City Shots

Spring Time in New York

As a location photographer in New York City, I always have my eyes peeled for good subjects; Lord knows there is an endless number of great possibilities for images. This shot was what I call a "no-brainer".

How can you resist a shot of Big Bird in Central Park?

You know it's Spring when the birds return to Central Park.  185mm, f4 at 1/250th sec.

 

Every Picture Tells a Story

It was Friday afternoon and I was editing images in my office, suddenly, an odd noise from outside the window startled my two cats who were sleeping on the filing cabinet next to my desk. When you live on the 5th floor of an apartment building in New York, you don't expect odd noises right outside your window, but a quick peek revealed a man painting the fire escape. I knew right away I had to take his picture.

  Fire Escape Painter.   28mm lens 1/50th sec at f6.3ISO 400

Fire Escape Painter.  28mm lens 1/50th sec at f6.3ISO 400

Obviously, his paint-covered clothes and the brick red color of the primer paint caught my eye, but the most compelling reason to photograph this hard working man was the story in his face. It was clear that he's been working all day and was tired, but who was this man, how did he become a fire escape painter? I asked if he needed anything and in a heavily accented voice he said, "water". While he gulped two glasses of water I asked if I could take his picture, "English no good", he said, shaking his head. I picked up my camera and pointed from it to him and he said, "sure". I climbed out the window. There was no posing, no direction; I only took 5 shots. The painter just stood there, naturally, with an air of both pride and exhaustion.

I was proud too, proud that I didn't let the moment pass without creating a memorable interaction; it would have been easy to ignore him outside my window. Instead, I got to meet one of the many every day working people who make this great city run and to create a beautiful portrait at the same time. I made a 5x7 print of this shot and will give it to him next week when he finished the job.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

I'm no Gene Kelly, singing and dancing in the rain, but I do like shooting in the rain.  The world looks different when wet and with a little awareness and creativity, the inclement weather can provide outstanding photo possibilities.  I like how light reflects off of wet surfaces and often shoot in ways to use color and light to enhance a scene.  Sure, you have to be careful with your gear when it's raining and be particularly aware of raindrops on your lens, but simple precautions and a clean, dry cloth are all you need unless it's a downpour.  Like the cold weather I talked about last month, most people don't like to go out in the rain; if you get out there and explore you'll be ahead of the game from the get go!

  The Waverly Diner  is a classic New York City diner and has colorful neon signs that reflect beautifully on the wet pavement.   ISO 1000, 1/30 sec. f2.8, 28mm lens.

The Waverly Diner is a classic New York City diner and has colorful neon signs that reflect beautifully on the wet pavement.   ISO 1000, 1/30 sec. f2.8, 28mm lens.

Cold & Crisp, Clean & Clear

The weather rarely bothers me; in fact, I love shooting on cold, crisp nights.  When most people would rather be bundled up inside, you'll find me out in the clean, clear air searching for beautiful scenic photos.  When it's cold and crisp, the air is generally clean and clear, which makes for images that "snap".  When there is humidity in the air or that haze that comes with summer heat, your photos can look fuzzy or even out of focus.  Certainly, you can take beautiful images in any conditions, but I really love the clarity that comes from shooting in the cold and I never mind throwing on another layer to prepare for the elements.

 Lower Manhattan photographed from Brooklyn Heights.  ISO 200, 15 sec. at f16, 35mm lens

Lower Manhattan photographed from Brooklyn Heights.  ISO 200, 15 sec. at f16, 35mm lens

Be Prepared

The Boy Scout motto serves photographers well.  By always having a camera with you and always being ready to shoot whatever strikes your fancy, you will inevitably capture some gems.  I was walking down lower Broadway when I saw these tourists "holding up" the Red Cube, a sculpture created in 1968 by artist Isamu Noguchi.  It's a fun picture and it was gone in a moment.  The best camera is the one that is with you, just be prepared to use it.

 The "Red Cube" is located on the plaza at 140 Broadway.  ISO 400, 1/60th sec. at f5.6, 20mm lens.

The "Red Cube" is located on the plaza at 140 Broadway.  ISO 400, 1/60th sec. at f5.6, 20mm lens.

The Most Beautiful Building in New York

Grand Central Terminal is one of the most beautiful building in New York, steeped in history and bustling with activity, it's a source of never-ending images.  From the grand beauty of the main concourse to the old fashioned details of the ticket booths, from the priceless clocks to the harried commuters, Grand Central is a photographers dream. 

 taken with a fisheye lens on my phone.

taken with a fisheye lens on my phone.

Thirty five years ago I was poking around the terminal and somehow found myself up in the catwalk of the big window on the west end of the concourse; I found that the windows were hinged and I could swing certain panes open and take pictures.  It was dark in the terminal back then because the big Kodak Colorama mural covered the east windows (those panorama images were 18x60 feet).  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find those negatives and in today's post 9/11 world, there is little chance to get back up on the catwalk.  Luckily, there is plenty to shoot at ground level!

 Commuter rushing to catch his train.

Commuter rushing to catch his train.

Next Generation of Artists

The Matisse "Cut Outs" exhibit currently at the MOMA in New York is a beautiful and inspirational show, but the biggest thrill I had while there today was seeing the parents & kids art classes in a couple of the rooms of this major exhibition.  What a gift these thoughtful parents are giving their children by enrolling them in a class that lets them explore their creative side.  The participants hear about the work and then sketch their own drawings on pads of paper.  I could only smile and wish that I was exposed to such great art when I was a child.  Luckily, I took an interest in art early enough in life to still be thrilled by the beauty that can be produce out of sheer creativity.  Who knows, there may be a future Matisse sitting cross-legged in this crowd.

 Photo taken with my phone as the guard told me, "no pictures".  LOL.

Photo taken with my phone as the guard told me, "no pictures".  LOL.

Seize the Moment

I was headed home, walking down 8th Avenue at 39th Street when I noticed the light changing.  It's hard to see the horizon in New York City, but at the next cross street I could see to New Jersey and see that the sunset might be nice.  I was late for getting home but I just knew something good was about to happen; the problem was, in that part of the city there really isn't much to shoot.  Forgetting that I told my wife I'd be home in ten minutes, I cut west on 39th Street looking for possibilities.  At 10th Avenue I saw my subject:  the high rise luxury condos that have sprung up along far west 42nd Street, they would make a good foreground to the intensifying sunset.  It was a race against a quickly setting sun, but I finally found my angle in the middle of the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel; I literally had to shoot between all the buses heading into the tunnel at rush hour.  Once you find the right angle and time the sunset perfectly, it doesn't take long to get the shot; I was done before the cops rousted me. 

 As an added bonus, I noticed this plane heading south out of LaGuardia and waited for it to be in the right spot; to my eye it's the added point of interest that makes the photo even better.

As an added bonus, I noticed this plane heading south out of LaGuardia and waited for it to be in the right spot; to my eye it's the added point of interest that makes the photo even better.

Proper Preperation Produces Powerful Pictures

Pardon the alliteration, sometimes I can't resist!  But there's an important point behind my silly sense of humor.  The more details you have worked out in advance, the better your images will be, especially when photographing people.  It starts with "seeing" your image in advance and experimenting with the angles and composition even before your subjects are in front of the camera.  Once you have your shot set, nail down your exposure and, if possible, do some test shots with stand-in subjects.  By being properly prepared, you can concentrate on directing your subject and shoot quick variations without wasting valuable time.

 These police officers in Times Square were kind enough to pose for me but obviously had little time or patience for a "photo shoot".  By being prepared and knowing exactly what I wanted, I was able to shoot 12 images in 21 seconds (I checked the metadata time stamps) and used the time to direct them where to look and how to position their arms.    Shot at ISO 400, 1/60 sec. at f7.1, 16mm lens.

These police officers in Times Square were kind enough to pose for me but obviously had little time or patience for a "photo shoot".  By being prepared and knowing exactly what I wanted, I was able to shoot 12 images in 21 seconds (I checked the metadata time stamps) and used the time to direct them where to look and how to position their arms.    Shot at ISO 400, 1/60 sec. at f7.1, 16mm lens.

The Magical Twilight Hour

Twilight, that time when the sun has already set but there is still light in the sky, is one of my favorite times to shoot.  The color of the sky makes a gorgeous backdrop to just about anything, especially when you use strong colors that stand out against the blue.  I love shooting moving cars against a twilight sky; the red taillights provide a great contrast of colors.  But sometimes it's difficult to get the right mix of trailing lights against the sky due to traffic flow.  You can wait for a big flow of cars, or try a different technique--multiple exposures.  As long as you have the camera locked down on a tripod and don't move it between shots, you can shoot in-camera multiple exposures or merge multiple shots together in PhotoShop.  It's a fun technique to play with and can yield some beautiful results.

 This shot of the Flatiron Building in New York is a 9 shot in-camera multiple exposure.  The traffic was coming from both camera left and camera right, so the multiple exposures enabled me to record the trailing lights on both sides.

This shot of the Flatiron Building in New York is a 9 shot in-camera multiple exposure.  The traffic was coming from both camera left and camera right, so the multiple exposures enabled me to record the trailing lights on both sides.