The Glitter, The Glitz, and The Grub

The first of the NYC street fairs commenced this weekend with the 9th Avenue Food Festival in Hell’s Kitchen, from 42nd to 57th streets.

Exiting the subway at 42nd Street and Broadway a.k.a, Times Square, is an all out assault on the senses. The eyes are blinded by vivid flashing digital advertisements wrapped around soaring sky scrapers in all directions. The brain is jarred as it confronts enormous lumbering buses, crammed with gaping pointing tourist, swinging into view from out of nowhere. The ears are bombarded with loud honking horns, whining sirens, bellowing hawkers, and pounding driving music. The body is squeezed through clumps of agog pedestrians drifting up and down Broadway mesmerized by these sights and sounds, or rushing to make the curtain of a must see musical in one of the many infamous theaters lining the streets just off of this “broad way.” Through this highly charged atmosphere I walked across town towards the fair taking photos of all that I saw.

Ninth Avenue had its own brand of sensory overload this day, with the cloying aroma of frying oil and great billows of smoke and steam rising from the many tented food stands and stoves that lined either side of the street. It was alive with good cheer and people strolling along tempted by Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Greek and Italian dishes with many more delectable sweet goodies, all on offer for just a few dollars, washed down with beer, wine, soda or tart lemonade. If the food did not lure you then there were T-shirts, sandals, woven baskets, wooden toys, trinkets, geegaws, sparkling jewels, summer straw hats, and African drums, to spend your fun money on. Stilt walkers, tall and lean strutted up the avenue while black and red winged angels mingled with the masses.

There was music, singing and dancing too! A piano man rocked and rolled to a crowd of smiling lips and swiveling hips. On the other end of the street a platform was raised where upon young multi-ethnic dancers snapped, hopped and twisted to the beat. Then came blue and green diaphanous ballerinas leaping through the air. Captivating Thai dancers with sharp golden talons and coins in their hair waited their turn to perform for the expectant crowd. In stark contrast, just a block away, aboriginal sounds emanated from a one man band with a didgeridoo.

I took my leave of the eclectic cuisine and frenzied fan fare, turning onto 57th street and walking back east passing 8th and 7th Avenues, Broadway, and 6th Avenue up to 5th Avenue, where I would catch the subway home. But, before heading back to Queens, I stopped for a few shots of the throngs in front of the Apple store then to photograph a young street performer, in front of the Plaza Hotel, doing hand springs and flips to a cheering crowd. Lastly, my eye was caught by an art display consisting of giant colored spools of rope in Central Park, captured against a skyscraper background.

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What I See When I’m not Looking

This past Sunday, although a beautiful warm spring day, I was feeling a little out of sorts. I decided that a few hours spent with my camera while wandering through the neighborhood, would brighten my mood.

Walking along Astoria Boulevard I kept looking for something different and visually appealing which was proving to be a fruitless effort. The scenery looked just the same as it always did. Standing on a corner waiting for the light to change it occurred to me to stop looking and start seeing; let the subject matter find me.

In so doing, my eyes re-focused and the world became a series of patterns, colors, shadows, curves and angles. This method has always helped me to create my urban images, my art. At times these images may not be “pretty” and I’m sure, some make most people scratch their heads and say “Who the hell takes a photo of a dirty discarded coffee cup?!” But, you must admit this type of photography, capturing this mundane and much avoided subject matter, does grab ones attention. Hopefully, it changes the perception or paradigm on what “taking a photograph” is all about. It ain’t just flowers, rolling landscapes or a pretty face.

Having put myself in a more positive frame of mind my spirits rose and for the next three hours I was in the zone taking pleasure in the grit and grunge of Astoria’s urban landscape.  Suddenly, there was a lot of subject matter to choose from. Everything seemed to catch my eye especially the bright colors brought out by the contrasting blue sky and the challenging bright afternoon sunlight.

On this walk I found myself mostly drawn to walls, brick walls that have become street canvases displaying sidewalk philosophy and graffiti tattoos. Right across the street from the Q69 bus stop and off of Ditmars Boulevard, is a dead end street. On one side of this street are a few homes and small apartment buildings. The other side is a cadre of brick walls, the back end of small stores that face 31st street. I prowled up and down inspecting each section until I saw what I wanted and pressed the shutter.  Galvanized doors, black wrought iron window bars, a criss-crossing of those ubiquitous licorice lines of communication, peeling paint; all of these things came together to create an image of urban life. I used manhole covers, discarded boxes, aged telephone poles and sewer drains to ad punch and depth to the compositions.

All in all, this day turned out to be a very satisfying and interesting exercise in creativity. Enjoy!

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Rainy Spring Sunday

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!

On & Off the Brooklyn Bridge

Happy Memorial Day,

I have had a terrific weekend and did a lot of shooting around the city as well as enjoying a family BBQ and birthday party pool side at my sisters home in Long Island.

Saturday, for the first time I walked across the infamous and beautiful Brooklyn Bridge, one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. The typical New “Yawka” that I am I spend my life surrounded by some of the most historic monuments, bridges and other places of interest in the world and just now am finding the time to visit them. But, as they say better late than never.

My photography intention for the day was to head down town to Battery Park City to take shots of tourists and sailors enjoying the holiday weekend in NYC, but changed my mind when the #5 stopped at the Brooklyn Bridge stop and made the decision to finally walk across this historic landmark. I realized very quickly that I would have no problem looking for people to photograph because there were a million of them all around me and all heading across the bridge. Although at times packed shoulder to shoulder the crowd moved slowly but happily as they surveyed the surrounding views of South Street Seaport, the Manhattan Bridge as well as the skyline of Manhattan. It was a challenge not to bump into some one when you stopped to compose a shot or to keep from getting run over by a bicycle zipping between Manhattan and Brooklyn. This bridge really is an engineering marvel and I was mesmerized by the abstract criss cross of the suspension cables emanating from the two huge limestone and granite towers. When I zoomed in for a tight shot I felt as if I was enclosed in a spider’s web of steel cables. I was stopped every once in a while and asked if I would take a photo of someone or couple with the bridge in the background and as always I obliged. It is a nice way to meet people from other states and countries.

As I walked along the bridge’s promenade I noticed locks, lots of locks and many of them alone or in great bunches clinging to the walkway fencing or jutting from a metal ring embedded in a granite pillar beneath one of the bridge towers. Well, these are “love locks” apparently and are put there by couples who have pledged their eternal love to each other. They brought a smile to my face and are a great addition to my Locks gallery.

After a few hours I made my way back toward Manhattan photographing people selling souvenirs and offering bicycles for rent by the hour. As I exited the walkway and walked over to the subway I stopped for a few minutes to photograph a man doing head stands and other acrobatic movements on the street. It was a great way to end a great day of shooting in the great city of New York.

Later this week I will post the photos that I took today walking along the Hudson River and Chelsea Piers.

Enjoy the photos below and you can and see the full gallery here: Brooklyn Bridge gallery.

Stay in focus,



Weeds, Wild Flowers and Bikes

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,


Urban Abstracts

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.

Warm Regards,


The Cage Court and Street Ball

I’ve always admired sports photographers and the outstanding photography that they produce and wished that I could take action shots like they do but not knowing a thing about sports nor having the proper equipment required I never tried. Until yesterday  when I exited the subway at West 4th street  and 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village, planning a day of street photography I walked right into a crowd of spectators surrounding The Cage Court watching a very intense women’s basketball game; the Kenny Graham’s West 4th Street 2010 Pro Classic.

I was wondering how I was going to take photos through the crowd and fence when, as if reading my mind, a man sitting inside the fence told me to come in through the gate and take my photos.  I walked around the crowd and in through a small group of fans, friends, and family of the players and found a spot along the side of the fence behind one of the hoops. In fact this is the only place that you can stand or sit inside the cage. Most of the spectator choose to watch from outside on the street.

Now, as I said before I know nothing of sports and especially basketball but I figured the best thing to do was to keep my eye on the ball because wherever it went the players were sure to follow. I had my Canon 50MM 1.4 so I had to get pretty close to the players without getting in the way and fortunately no one was in front me and my line of site was clear.  I had the shutter speed at 1000 and set my aperture as wide as it would go. I also put it on burst mode to capture as many frame as fast as the camera would go. I took about 150 shots and picked 22 that I felt really captured the excitement and intensity of the game and the players. I was thrilled to finally get a chance to shoot a sporting event and a women’s event at that.  I posted a few “fast” ones below but you can view the full gallery by clicking on PhotoByCate

Stay in Focus,