing so.
By now you are no doubt thinking why in hell would anyone want to take a “tour” like this? Well, for one thing it is a piece of urban history in my own back yard, so to speak. Secondly, it has all of the grit and grime an urban photographer could possibly ask for. But, most importantly it opens ones eyes to the reality of what can happen when commerce and industry are allowed to run amok without any ecological accountability.
Newtown Creek is bordered on either side by Greenpoint Brooklyn and Long Island City Queens. Standing on the stern of the boat the Whale Creek Fuel Tanks loom over the landscape on the Brooklyn side to my left. On the Queens side to my right were huge mountains of crushed shredded metal and plastic, once cars, waiting to be loaded on barges. In the distance is the skyline of Manhattan, a mirage of shinning gleaming buildings. Warehouses old and new, abandoned sheds and small factories, rusted and decaying building equipment, tools, machinery, trucks, cars, small boats, rubbish, and litter mixed in with the weeds and wild grasses are the somber hallmarks of this shoreline.
During those three hours I was all over that boat trying to keep the glaring sun behind me and create images depicting the natural and unnatural scenery. Although the water was a dark yellow-brown miasma that assaulted my nose and eyes, I was able to find some beauty in the water’s abstract reflections.
The Pulaski Bridge opened wide its arms in welcome as we passed underneath and the Kosciusko bridge added a quiet gentility as we slowly sailed past. I could not help wondering as I looked all around of what this waterway was like before the European settlers arrived and the original inhabitants swam, fished and lived along the shores. Is it possible that we could bring the land and water back to life once again? Thanks to the inspiring work and dedication of the members of the Newtown Creek Alliance this dream someday, might come true.
Stay In Focus,
Saturday, I bounded out of the apartment at 7:00am camera in hand and off for a morning of photography in Astoria Park to fill my expanding portfolio and for an upcoming submission to BORO magazine.
When I enter Astoria Park it is usually from the corner of Ditmars and Shore Boulevards walking south along the shore line of the East River and stop when I get to the heart of the park near the running track. This time I walked down to the end of Shore Boulevard to Astoria Park South, where the park technically ends. I always thought that was the furthest you could go but I noticed an opening in the fencing that marks off the park from the Shore Tower apartment complex. There was no sign that said “keep off or private property” so I ventured in and found myself on a wide expanse of a concrete promenade with unobstructed views of the East River north and south, Randall’s/Wards Island and Manhattan to the west.
What intrigued me the most being an urban industrial photographer were the old and decaying wooden pylons left over from a time when there must have been a boardwalk or pier running along the shore line. The pylons were worn, splintered and tired looking from years of seasonal mayhem and salt water and just fired my imagination, wondering what they were doing there. I’m assuming it had to have been an industrial pier, because there was also the shell of an old warehouse and factory that I could only view from this vantage point; the entrance to the old warehouse was closed off to the public much to my dismay. This area is known as Ravenswood which is a residential and commercial area and has been since the mid 1800′s.
I spent a few hours in the wind and sun taking shot after shot of the abandoned warehouse’s ivy and weed covered facade, cracked windows and two lovely old brick and mosaic tipped factory smoke stacks. I wonder if they were from the old Terra Cotta company? The aged wooden pylons provided an interesting foreground to these photos, a reminder of an old era of commerce and industry in this once productive neighborhood. On the very edge of this portion of the shoreline were school buses parked there for reasons I do not know but added a needed touch of bright yellow to the image composition.
The East River that morning was very busy with maritime traffic. Walking north along the shore line I would stop and takes shots of the busy burly tug boats pushing container barges up towards the Long Island Sound or down to Lower Manhattan passing under the Hellgate and Triboro bridges. Fortunately, the tide was low so I was able to get striking images of the rocky sandy shore line with large protruding boulders that are usually hidden under the rushing turbulent waters of this tidal strait. A fun and productive day along the shore of the East River.
Enjoy the images below.
This past weekend was so beautiful and spring like with azure blue skies and bright sun that I just couldn’t get enough of being outside.
On Saturday morning I took the #7 train to the Vernon and Jackson Avenue stop and walked towards Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City to take photos of the spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and those big bold Gantries.
The views of Manhattan are the real draw to this park along with the well maintained promenade and piers. Here you can spend hours lounging on the large spacious wooden deck chairs and wide benches soaking up the sun and watching the boats and barges lazily sailing up and down the river. Take a nice long leisurely walk or ride your bike along the promenade. You can put a quarter in the large free-standing binoculars and take in a close up view of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island and the 59th Street Bridge. Or spend the day fishing off the fishing pier complete with a stainless steel table for filleting the catch of the day. There is a sense of peace and calm here in this urban oasis which at one time was a busy industrial dock facility with the huge Gantries lifting goods from rail cars to cargo vessels.
There was an Easter Egg hunt going on with hundreds of excited children running pell-mell across the soft green lawns, filling their baskets with as many eggs as they could find. Taking advantage of the crowds being busy with the egg hunt I had the piers to my self and took as many shots of the Gantries as I could, without anyone wandering in front of them, and artistic wide angle shots of the piers. The Empire State and Chrysler buildings looked just gorgeous in the changing morning light. And my favorite image is an iconic one of the United Nations flanked by these two New York City skyline veterans.
Around noon the sun was at it brightest and time for me to have lunch and head home. I stopped at Dorian’s Cafe on the corner of 50th Avenue and Vernon Blvd. and had an omelet and the biggest cup of delicious coffee I ever had. You could have done laps inside that cup it was so big.
I hope you all had a beautiful weekend and enjoy the images below.
I know, I know I haven’t written or taken any photos for the entire month of January. This was due partly to a bad cold and sheer winter laziness. My good friend and fellow photographer RC Hall threatened to squeal on me to the photo police so I figured I better get my little heiny in gear and out the door.
Off I went to South Street Sea Port to capture the fading beauty of the old masted seafaring vessels the Peking and her Liverpool cousin the Wavertree who spend their retirement entertaining tourist from far and near with their history of the shipping industry in days gone by.
Saturday was overcast with occasional sun peeks through the clouds adding a dramatic background against the tall masted historic ships. It was my kind of day though not too cold, not too warm, not too windy nor crowded. Since I visited the seaport last a new promenade has been erected on the right side of the ships (facing the water) and is three levels up with fantastic views of the seaport and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The promenade is nice and wide so you don’t feel crowded no matter how many people there are and plenty of little benches and steps to sit on.
I love the old shiver-me-timbers atmosphere that overwhelms me as soon as I step foot on the pier! I was in my element taking shot after shot of the grit and grime that I have come to know and love while photographing the urban landscape. Everywhere I looked was a treasure; salt washed planking on the docks, rusted chains as big as NYC street pretzels coated with barnacles instead of salt, cracked and peeling paint. All sorts of rope coiled, looped and knotted, years of paint caked on port holes and rivets, warped and aged decks of old tug boats, corroded cleats and mangled bits of rotting metal and wood. I sooooooo enjoyed myself.
Did you know that the old red and grey kiosk standing in the middle of the dock as you enter Pier 17 is actually the old pilothouse from the top of the steam tugboat New York Central No. 31, built in 1923 in Brooklyn, NY ? Neither did I but i stumbled upon this information while key-wording my images. The tug was once of a large fleet of such vessels owned and operated by the railroads! I applied an aged photo filter (see images below) to my image of this pilot house in keeping with its aged history.
When I had my fill of photos of the pier and ships I spent a few minutes taking shots of the front window of the little museum shop near the Peking. On display is a wonderful carved wooden bust of an Indian Chief with a feathered bonnet. What intrigued me was the glass window was shattered on the right corner. The resulting cracks spread out from the corner creating a sharp wide burst across the face of the Indian Chief. Terrific effect. I was so busy taking photos I never thought to go into the museum; alas next visit I will make it a point to open the door and walk inside and say hello to my Indian friend.
Yar mateys, tis all I haf ta tell ye of me voyage to the seaport. Enjoy the images below, arrrh.