Storms

 

Storms-New York City

One thing I have noticed about my photography, or photography in general is that it sometimes grabs you in different ways at different times. Even as the taker of the photograph that happens to me. Case in point is this photograph shown above. I took it a few weeks ago on a rather warm Saturday evening. I decided I was a little restless and decided to head out for a long walk and a few drinks and dinner at the end of it. When I left our apartment, it was bright and sunny out. The Kwanzan Cherry trees were just starting to bloom and as they are my favorite of the flowering cherries, I found a cluster of them and took some photos along the way.

Not long after however, I noticed that the sky was looking a little ominous. Not quite ready to pour down, but you could tell it was coming at some point. Which is ironic since instead of high-tailing it to the nearest drinking and eating establishment, I instead went down to Long Island City here in Queens, out to a particular pier that has some stunning Manhattan views. I wanted to go because it is slightly north of the usual perspective I take this view from. Photography is all about subtle changes after all. I walked down a long empty street to the end.

The clouds were really closing in, covering up what was a bright and sunny day just moments before. Weather makes for some of the best photos so I pressed on. I was interrupted momentarily by a happy group of people looking to get their photo taken. There is something about having a camera and camera bag with you…people instinctively ask you to take their group photo and invariably comment, well with that camera you must be a pro. If only they knew lol! Of course it is flattering and after snapping a few of the happy revelers, I set to work.

This particular pier has a west facing view of the Manhattan skyline, but also unobstructed views north and south. At first I focused north, then south. You could still sense the weather about to happen, but the west view did not look too inviting on the photography side at first. But then it happened. As I looked west again the sky opened up. No rain, just big sky. Really big sky with all sorts of color hues and patterns. Post storm sunsets are amazing, but this was a different kind of amazing. It had a blueish hue to it, with hints of color coming in from beyond the clouds. Because the scene was over the water, there was some reflections happening too. It proved the point of always carrying the camera with me. I have missed these moments before, and camera phones don’t always capture the depth of the scene.

In any case, I was happy with the result later on when I returned home and saw the photos on my laptop. Right away this photo leaped to the top of the heap. I did post it on social media and people liked it. But I quickly moved on like you do. Except that today I made it my screen saver on my work computer, which also led me to posting it on Twitter and the FB page for this blog. This entire post was prompted by a conversation with my friend Trudy on Twitter. Trudy writes an awesome lifestyle blog called Rendezvous En New York. Want to know all the cool stuff happening in New York? Let Trudy be your guide. Trudy unknowingly proved my point that things grab you in different ways at different times, and it gave me the idea to use said photo, and write this little post about it.

Ah, but what about the music you ask? Well I started thinking of songs about storms, and weather. Ok…Stormy Weather was the obvious front runner, but when have I ever been musically obvious! I thought instead of an instrumental track by Bruce Cockburn. I’ve written about Bruce here before. Suffice it to say if you are unfamiliar with his work, he has been a stunning songwriter for almost 50 years now. He is also an inventive and creative guitarist. His work has gone through phases, as anyone who has been around that long would, but I’d argue that the last 20 or so years have been his finest. His album The Charity Of Night was released in 1997. On it was this instrumental track-Mistress Of Storms. Thinking about this photo, and the movement of the sky, and my own interactions with the weather that day the song seemed a perfect match. The song has that ebb and flow with the only instruments being Bruce’s guitar and the vibraphone as counterpoint.

With a few exceptions, I have always relied on lyrics to pan out the ideas I present on the photography side here, but this is one of those times when I feel the music by itself says so much. I hope you enjoy both. As a side note, I’ll just mention that I will be in Paris and London for the next two weeks so it will be a little quiet here, but I’m sure I will have lots of inspiration to keep these posts coming!

Mistress Of Storms-Written By Bruce Cockburn

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Monochrome Mondays

Well I’m  not surprised at all that March is doing its typical dance of the lion and the lamb. Teasing with mild weather that prompts switching the winter jacket out to something lighter and less bulky. Tempting you with leaving the hat, gloves and scarf at home. Days growing ever longer allowing more sunlight into your day when…BAM! It all comes crashing back to reality. Well in truth it has not been so bad so far, but after a nor’easter the last few days, yesterday was the first day I ventured out for a walk in the afternoon once the sun did actually come out. There was even a beautiful sunset last night too. You can see a few I took of it on my Instagram account which I invite you to give me a follow.

In any event, it was nice after essentially being cooped up for a few days to get out for a bit and feel the late afternoon sun beaming down on me. I went for a few minutes to a nearby park. Despite March being such a tease, the signs of nicer weather are there. Buds are forming on trees, the grass seems slightly greener than it did 2 weeks ago, and in certain places, the occasional crocus might be coming out of its winter hibernation. For me though, one thing I seem to notice is that the sky seems different. Hard to put my finger on exactly why that is and maybe its just me…but a March sky seems to be different than a February one. Which for me means that spring is closer to being here.

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Monochrome Mondays

 

I’m going to get a confession out of the way right at the start today. The photo for this week’s Monochrome Mondays is a recycle job. I really have not had much time or ability to get out and take some new photographs in the last few weeks. I have taken a few, but I am in need of a full on day of walking and discovering new photo opportunities. And winter is not the greatest time to accomplish that. So I decided to go way back to my archives for this one. It is among the first photos I ever took with my Nikon N80 Film camera. Probably in 2002 or 2003 if I had to venture a guess. The recycling part of this comes from the fact that I used it in just the fourth post I wrote here. It was one of my music related posts about the music of Chris Trapper together with various photos of trees. But it was so long ago now, and because of the handy WordPress statistics I know that particular post has not been viewed in ages. So I figure now that I have followers (I didn’t really then) and since there are no rules here, I would use the same photo once again so more of you can see it.

In truth, outside Central Park on any given day, you will see street vendors selling similar photos of the exact same subject- the Literary Walk. There are color shots and monochrome, there are ones in fall, winter and spring. With people walking through or without. It has become one of those iconic New York City photos. Regardless, I am proud of it personally because it is among the first few photos I ever took with that camera where I could see not only the improvement over the cheap point and shoot cameras I had used up to that point, but also a realization that maybe I did have a good eye for photography that had been lurking under the surface for years. Let  me know what you think!

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Art Deco In The Sky

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building-New York City

Ground Breaking-September 19, 1928

Formally Opened-May 27, 1930

Number Of Floors-77

Officially the World’s Tallest Building for a period of 11 months when surpassed by the Empire State Building.

Currently stands as number 101 in the world

I had an awful realization recently.  I was thinking of subjects I have not written about here yet in the four plus years since I began writing here. For someone who comes from New York City it is a rather shameful realization as well.  Though they have popped up a few times in photos, I have not actually written about my love for skyscrapers which of course dominate the skyline of Manhattan.  From my earliest days coming into the city from the confines of the suburbs where I grew up these towering marvels fascinated me.

I remember a favorite ‘toy’ I had at one point- a building set which allowed one to build their own versions of skyscrapers and bridges, using replicas of steel girders, supports, and facades. It probably goes a long way into understanding why I have always been fascinated by both, and I remember experimenting with varying heights and shapes of the skyscrapers in particular. Last year I even got a Lego set of some of the landmark Manhattan towers and spent a rather enjoyable afternoon ‘building’ them which is something I hadn’t done since childhood.

I also remember a book I checked out from the library several times. A school class  had published a book that gave a child’s perspective on the start to finish of building a skyscraper and all the materials and methods used.  The building they chose was what became the Exxon Building on 6th Avenue in Manhattan. It is now sneeringly referred to as one of the XYZ buildings along with two neighboring buildings due to their rather bland and generic facades. It makes no matter to me however and whenever I walk by it these days, I still nod my head at the building in recognition of that book.

There are a number of beloved skyscrapers in full view practically anywhere you are in New York City- The Woolworth, the Empire State, Citigroup Center, and the Freedom Tower are just a handful of the buildings that continue to amaze people to when they see them for the first time.  And of course we still remember and miss the World Trade Center to this day for its dominating presence it held on the skyline. The one I now call my favorite is as you may have guessed, The Chrysler Building. Manhattan is defined by the skyscrapers, and new ones continue to be built even now. The reason why is fairly obvious but in case you did not know, the following exchange from  the TV adaptation of  P.G. Wodehouse’s wonderful Jeeves and Wooster stories might help.  Upon seeing the tall buildings of Manhattan for the first time (circa late 1920’s- 1930’s) the lovable but dimwitted Bertie Wooster questions Jeeves, his trusty valet/manservant/gentleman’s personal gentleman about them-

Bertie Wooster: Now, Jeeves, why do you think they built all these tall buildings?

Jeeves: Well, sir, it was partly because of the restricted size of Manhattan Island and partly because the island is solid granite and therefore capable of supporting such structures.

Bertie Wooster: Nothing to do with having got the plans sideways, then.

Jeeves: No, sir.

Bertie Wooster: That’s what Barmy told me.

Jeeves: You will pardon me for saying so, sir, but Mr. Fotheringay-Phipps is not noted for his architectural expertise.

When I realized that I wanted to write this post, I knew I wanted to spend some time taking photos of the Chrysler Building. A big part of the reason why I like it so much now is because of those Jeeves and Wooster stories. The books and short stories were driven by a hilarious assortment of characters. The TV series of the 1990’s made great use of vintage paraphernalia for the interior scenes, replete with 1920’s-30’s appropriate fashions, art, furniture, even vintage cocktail shakers. Or to put it more appropriately, they were very much inspired by  art deco. When it comes to art deco and skyscrapers, The Chrysler Building will always remain as the shining example. Thanks to the show, I have come to really appreciate art deco as well.

The Chrysler Building is not dark and foreboding like some medieval  cathedral. Far from it. The automotive touches provide a sense of whimsy-hubcaps and radiator inspired gargoyles.  Eagles soaring high above the street. Down below the lobby and doors have that classic old school New York vibe.   But most impressively in the shining concentric crown, windows and spire at the top which scream art deco.   If you really think about the era it was built, The Chrysler Building represents so much promise and ingenuity. A new way of providing ornamentation and design to a building. It is not garish at all. It shimmers and shines in the sun. Before being somewhat crowded out by neighboring buildings not designed with similar creativity it must have glistened like a diamond ring. Years later it remains dignified, classy and refined.

Though I am not much of a jazz aficionado, one does have to recognize the great practitioners of the form.  I knew I needed music that represented those same feelings of dignity and class The Chrysler Building exudes. I did not have to go too far into my limited jazz catalog to find In A Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington & John Coltrane. It is a work of singular beauty and elegance. While listening to it again I started inevitably drifting into a sentimental mood of my own life. While looking at the photos I took history also started creeping into my mind in fleeting segments. I recognized that I was fighting a battle between sentimentality and imagination.

You see, all the things I have mentioned here-my own youth, art deco, architecture, and yes, even the Jeeves and Wooster stories all have a passage of time over them,  a faint sentimentality of the past. We recognize that we are in ‘the now’ and cannot set the clock back 80 years. Once we get to that realization, sentimentality goes away and imagination enters instead. We imagine what it was like hearing music by Duke Ellington and others at a  Prohibition era nightclub. We imagine being trapped in an imbroglio of romantic entanglements like the Jeeves and Wooster stories. We imagine seeing The Chrysler Building rising in the skyline while being constructed.

The good thing is that we HAVE these sorts of things still in our life as markers. We can read the old stories, listen to the music. And on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, we can still gaze up at The Chrysler Building, 86 years since it was completed and know that it is still there for all of us to think about however we choose.

Be sure to see a few more photos below

In A Sentimental Mood-Written By Duke Ellington

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Monochrome Mondays

 

Here we are again, and yet again, I have to admit that I don’t have much time to discuss the photo for today, but there will be in a day or so. For you see, for the first time, I am cross-promoting my posts. Let me explain…

I am currently working on a new music themed post built around a New York landmark. I just have to work in some time to take a few more photos and do a little tidying of the writing. I did go on Friday to take a few photos of this particular landmark. A few of them may work their way into the post, but I wanted to take them in the clear light of a sunny day, and it was almost dark by the time I made my way over there. As soon as I have that sort of day to take the photos, I will publish the post. In the meantime, while there I could not resist taking a few monochrome shots. It seems to lend itself to the history of this particular landmark, like an old black and white newsreel or an image from a coffee table type of book. So what better way to build up some suspense for this forthcoming music post than to give you a teaser of what is to come! Now I posted this photo on Instagram the other day, asking if anyone knew what landmark site this is. One person correctly answered. So I’ll do the same thing here and ask anyone who saw the IG post to keep it to themselves for now.

Thanks and stay tuned for the followup in a few days!

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Monochrome Mondays

One aspect of monochrome I have not touched base on too much is the effect of shadow or silhouette. When you think about it in photography you can take a photo with no adornment whatsoever. Just see something and click it. Or maybe there is a cool reflection or a beautiful sunrise or sunset to make it appear a bit more interesting. But sometimes, a simple shadow can be a really satisfying element to capture, and it happened to me in a flurry of activity the other day.

It has actually been a great, but very hectic last month. Once the Holiday season was over we had in succession-our 10th Wedding Anniversary, my mom’s 80th Birthday, and just the other day, my wife’s 40th birthday. My own 50th birthday lurks ahead in the summer. So there has been much celebrating, laughter and fun. But also slightly hectic in the planning of it all or in the going about from here to there on cold winter days. The other day was no different, and I was in a different neighborhood picking up some stuff in celebration of Jennifer’s 40th. It was late afternoon on a brutally cold day. I wasn’t really planning on taking photos, nor did I have a lot of time, but while crossing the street, I saw the shadow of a water tower set against the clean wall of another building. It was that late afternoon ‘golden hour’ time when light is especially pleasing, but the combination of cold and not having time made me decide to just take the photo in black and white. Some of you will recall I did a post last year about my love of water towers, so I always have my eye out for interesting photos of them. I loved the end result of the waning sunlight cast against one of my favorite urban subject matters.

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Monochrome Mondays

These days I typically carry my camera with me almost every day. Does that mean I’m a real photographer? I suppose it might. But even though I have it with me, I don’t always actually take photos every day. Lets face it, most days schlepping to work is a grind and you often fall in the trap of not looking at your surroundings much on your way from home to work and back again. When you only have one route to take between the two places as I typically do this becomes an even easier trap to fall into. Save for a great sunset or interesting cloud patterns, there is not a lot to see in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I work. It is a nice area, but there is little in the way of interest that I have come across.

And the above photo is not even particularly interesting, but I like symmetrical patterns. One day last week as I got off the subway I realized I was at the back end of the train for a change. And that is all it took to see a view I hadn’t quite noticed before. When the doors to the train opened instead of instinctively turning left to go down the stairs, I glanced to the right. I saw some skyscrapers in Manhattan off in the distance, I saw the grayness of the day, but mostly I saw the lamp posts on the platform. I took just a few moments to take a quick photo or two to get the angle right, then made some final adjustments and took this one. I like how the lights appear to  descend down into the middle of the photo, even though I was standing on level ground. Just proof that there really are photo opportunities out there in even something as mundane as your commute to work.

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