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

Hello and welcome back for the first time in about a month to Monochrome Mondays. It is also the first new post of 2018 so without further adieu, here we go!

Big Allis, Queens

As I write, New York City and much of the east coast of the U.S. has been in deep Arctic freeze. Brutally cold temperatures and wind chills. Winter still has a long way to go of course, but I sincerely hope we do not get any deep freezes that last as long as this one has! Partly because it has kept me from wanting to head off walking around taking new photos. Yesterday though I did a bit of writing in a coffee shop and took my camera along. On Saturday we were doing some errands when my wife pointed out the smoke belching out of the nearby power plant known as ‘Big Allis’ not far from our apartment. I did not have my camera, but I took a shot with my phone of the smoke set against the blue chilled sky. Yesterday I saw the same sight (the smoke stacks dominate our neighborhood and can be seen from practically any angle ) but instinctively switched the camera over to monochrome to see what that might look like. Now, I am not thrilled  in environmental terms that those smoke stacks are doing that of course, but there is no denying that it made for an interesting monochrome photo.

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*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.

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Monochrome Mondays

Late Night

Well depending where you live, the cooler days are already with you or on the way. Here it has been a bit of a see-saw requiring odd combinations of jackets, gloves, scarves and hats to compensate. One recent Friday night the temperature dropped rather quickly and surprisingly. Which if you take a minute to observe people usually means the hands go in the pockets, the jacket gets zippered all the way up the head gets scrunched down into the marginal warmth of the coat. You also tend to walk briskly between points. On this particular night I ventured deep into a part of our neighborhood I hadn’t ever really been to before. Certainly at night I had not.

My destination was a taproom I had been meaning to go to for some time and it was a very long walk I don’t mind telling you! After staying for an hour or so I headed out and crossed the street. It was there I noticed that on the other side just before the taproom was this sheet metal fence protecting some sort of commercial yard. Immediately I had the idea that it would make an interesting backdrop for someone walking past, but I would have to do it in monochrome. Unfortunately due to that chilly night it was awhile before I saw someone. I took a few test shots of the fence itself and then waited across the street leaning against a tree. Finally someone walked past and I took my shot. It is inherently an urban photo with the fence. As I thought about it more you also seem to sense the chill in the air when I took it.

Well at least that is what I thought as I was taking it!

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Monochrome Mondays

 

Climbing. That is what this weeks edition of Monochrome Mondays is about. That need to keep moving and going higher. For some that can mean career wise and climbing up that ladder of success. For others it might mean development of a talent such as playing an instrument or singing. For me personally right now it means getting back to what I do best, which is taking photographs regularly and writing. The other things don’t get ignored mind you, but this is where my heart is. In August I took on a challenge from my blogger friend Pratyusha to go 10 days without foods like bread, pasta, and sugars. I’ve never done any kind of diet or detox before in my life, but at the end of it, I felt better inside and out. Losing 10lbs was an added bonus, but it was the mental clarity that came out of it that was the most satisfying I think. I realized that I was going through the motions a bit too much in my life and what I needed to do was to get excitement back. So in the month of September I really worked on that.

First, as those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram know, my wife and I spent a few much needed days in Lake George to recharge the batteries as it were. Second, the diet has more or less continued since. I’ve had pasta one time in about 6 weeks actually! Third, with the nicer weather I have been getting out there with my camera more. This has probably been the most crucial thing I could do for myself. When I take lots of photos, I get ideas for writing, when I write it leads to more writing. Today’s photo is a result of this. Fourth, as a result of tweaking the design of this blog, I made a short little video that people have been responding to, and that makes complete sense for what I do (I added it to the bottom here). Fifth, in what is maybe the biggest step for this (mostly) introvert, I organized a Photo Walk in my neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens. I’ll be doing another one really soon, but this past Saturday I did the first one and I was really happy with how it turned out. Being a planner I spent a day weeks earlier mapping out a route that would take in the best views with the shortest routes between them. You can see some of these photos in the next few days across my social media. 

But today is Monochrome Mondays and this photo was taken last week coming home from work on Roosevelt Island in one of those fits of photographer joy…when you see things you walk by every day in a completely new light. This is actually a seating area designed in a steps format overlooking the East River. As I was walking home (and since it is now darker out earlier) I turned and saw these lights between each step level. I thought hmmm…that might be interesting. And with everything I just said, it might have been the most timely photo I have taken in quite some time!

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Monochrome Mondays

Summer is progressing here. Long lazy days where you don’t want to move around too much. Just find a shady spot somewhere and watch the world go by. Here in the big city there are lots of places, and lots of things to look at of course. Since we moved to Queens I have one favorite spot called the Anable Basin, or as some call it, the Eleventh Street Basin in Long Island City. It is an artificial inlet built in the 1860’s for industrial use. When much of that industry dried up, the area went through a period of decline before being re-purposed in the 1990’s as Gantry Plaza State Park. The park as a whole offers a lot of activities and people watching, as well as an amazing view across the river to Manhattan. But tucked away on the side of the park, runs the basin. As I have said here before, I love old buildings, and things like a ship wharf or an old brick building have a natural appeal for me. I love sitting there under the trees reading or people watching and imagining what the same view must have looked like 100 years ago. Which is just something your mind seems to do on a long lazy day in the shade.

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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

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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