Home

Home is a unique word. As adults most of us have a home. An actual current home we live in. Often though we talk about other homes from our past. The home we were raised in. The home we lived in after breaking out on our own for the first time. The home we move into with our significant others. The home we spend our final days. The word evokes so much, both good and bad. Earlier tonight, I was looking at this photo I took a few weeks ago on a ferry trip from Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach. The photographer half of me took it because the scene was so inspiring on a beautiful day. The other half of me, the emotional half realized that it was my home in so many ways.

Other than 4 years off for good behavior attending college in Massachusetts, this photo represents all my ‘homes’. On the right of this photo is Brooklyn, where I was born. It also shows Queens, where my wife and I have happily lived for over two years now. On the left is New Jersey, where I grew up and spent all my youth. In the middle of course is Manhattan, where I spent my most crucial years of development. It is where I began taking up photography. It is where I dived deeper into the rich diversity of music that was there for the taking. It is where I met Jennifer, the person who has changed my life the most in so many incredible ways. It is where I learned who I am, though of course that process is ever evolving. Finally, surrounding it all is water, which connects me with my spiritual home of Ireland. Those of you familiar with my posts know that water plays a crucial role in my photography. That ebb and flow feels like life itself, and for me that is a crucial realization. My physical home may change, but for now as I ride the most meager ferry, or sip a beer on a beach, the crucial ingredient to all of them has been a connection to the water. Lakes feed the rivers, which flow to the sea, which carry you away towards home…

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Monochrome Mondays

Ireland just seems to be about light and color. Of course the first thing one thinks of is the heavy abundance of green…which is everywhere. But does green always have to be green? As I became more comfortable taking photographs, I started thinking about context, especially in relation to monochrome. I still feel that monochrome is the heart and soul of photography. There is a natural essence to it. Perhaps it is because you need to imagine the colors you see before you in a black and white photo. You obviously know that a variety of colors comprise the shot, but in the best ones, you somehow do not mind. Your see the art and starkness of the scene that color often does not represent as well. You feel the terrain before you in a landscape shot in monochrome. You sense the noise and movement before you in a cityscape shot in monochrome. You feel a connection to the person in a portrait shot in monochrome.

As with a lot of my other photographs, I often take them in both mediums to cover myself. Color photography is still wonderful and I probably take more shots in color than monochrome (though the equation is maybe 60/40 now!) Using this method in time I have figured out certain photos I know will only work best in monochrome. Such was the case with this photo taken last summer in Donegal. A random field in a sloping valley, dotted with the occasional house or sheep. It was an overcast morning when I took this, but at one point the sun started peeking through. Up to that point I had been taking color shots of the lush green fields, but once I turned and saw the light beams shining down, I instinctively adjusted the camera for monochrome, and this is the result.

Do you see ‘the colors’ in a monochrome shot?

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Monochrome Mondays

Just like in any big city, there is a lot of interesting architecture scattered around. Not just the big flashy skyscrapers, but churches, apartment buildings, and even transit buildings. The other night I went to Coney Island. For the first time I took notice of the old front of the Coney Island subway station. After years of decay and decline by the 1980’s plans eventually went in place to restore it. That included keeping the original facade to the building. The station itself was renovated nicely, with a good design and accomodating. What I love the most though is that wonderful facade with a string of lights over its entryway. It gives an air of being a theater almost. Well worth going to Coney Island for. I hear there is other ‘stuff’ at Coney Island too! ūüėĄ

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Monochrome Mondays

Well it is really starting to warm up where I live after a few false starts, which means it is good to get out on the water. As I think I have said before, I like being near the water year round, but lets face it-summertime is the best. Last Friday I took advantage of a new ferry ride available in the city. It was such a beautiful evening, and I went right from where I work in Brooklyn all the way out to the Rockaways. My friend and fellow blogger Trudy did a great job describing what to expect from the ferry ride (and some great photos too!) so please read her post here.

Of course I had my camera with me and caught some great shots of all the bridges and  Rockaway Beach in my short time there. For more photos from the trip be sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook (links below or to the right). Tempted though I was to stay longer,  I wanted to take the slightly longer return trip back to Manhattan while the sun was going down. It was just one of those beautiful nights to be out on a boat with the wind and the waves, not to mention a cold beer to boot! I took this photo just before getting back on the ferry from the pier in Rockaway. Something I thought of as I was taking it was that I love that New York City is not all about the buildings, cars and congestion. There is a surprising amount of nature-parks, beaches, and plenty of opportunity to be out on the water as well. Being out at Rockaway with the sun going down and the skyscrapers of Manhattan off in the distance (and humming a certain Ramones song) is a wonderful way to spend an evening I must say.

Rockaway Beach Pier

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Classical Fireworks

Fourth Of July Fireworks

A sure sign of summer is the boom and the burst of a fireworks show. Colors streaming through the sky. Trails of smoke drifting in all directions. The oohs and ahs of the crowd with each shell shooting upwards. The anticipation of the final big bursts that signal the impending conclusion as rockets are fired in quicker succession.  A cacophony of sound and color overwhelming the senses in a massive display of power before your eyes. When it is over you almost feel a sense of literal electricity in the air amid the smell of wafting smoke.

Despite having to inevitably calm terrified pets or curse at amateurs setting them off late at night for some reason, I love watching a good fireworks show. Though the reasons for shooting them off might be vastly different around the world, fireworks are recognized as being part of a celebration of some sorts, be it Chinese New Year, July 4th or many other holidays. I have seen firework shows after graduations, concerts, sports events and weddings even. No matter where you are, when you see or hear fireworks, you know that good times are present.

One such occasion even prompted music by my favorite classical composer-George Friderich Handel. In 1749 he composed his Music For The Royal Fireworks. It was actually commissioned by King George II to celebrate the Treaty Of Aix-la-Chapelle and the end of the Austrian War Of Succession. I have always found Handel’s music to be utterly majestic. I think that is why his music resonates for so many people who aren’t normally classical music fans. Most people can correctly name (and hum a few notes) of Beethoven’s Fifth, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Pachelbel’s Canon or Handel’s Messiah. ¬†As one classical musician I spoke to once said-there is a lot to remember with this music. Thousands of composers with countless works of music, each with multiple movements and arrangements. The fact that casual listeners can remember both the composers name and the work among so many options is telling. It speaks to how wonderful those compositions really are.

I think the reason Music For The Royal Fireworks, just like Handel’s other key works The Messiah and Water Music resonate so deeply is that the music ¬†just…feels so right. It grabs you deep inside. You feel the music. I’m not sure if this was his plan, but Handel seemed to go right for the ‘hook’ at the start. No subtle string section buildup here. ¬†Fireworks Music begins on a grand scale, with massed woodwinds and percussion. Apparently at the original performance there was a bit of a disagreement between Handel and the person providing the fireworks over Handel’s desire to have strings added to the orchestra. Not long after the original performance Handel re-scored it for a full orchestra, which is how most people are familiar with it today.

At the bottom of this post is a clip of the entire performance, but for a shorter example of why this is such a wonderful work one only has to listen to the section called La Rejouissance. The progression of notes, the interplay of instruments is so fitting for a celebration. When one describes joyful or exuberant music, pieces like this truly fit. I think King George II picked the right person for the job! Perhaps because conditions are usually best for fireworks in warmer weather, this piece also feels like a great match for spring and summer. When I hear it, I envision crowds of people on a warm evening, spread out on a blanket with food and wine waiting for darkness to come and the start of a fireworks show.

Regarding the photo above, though of course here in New York we have one of the largest fireworks shows around on the 4th Of July, it was actually taken at a smaller display in Astoria Park, Queens last year. For years I have attempted to take a good photo of fireworks, but it is not easy. Luckily last year I was in good position and was able to steady the camera to catch the streaks of light. I fired off several shots of which the one here is my favorite. ¬†Perhaps this year if I go back to watch them in the same park, I’ll just put Handel’s Music For The Royal Fireworks on the headphones and imagine being in the audience at the original performance!

Now a bit of an announcement. As I mentioned in another post recently, I seem to be having a hard time lately writing my music posts. I have absolutely no intention of stopping this, rest assured. But I feel like I may take a short break from having to ¬†feel like I ‘must write a new music post’. I’d rather it happen organically, and fill my notebook with ideas inspired by music and my own photographs. I will continue with Monochrome Mondays every week though, so I will still very much be around. And I still will be writing because (Second Announcement!) I have been working on a book! Yes, you read that right. My number one bucket list desire has always been to write one, and I have been slowly and steadily been working on it. So that is something to look forward to!

Music For The Royal Fireworks-Composed By George Friedrich Handel

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Monochrome Mondays

I’ve always been a fan of optical illusions. Those subtle little works of art that play little tricks on the viewers eyes. They can be fun games to play with people. I’m sure everyone at some point has played the ‘is it a vase, or is it a silhouette of two people game’. Or stared at photos to reveal a hidden object after a period of time. Or tried proving that objects that are further away appear smaller (just like Father Ted once exasperatingly tried to do!). Here’s a list of some of the classic ones-http://https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_optical_illusions

Artists such as MC Escher, Salvador Dali, and Marcel Duchamp utilized various types of optical illusions as well in their work. As I said in my recent post Terra Firma, sometimes in the moments before you take a photo, you get a sense of where you are going with the shot. You know what you are after, and you just hope the technique and decisions you choose are the right ones. I remember when I saw this scene for the first time I had the vaguest sense of it being an optical illusion of sorts in the way the archway fades up towards the distance. What do you think? What are your favorite illusions?

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Monochrome Mondays

There are days (or evenings) when the most routine things look unique. Scenes you see day in and day out. But then you just look at them in a new way and think, that’s kind of cool! That happened the other night getting off the subway. Maybe it was the time of day and the shadows that were set against the sun. That is one of my favorite things about monochrome photography. It really highlights shadows. I couldn’t actually decide on just one photo so ¬†for the first time here on Monochrome Mondays I’m sharing more than one photo!

Happy Memorial Day as well. Thank you to all who have served.

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