The past few weeks I was involved in family photography which was fun and very gratifying but, I needed to get back into my urban groove.
When I walked out of the apartment this past Sunday, I had no specific idea of what I wanted to shoot. So, I let my photographic Muse provide the inspiration. As I walked through the neighborhood my eyes began to focus on objects that contained vivid color, striking contrasts (i.e., a bower of red roses arching over a row of grey garbage cans; love it!), grunge, interesting juxtapositions, repeating patterns and rough textures or had an element of whimsy.
I pointed the lens skyward, poked it into gardens and alleyways, under tunnels and train tracks, through fences and bushes and over walls. I walked up and down the blocks, scanning the urban landscape for subjects and proud of the cultural diversity of this Queens neighborhood depicted in murals by local graffiti artists.
The Muse was open to everything, encouraging me to be objective in choosing the imagery I was creating. We had a terrific time the Muse and I, strolling the streets of Astoria capturing the eclectic nuances that make up my urban home town.
Last Saturday, I meandered around Long Island City perusing the urban landscape for interesting and different subject matter to photograph and came upon the pedestrian entrance to the Pulaski Bridge on 11th Street. This was just what I was looking for; a cityscape with some earthy gritty aspects. This past summer I sailed under this bridge on an excursion up Newtown Creek and wrote about it in a previous post Saving Newtown Creek but, I had never walked across from Long Island City Queens to Greenpoint Brooklyn, both heavily industrialized sections that are having a resurgence as residential and commercial hot spots.
The walkway is narrow and enclosed on one side by a high chain link fence that bows outward and keeps people from falling or jumping off into the highly polluted creek or the entrace to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. I was fascinated by the bend and curve of the fencing and how when photographed at a certain angle pulls the eye straight into a visual vortex. The other side is the highway, with low concrete and metal dividers separating the pedestrian and/or bicyclist from the vehicular traffic zooming in and out of the two boroughs. Since this is a draw bridge there is unobstructed viewing in the middle where the giant zipper like grid comes together when the bridge is closed. The bridge at times would undulate when a monstrously heavy truck would go roaring by unnerving me as I straddled the “zipper” trying to take a photograph and not get tossed into the traffic. How I managed to get a sharp image of it I’ll never know. There are access stairways at various points along the bridge that also offer open views.
The view from the bridge is striking with a range of urban subject matter from three boroughs; Brooklyn to the left, Queens to the right and Manhattan straight up the middle. The shoreline of both Long Island City and Greenpoint are lined with old and new factories, graffiti covered warehouses, parking lots, garages, and docks for small boats and barges. Photo fodder for industrial photographers like myself. Further inland are the neighborhood homes, apartment buildings, commercial buildings, schools, steepled churches, local restaurants, businesses and cafes. Looking up the creek and out toward the East River is Manhattan with the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings scraping the sky. The bridge also crosses over the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road and I took a quick run down to street level to capture the rusting metal and dried wood of the tracks stretching toward the “big city.”
The highway had some interesting urban subject matter as well and I turned my camera’s lens on any vehicle that had a bright color or a large size passing under the dark red iron work arches spanning the roadway. The view on this side of the bridge is of huge advertising billboards, big yellow traffic lights, red and white traffic stop arms and matching steam stacks of the Keyspan Energy plant and the ice blue Citicorp Building; Long Island City’s first skyscraper.
Throughout the day the sky was a whirl of soft smooth white clouds against a cyan blue canvas adding an intensity to the image compositions both in color and black and white. A picture perfect day above the urban menagerie of Queens and Brooklyn.
Enjoy the images 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,
And what better accomplishment could nature have done but create the Rose. I’ve mentioned in previous posts of the magnificent flowers in the gardens of Astoria Queens, especially the roses along Ditmars Boulevard. Now, in this very warm and humid mid spring the roses have been outdoing themselves in size, color and variety. Everyday they bow their beautiful fragrant heads to me as I walked along to touch, smell and admire their natural graces.
Some colors are vibrant and some muted and I’ve taken a liberty, with what Mother Nature has done, and added a darker urban twist to the rose with the help of post processing software and my artistic imagination. I brought out the delicate detail of the curl, fold and ruffle of the petal; the line of the vein in the leaf and the gentleness of the sprouting bud with fine grain. I added a shimmer or a shine to soften or blurred to a bright opacity and pulled out just enough color to draw the eye inward.
I hope you enjoy my little embellishments.
Today, was a wonderful quiet lazy rainy day spent doing just what I wanted with no demands on my time. I curled up on the couch with the windows open, music playing on the CD player and reading a favorite book on my kindle. I took intermittent naps between chapters and occasionally put the story aside and turned down the music to listen to the birds chirping, the rain pattering on the new green leaves and taking long drafts of the sweet moist air that blew in through the windows.
At one point it really started to pour and I sat up and looked out the window watching the water rushing down the street along the curb like a tiny wild river. The view outside, framed by my window was peaceful and natural and very, very green. It was time for a few photos.
My favorite place to take photos from my apartment is in the kitchen. The kitchen window is a little wider than the living room windows and the sill a little deeper which allows me to rest my elbows as I kneel on the floor in front of the open window. The first thing I see from this window is my trusty little red fire hydrant that has been my model on several occasions when nature has made it impossible to go outside to shoot. Today it was glistening with moisture sitting on the curb watching all manner of vehicles pass it as they hurried to homes warm and dry.
I zoomed up into the trees as the heavy rains streamed down and poured off the leaves. As the lighting changed so did the colors of the leaves changing from a deep blue-green to a bright yellow-green. I slowed the shutter speed to show the rain drops in long stretched white streaks. I pointed my camera down to the grass under my windows to capture the clear crystal drops of rain sitting on the clover between the blades of grass.
I enjoyed this April shower and the beautiful photos is helped me to create and I hope you enjoy them too!
Before I write of my adventures yesterday I would like to announce that I am now a contributing photographer to the new local Queens publication BORO Magazine. This magazine is all about the art and cultural lifestyles of Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside and includes dozens of restaurant, business and event listings from this small but fun section of the borough of Queens. Every two weeks I will be submitting five images from my wanderings in Astoria and Long Island City with captions and a little blurb on why I took them. Click on the link above to view the magazine and click on the Arts tab to view my work.
Yesterday, was a chilly overcast day and I had all the intentions of devoting my energies to doing domestic chores. As I was dropping off my laundry I was struck with how vivid the colors of the newly sprouted buds and blooms looked in the diffused grey light. When I got back home I packed my back pack with a plastic bag, a dry cloth, an extra battery and an umbrella in case of rain, put the camera around my neck and away I went. I figured that since I had to go grocery shopping anyway I would take the camera with me and get a few shots along the way as I walked up Ditmars Boulevard.
Three hours and many photos later I arrived home with some pretty interesting spring urban photography and no groceries. I only came home because it had started to pour.
I walked up 76th street toward 21st Avenue because on my way back from the laundry I spotted a gorgeous Magnolia tree just starting to bloom which had deep dark purple blooms on it and also a bush decorated with plastic Easter Eggs in someones front yard. From there I walked up 21st Avenue weaving back and forth between various streets taking photos of any plant life with color. These first spring blooms including the Magnolias are at their most colorful in this early part of the season but are fleeting and fragile which is why I wanted to get out and capture that exquisite color as soon as possible.
There was a profusion of delicate white and pink Cherry Blossoms along every street, dark pink Azaleas, purple and white Magnolias, blindingly bright yellow Daffodils and Forsythia, Blue Bonnets and Hyacinths, scarlet and pure white petal flowers and all shades of green buds hanging from the branches of the trees. All of the flowers and bushes were in someones front or back yard and I enjoyed using the wrought iron fencing or brink walls of the houses as back drops for the images giving them that urban twist that I am known for in my photography.
I also included some street shots to add to the Abstract Astoria gallery including images of the ever-present and ever-growing collection of sneakers hanging from telephone lines. One shot in particular is my favorite of the sneaker shots because there are four pairs of sneakers hanging from five wires and they look like musical notes on a staff. A real running chord. I had to shoot straight up into the bright grey sky to capture them. I converted the image to black and white and toned down (pardon the pun) the sky and the effect looks almost like a line drawing.
I am excited with the dawning of a new season and one that is as colorful as spring and look forward to taking my camera out with me as I walk around my neighborhood or hop a train outside of Queens to capture the varied beauty of the many botanical gardens in New York City.
Happy Vernal Equinox to you all and enjoy the photos below.
Although freezing cold yesterday I needed to get out of the apartment and go for a walk. Dressed cozy and warm in wool and down I walked along Astoria Boulevard toward the train station taking shots along the way of the everyday things that most people ignore but I love to photograph.
One interesting item caught my eye at the intersection of Astoria Blvd. and 23rd Avenue where there is a tiny triangle of a park with one bench and a few trees. Outside of this little park I found a bronze plaque about the size and shape of a man-hole cover embedded in the sidewalk depicting the symbols of the Zodiac. This is the first time I noticed it and have no idea who put it there or why. So far my researches on the internet have not turned up anything yet, but I’ll keep trying and update this post at a later date.
I took the train into the East Village and because it was getting very cold I did not wandered too far just around 1st and second avenue from East 8th Street down to East 4th street and back photographing the old and unusual as I saw it. I really enjoyed the street lights covered in a colorful glass mosaic artwork from the base right up the cylindrical pole as I walked up 8th Street. I took my favorite shots of bicycles and locks, store fronts displaying something outrageous or interesting, people in a cafe eating alone or socializing face to face, old facades and strange bits of abstract art. My favorite shots are of the Double Bubble gum ball machines. So colorful and bringing back many sugary childhood memories of back in the day where a penny could buy you a little handful of candy!
When I could no longer feel my fingers or the tip of my nose I turned myself toward Broadway and the N train uptown to Queens taking photos along the way. I can’t say my day was full of excitement and challenge but it did give me a few good shots to add to my Urban Scenes, Bicycles and Locks galleries and a good reason to stay indoors sipping hot coffee for the rest of the day.
Enjoy the photos below.
Saturday May 7th was a beautiful sunny spring day here in New York City and I bounded out the front door with one thing in mind; to take pictures of weeds! Yes, my friends weeds. The amazing plant life that seems to use concrete and debris as its fertilizer and drives gardeners insane trying to keep them from taking over their lawns and back yards. Being an apartment dweller living in Queens, NY and not having to till the soil as it were I find these plants fascinating. Notice how they manage to grow right through a crack in a brick wall or straight up through the concrete sidewalk? Talk about survival of the fittest these little guys seem to just sprout and thrive where ever they land. There are many types of weeds and I can only name a few thanks to the researches on the internet and they are: crab grass, plantain plants, ragweed, ground ivy, clover leaf and curly dock. All of them have their own distinct colors and leaf shape.
Since it is spring the most common and colorful are the bright yellow dandelion. I must say that it is quite pretty when there is a profusion of these bright yellow flowers carpeting a neglected stretch of green grass in the morning sun. As a kid I used to pick a bouquet of the yellow blooms to give to my mother and pick the white seed heads, make a wish and then blow on the fluffy flower dispersing the seeds to the winds and hope my wish would come true.
I walked down Ditmars Boulevard (from 77th to 31st Streets) photographing weeds in various forms and tightly packed spots. At Ditmars and 31st I took the N train into Manhattan’s Chelsea district to continue my search for more weeds. I found a beautiful red, gold and green weed sprouting from the seam between a red brick wall and the pavement like a flower in a lapel. Next to a rusted 2″ screw and an empty mini vodka bottle a tiny little green leaf poked its head up from the dirty soil of an abandoned flower box attached to a wrought iron fence. The best place to find the weeds is anywhere that shows signs of neglect or abandonment; there the weeds grow and live.
I did get side tracked a bit and took some shots of bikes; like weeds bicycles are everywhere.You can find them leaning against a fence, chained to the base of street lights, mail boxes, garbage cans & poles, or lined up next to a restaurant that delivers food & drink to neighborhood residences. I would say almost on every single corner on every block within all the boroughs there is a bicycle standing waiting for its owner to return. I have a Bicycle gallery on my website devoted to these wonderful forms of urban transportation and have added a few terrific shots from this Saturday’s walk including one with a little Parrot patiently sitting on the handle bars while its owner locked up the bike.
After the weeds and bikes I wandered up 22nd street toward 10th avenue and The High Line a narrow horizontal elevated park. The last time I was there it was winter and I wanted to get a spring perspective with a few shots of the seasonal wild flowers growing all over the old train tracks that makeup the base of the gardens there. As usual the park was full of people enjoying the warm weather strolling along the elevated walkway or sitting in the oversized wooden lounge chairs facing the Hudson River and Chelsea Piers. I had my 50mm 1.4 with me which I love to use for flower shots because of the wonderful bokeh effect produced by the very shallow depth of field. These photos you will find in the High Line gallery on my website. FYI, I did find a few weeds in between the flowers and I was thrilled.
It was a free and productive day for me and I arrived home tired, hungry and eager to start processing the days photos. I hope you all had a great weekend and will continue to have a great week ahead. Enjoy the images below and pick a dandelion bouquet today. Oh, the weeds are in this gallery.
Stay in Focus,
I have two photo exhibits coming up this year at the International Center on 23rd Street in New York City. One is a group exhibit with my camera club the Manhattan Miniature Camera Club in June with the opening reception on Saturday June 4th. I am planning on showing HDR scenic images for that show that I have taken within the past year in and around the Tristate area.
Then in November a duo exhibit with my friend, fellow photographer and club member June Steffensen-Hagen who recently had a very successful exhibit last November at IC entitled “Guatemala on My Mind” a compilation of candid portraits of the people of Guatemala. June and I have decided to showcase all urban images for this year’s exhibit in both color and black and white since both of us enjoy shooting gritty street images.
This week I started reviewing my urban images and was amazed at how many of them are in the abstract either in composition or in post processing and it gave me the theme that I will use for my half of the November exhibit. All of the images I will show in this exhibit were shot in Astoria in the past two years and I have put together a gallery on my website entitled Abstract Astoria.
Note: as of 1/16/11 I published a book entitled Abstract Astoria. Click on the link in my Blog Roll to the right of this post.
As you know I am a native of Astoria Queens and love wandering around the town with my camera. These images were taken as I strolled along Ditmars Boulevard lined with towering telephone poles with criss crossing cables and wires that are displays for old sneakers and shoes. Walking up and down side streets to examine life under the trestle of the Hellgate Bridge and in alleyways full of weeds and odd things. Turning onto Steinway street and heading toward Astoria’s industrial section and the grungy charm of warehouses, construction, factories and the facades of old fading homes from the 19th and 20th centuries. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is much beauty in the abstract; textures, lines, colors, forms, light and angles all draw the mind inward to look beyond what the eye is seeing.
Below are a few excerpts from the gallery which I hope you enjoy and please mark your calendars for these two exciting photo exhibits coming up in a few months (I don’t have the confirmed date yet for the November exhibit but I will post it as soon as I do) have a great week and stay in focus.