Urban Textures

Last night lying on the couch, feeling under the weather due to some oncoming cold or some such seasonal “bug”, I was bored and channel surfing when I came upon a PBS special on quilting. I’m not a Quilter but, as I said I was bored and stopped to watch for a few minutes. At one point two women were selecting types of fabrics and they were talking about a group with urban textures.  I thought, huh I can capture those wonderful textures with my camera and if I felt better in the morning I would do just that.

The morning arrived with cool fall temperatures and lots of sun and I was feeling much better. After a breakfast of coffee, toast and jam I headed out to fulfill my quest for the Urban Textures. This is just a fun thing to do, as all one has to do is look around and pick the textures that appeal to the eye and zoom in.

Rough gritty cement; stained, pockmarked and cracked, dark pebbly asphalt, the smoothed iron letters a of manhole cover and a rust crusted gas main cap. Bricks that resembled chocolate brownies and vanilla blondies. Walls with smooth stones, or splintered strand board and the rough whirls of sawn wood. Crushed and stacked cardboard boxes, ready for recycling alongside nested plastic containers. Pebbles embedded in the dirt at a bus stop.

Parked on a nearby street was a decaying old black Cadillac its paint slowly being replaced by rust. A very dry and splintered telephone pole full of old staples from past posters torn down or worn away by wind and rain. The walls of the New York Connecting Railroad which passes over the N Train El, on 31st Street, were covered in cracks, street art, great gobs of puckered and ancient paint and long slick trails of mineral deposits caused by years of rain water seeping through the concrete.

One of my favorite textures and one of the most cubist looking is of old pieces of transparent tape left on the glass windows of an abandoned store.

Enjoy this visually tactile group of images from the sidewalks of Astoria.



Under the Urban Sky…once again

Today is a cool grey wet spring Sunday afternoon here in Astoria but, yesterday was one of those stellar warm sunny spring days I love so much. I wandered north to south, east to west along Ditmars Boulevard, not too far just to Steinway Street and back home to 77th Street. I mixed the pretty with the gritty and, as is my wont, used trees, flowers and wires to frame and accent these urban compositions.

I love this eclectic neighborhood in all of its eccentric ways.



Beneath a Blue Sky

Everything looks beautiful under a sky of deep blue. Spring’s greens, yellows, pinks, reds, whites and purples appear bright and crisp and dazzle the eyes. The urban streetscape has been colored with crayons, even the dratted ubiquitous telephone wires abstract themselves into charming vivid patterns. Bricks are warmer, chimneys taller, antennae and satellite dishes glisten, the facades of houses no matter how old look freshly painted and streets signs almost glow with directional pride.

Enjoy this little walk under the azure heavens of Astoria.

In the Wake of Juno

So we didn’t have the catastrophic blizzard that was predicted but, we still had a pretty cool snow storm AND a snow day!!! Nothing like having a day off from work and spending it outside with my camera. Looking out my window, the ground was all covered in smooth white snow and the chunk-shush sounds of people digging their cars out of the drifts and, the whir and whirl of the snow blowers were the only sounds to be heard on this cold winter morning. I notice too, that my little red fire-hydrant had a big red friend.

I gulped down my coffee and gobbled my toast then proceeded to apply layers of clothing from head to toe. When done, I waddled outside with my camera and spent the next three hours bounding around in the snow taking photos of my neighborhood transformed by winter’s frosty breath, into an Urban Winter Wonderland.

Since there was so much white I went out of my way to find bright contrasting colors whether that be cars, berries or pipes. Anything that had color and was sticking out of a snow bank or mound was captured. I looked for repeating patterns and abstract angles and even a took a double reflection selfie.

Thank you Winter Storm Juno, I had a wonderful day.

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The Gallant Gantries

This past Sunday I had no real plans, no photographic theme in mind, I just needed to get out of the apartment and take some photos. After two buses and two trains, I found myself rambling along Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City heading towards Gantry Plaza State Park. This truly is my favorite type of day; me, myself and I walking camera in hand and shooting whatever “we” please.

The most dominant and interesting building on the Boulevard is the historic 1894 Gothic Church of St. Mary, whose red brick tower and white-tipped spire ascended toward the sky. Turning on 49th Avenue toward the waterfront and the famous old gantries that the park received its appellation from, I kept my eyes open for the unusual and unique subjects that make up my urban portfolio. My favorites from this walk being a craggy splintered hole through blue painted strand board, a tiny empty bottle of Bacardi Rum tucked into a broken rusted pipe, and a brick wall dotted with small white drainage spouts. So urban picturesque! 

By the time I arrived at the park the sun had taken a nap behind the cloud cover turning the sky a striking blue grey that imparted more drama to the wide angle shots. In a few hours though, the sun awoke and pushed aside some of the clouds and exposed a nice wide expanse of blue sky streaked with white.

It was cold and windy and the little bit of snow that had fallen last Friday was now crusty with ice and very slippery. I was hoping for icicles hanging from the giant thick iron nuts and bolts that are the skeletons of the gantries but, no such luck. Still, I was able to create images sandwiching my subjects between great open sky and fine lacy snow.

It being a cold January day, there was nary a soul about the water’s edge and that was just fine with me. I loved the austerity of this cold winter’s day, as it accentuated all the sharp angles and smooth curves of the piers jutting out from the parks shore, enhancing the bold industrial past of the Gantries and the lofty apartment buildings behind them. The seagulls were out sunning themselves on the pylons or surfing through the air as I walked out on the piers to admire the Manhattan skyline and turn my own face towards the warming solar rays.

Below my feet were tiny dark purple winter berries and spiked brown plants buried in the snow as well as the paw print of a big ole puddy-dawg! Thick tufts of dried blonde grasses swaying in the wind lined the inside of red rusted rail tracks; another reminder of the bygone days when the Long Island Rail Road ran cars right down to the water’s edge to receive cargo off loaded from ships via the Gallant Gantries.


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They’re Gritty, They’re Grimey…They’re “Dirtaaaay”

Enough of the pretty flowers, leaves and other things, time to get back down to the street level schmutz. The day after Thanksgiving was cold with biting winds as I prowled beneath the tracks of the N & #7 trains at Queesboro Plaza; the mass transit hub of Long Island City Queens, capturing the urban grungescape. Since it was so cold and the sun was playing  hide and seek behind thick grey clouds I stayed pretty much near the train tracks (mostly to make a quick get-a-way back home when I could no longer feel my fingers and toes) and I ambled only a few blocks in any direction.

There was some construction going on and once again my photographic endeavors were challenged by chain link fencing and plywood walls forcing me to search until I found an opening or chink in the perimeter no matter how small. The plywood walls had diamond-shaped viewing cutouts but, they were covered with a dirty, smudgy plastic and although at first disappointed, I found they added an interesting effect to the images. The chain-link fencing was much smaller than normal and I had an eye-crossing time trying to focus through the spaces. At times I just gave up and used the fencing as an abstract pattern fronting the image.

I left in any normal grain or noise in the images and used an HDR program which, added additional grain and this combination helped me attain that “dirtay” look.

Enjoy the this urban stroll but, put on warm coat.


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I have new toys!

The iPhone 5C and the Olloclip 3-1 lens kit.  Earlier in the week I took a few quick test shots with the phone, without the lenses, from the Ditmars train station platform as the sun was rising on Astoria, and at home using just the macro lens, (I will work more with this lens when the spring flowers are in bloom. )

Yesterday however, was grocery shopping day and since I would be walking up Ditmars I took the lenses with me and immediately fell in love with the fish-eye. For the next 2 1/2 hours, the shopping completely forgotten, I walked the neighborhood zigzagging the streets and avenues making friends with it.  We had a marvelous time. I felt like a necromancer looking at the world through my crystal ball. It took me a few shots to figure out how not to get my feet and/or shadow in the photos. This, I resolved by either getting in very close to my subject, creating terrific distortion or by pointing the phone upwards towards the sky which squeezed the landscape into a perfect ball.

I noticed that only the very center of the image is sharp and that the outer edges are a soft blur. I liked this effect especially when viewed on a larger screen when the images were downloaded. The quality is grainy but the color is spot on and the lens performed a lot better than I had thought it would.

With this lens I was able to take the ordinary and even the ugly and make it extraordinary. Common place things like a pile of dirty snow, became a piece of modern art, as did an old payphone that was stuffed with crumble used coffee cups. Cars and buildings ballooned out in cartoon shapes and telephone poles and street lights warped like soft wax candles.

I hope you enjoy this cock-eyed view of a sunny Saturday afternoon.

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