Monochrome Mondays

Looking Out

This is one of those moments where I feel the photograph needs to do most of the talking. I have a lot on my mind lately. Some good, some not so good. Neither of which will keep me silent on here for having this space is a very helpful thing to have to get thoughts out. That is why I think writing or any outlet of creativity is so vital, and its a lesson I learned late. But I suppose that is what still fuels me to keep going here, even when there are gaps of time between posts, even if I’m not writing about music so much. Even if my words here are fewer, the camera in my hand is a powerful tool of expression. It can be happy, sad or introspective.

As I mentioned last week I was at the beach recently. Early on my last morning there I went out for a walk, clutching a cup of coffee and enjoying the sun on my face. When I stepped on to the beach I saw this solitary figure on the pier gazing out. It reminded me of…me. Actually if this person had not been there I would have been standing on that pier as well, looking out on the passing ships and sea birds flying about. But instinctively I took a few photos, and then I realized the reason it felt that way was that I was feeling a sense of it reflecting on my own mind these days. Before I carried this camera with me, I would have had only one half of this equation-I would be looking out without understanding WHY? Now at least when I have thoughts I can reason them out a little more clearly because I see things on both sides of the lens. And that helps.

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

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Monochrome Mondays-The Void

As the autumn chill starts settling in and layers of clothing are added to outfits.  As the leaves start falling from trees, there is a feeling of starkness. Not just darker in the sense of waking up or coming home to darkness after the long light of spring and summer. But combined with the chillier air things start feeling more barren and lonely. Not being a particular fan of winter, I don’t relish when this starts happening, but it is unavoidable…short of moving to Miami that is! I had another one of those accidental photo opportunities a week or so ago. Accidental in the sense that I don’t believe I ever tried it before, but I liked the end result.

I was walking home one night from the pub on a very quiet residential street. There was a slight slope to the street, and at the top of the slope tree branches were overhanging the sidewalk, just enough that even with my short 5’7″ frame I had to duck under them. But something made me pause. The street was illuminated by street lights, but the nearest one was behind me. In front of me was nothing but the dark, offset by branches with some leaves bare and others still clinging on. But it was the dark void beyond those branches that seemed so striking to me. The illumination of the branch and leaves stood out, but the dark was compelling to me. This weekend I was at the beach for a weekend of writing. I went to get some air one of the nights (it was really cold!) and along the boardwalk I saw another example of this into the void sensation. Again the boardwalk was lit, but just beyond the dune grass in the photo was that void again. Instead of being on a street in Queens, this time that void was headed straight out into the Atlantic Ocean. When I saw what it looked like combined with the other photo, I realized that the darkness and void of winter could be made to look beautiful as well. And I thought that maybe the void isn’t so bleak or dark after all.

 

Monochrome Mondays

Late Nights. Empty Streets. Quiet interrupted only by an occasional passing car, the buzz of a lamp post, or the distant bark of a dog. A week or two ago I mentioned heading out late one night recently and taking some photos of my neighborhood around midnight. Which is not something I would normally do, but I was a little bored and thought it would be a nice experiment. I have come home late at night before, but usually do so in a cab. I don’t live in a particularly dangerous neighborhood, but because it isn’t 100% residential and has dark corners and fences around buildings that are not necessarily secure, I don’t take unnecessary risks. Something that should make my wife as well as my best friend Tasha happy to hear!

But anyway, I spent a few moments taking photos, enjoying the shadows and the stillness. One  building I stopped in front of I even found I had some company. At first I did not see it there, and I was more interested in taking a photo of the graffiti tagged metal shutter, which I had never really noticed before. I also noticed the name on the door to the right for the first time. So as I was taking the photos, I noticed some movement. I won’t tell you what I thought it probably was, but I was glad to see that it turned out to be a cat. It paid me little attention actually, but when it moved into position on the right hand side as you can see above, I thought I might have a photo that would look good. So added to the late nights and quiet I mention above, I’ll mention that meandering cats make for good things to make late night photo walks interesting!

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

Monochrome Mondays

Breaking up the routine. It isn’t always an easy thing to do admittedly. To break away from feeling like Worker Drone #Q7649. You have a nice weekend sleeping in, eat a decadent brunch, have a few drinks at the pub. Maybe get a good walk or a workout in. Spend some time with friends. Catch up on a book or read the newspaper. Then…Monday comes around and its up early, slog to work on a crowded train or bus, or fight colossal traffic jams before you are welcomed by the sight of 73 emails that are only marginally relevant to you, yet you have to dig through them all regardless. Then you turn around at quitting time and do the same slog in the other direction, having chowed down your lunch at your desk in order to answer those 73 emails when all you are really dreaming about is putting your feet up at home and unwinding.

All of those things have happened to me of course, but more than any point in the roughly 15 years since I started getting serious about photography, I carry a camera with me practically everywhere now. Barring that I have my phone which takes decent photos too.  Because in all honesty, you just never know what you will see, never know what will capture your attention. On one such slog home from work last week after emerging from the deep subway tunnel on Roosevelt Island, I started wearily making my way home. Since my commute changed a few months back there are only one or two slight variations to the route I take. More often than not though, I start by walking past this row of pathway lighting. Chalk this one down to being dark out when I get off the subway now, for when I started walking alongside of these lights, I noticed they were making a really cool looking circular pattern on the ground. Immediately I grabbed the camera, and switched to monochrome mode for I knew that shooting them in color really would not work. The fact that a few of the lights were actually out did not matter to the overall scene. It actually seemed to accentuate the circular pattern on the ground.

It is funny that the routine can be broken up by the taking of a simple photograph, but I appreciate it for that reason. Even with subway delays and work emails and whatever comprises the ‘routine’, the moment I take my camera out and take photos energizes me. Maybe in the end the photos are not so good. That happens to me quite often of course. But the moment that I see something, the moment I think about something differently, makes it all worthwhile.

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Monochrome Mondays

 

Sometimes I feel guilty about the nature of photography. In many ways it can often be thought of as capturing someone else’s art in a unique way. Take a building or a bridge. Someone else designed and built those structures, but here I am taking a photograph of it, trying to get streaks across the sky but the focal point is someone else’s art. Take bird photography as another example. A bird is just doing what it does, flitting about from here to there and trying to survive when along comes a photographer with a zoom lens trying to capture the perfect blend of movement and light. Even street photography, which I have come to really enjoy seeking. I would never dream of profiting from a photo of someone else’s hard work, but there are others who probably do. In many ways the game has changed so rapidly the last few years since virtually everyone has a camera phone, even if they don’t have a camera.

But then there are rare days (or nights) when I am able to capture something unique, and something that I feel is closer to the origins of photographic art. It happened the other night. I was feeling a bit restless around midnight or so, and grabbed my camera and just walked a block or two down the street to some industrial buildings. I figured maybe with no one around I could do a little experimenting with camera settings. I did take a few shots that I was pleased with, but as I turned around and started heading back something caught my eye. Perfectly framed against the side of a building was the shadow of the street signs. It almost looked too unreal, like what you would see from a projector. Being Halloween time, it almost was a little spooky as well. I actually paused for a moment to think about if it was worth taking, but I figured why not. I have been trying to be more experimental these days anyway. When in doubt, the delete button on the camera works wonders after all. So I took the photo. A few minutes later I was viewing it on the laptop and it reminded me in a small way of some of the experiments early photographers like Alfred Stieglitz who was a master of light and shadow. The photo does not mean anything, I don’t think it gives off any particular vibe, but I just like it. It feels faintly surreal to me and unlike a bridge, bird, or street art photo, it is something I made my own. And I like that.

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Monochrome Mondays

I’m torn and feeling conflicted. Wait a minute Rob, stop right there. After the last few posts people with think this is another spleen-venting post from you! Okay, lets try that again…

I have a dilemma these days. (Yes, much better Rob!) You see when I started this blog a few years ago now, taking monochrome shots wasn’t part of my regular repertoire. I had shot b&w film on occasion, but when I mostly went digital, I very rarely touched the menu options to switch to monochrome. Getting reactions to some of those early film shots convinced me that I really needed to mix it up on occasion, and since then I have. The only problem is, when I see a subject matter I really like, I take them in color and monochrome. And the dilemma sometimes, not all the time but sometimes, is deciding which I actually prefer. I took this photo reflection of clouds in a bright glass window on the photo walk. I put the color one up on Instagram a few days ago, and people liked it. But this morning as I thought about what to feature here today, I thought about looking at this more carefully today. Having two monitors at work helps me make these choices sometimes, to be honest with you. For it was here at my desk that I think I decided that I actually like this one just a bit more than the color. I can’t really say why, I just do. At the time I took it, the sky was blue, bright and cheerful, yet it almost looks ominous in monochrome. I’m realizing that maybe what monochrome does is allow me to imagine a scene either way, almost neutral. I’ll be sure to think about that one the next time I take shots in both formats!

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Monochrome Mondays

 

Long Island City Gantry

I am pretty sure I have mentioned here before that a favorite subject matter of mine is industrial photography. I love old machinery-pistons, valves, wheels, belts, gears-you name it. Anything that represents what technology once was.  On the rare occasion when you see all of that actually working still somewhere it is a beautiful thing. You can follow along with the movements-how it starts with one bit of machinery, and then follows along like a conveyor belt, each bit chugging away to make a wheel spin which pulls a lever, which lifts a platform, which rotates, and on and on. It is hard to find that sort of machinery in action these days, and sadly the photo choice today is also one of them. But what a scene it once must have been. What you are seeing here is a gantry, which was used to hoist railway freight cars from off a barge onto train tracks. Apparently they were a somewhat frequent sight in the industrial era of New York City, a reminder that rail and sea freight drove commercial transportation. I can just imagine all the metal on metal sounds echoing on the river, the sights and smells of all the machinery working together. I am glad that structures like this still survive, years past their last work. This particular structure is in Long Island City, Queens, in a park appropriately named-Gantry State Park

***Which speaking of Long Island City. For any of you reading this from the NY area, or for anyone with friends in the area, this coming Saturday, September 30th, I will be leading a Photo Walk through this great neighborhood, which combines some great old buildings among the new, industrial scenes, and some of the best panoramic views of Manhattan anywhere. Leave me a message if you are interested!

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