The title is an apt description of this past Sunday’s Audubon Winter Eco Cruise. Myself and three photo” phriends”; Sharron , Maria and Maria’s vivacious granddaughter, Gina clambered aboard a NY Water Taxi for a day of wild life photography on the high seas of New York Harbor. We met and boarded the boat at Pier 17 in South Street Seaport and I couldn’t wait to get out there to photograph harbor seals. As you know my forte is urban industrial grunge photography so this was something new and exciting for me.
It was very cold but sunny and although I had on double layers of everything I had no idea how cold and windy it would get until we had left the “warmth” of the pier and started toward Governor’s Island. At times I was sure we made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the Arctic; my fingers froze the minute we passed under the Verrazano Bridge and didn’t thaw out until I got home. The agitated froth of the wake combined with the gale winds blew an icy mist up onto the boat. White caps skated across the water rearing up and crashing against rocky shores and wooden docks. Walking around was a supreme exercise in keeping ones balance. Even at a stand still the boat rocked and heaved like a living thing and it was a teeth-clenching, holding-on-for-dear-life-as-you-photographed type of heaving. At intervals, we would make the arduous journey below deck to the warmth of the cabin and huddle like rabbits in a warren, wiping off our equipment and defrosting before going back out again. Why? Because we are nuts.
When we finally made it to Swinburne Island, I anxiously peered at the rocky shoal and was sure that there would be a plethora of chubby brown, be-whiskered, water mammals sleeping peacefully in the sun or frolicking around just like they do at the Central Park Zoo. WRONG! There wasn’t a seal in sight, just cold choppy water and a zillion birds swirling over the island. We were all in a quiet state of expectancy scanning, searching the water and rocks with our long lenses. Finally, the voice of our tour narrator bellowed “Seal, two o’clock! Me: “Where?” Narrator: “Seal nine o’clock.” Me: “Where?” Narrator: “Seal over by that rock!” Me: WHAT ROCK, WHAT SEAL, WHAT BOAT ARE YOU ON?! My neck still hurts from swiveling side to side with the camera smashed against my eye like Ahab looking for Moby Dick. I’m sure a whole seal colony was hiding around the other side of the island convulsed with laughter. Both Sharron and Maria managed to capture a few crisp clear shots of seals poking their noses out of the water and I managed to capture a few seal schmears.
I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed in not being able to get good close up shots of the seals but, through all of the frigid windy insanity, I still had a great time with my friends and I enjoyed the experience. I did capture a few images on land before we set sail and some beautiful seascape images of my favorite industrial maritime subject matter like cranes loading container ships, worn and weather beaten docks, old moored boats, abandoned warehouses, an old hurricane ravaged building, and of course, the Lower Manhattan skyline.