With the rainy season upon us and second wave of Covid-19 wrecking havoc on people everywhere. I’ve been trying to find ways to spend my time and stay relatively sane. During the week, I’ve gotten into the habit of working from home, taking much needed breaks and going out on the balcony for a breathe of partially fresh air watch the sun set. In the past, I’d await that moment when the sun descends behind the mountains. Since purchasing a Neutral Density filter, I’m able to capture the look of dusk during the middle of the day. I love how the filter helps smooth out the water while giving my long exposures the contrast I need. It certainly didn’t hurt the the rain that day brought some really nice cloud cover. This was one of my first attempts with Neutral Density Filters and though I have a lot to learn, I love the effects.
After a short stay at Gasworks Park, we began to head home with the mindset of picking up a late lunch or early dinner. In a very short span of time, we must have come up with a half dozen different ideas without one really standing out from the other. Upon passing Ivar’s we finally made a concrete decision and made a U-turn.
The warmth of the setting sun and the sudden sense of relaxation brought on by the lake and passing kayakers was just what the doctor ordered. Though a city boy through and through. One who spent many years living within earshot of Times Square and the once feared forty deuce. I have become more appreciative of a laid back and less congested lifestyle. As I grow older, I often find myself craving solitude and escaping to less traveled places. Below is a slide show featuring some of the images I captured while enjoy fish & chips and clam chowder with my wife.
Back when I was giving my studio photography an overhaul. A mentor and close friend who was going over some of my old sessions. Adding, “What did a shadow ever do to you?” It was something I had heard at an International Center of Photography workshop but wasn’t sure how to correct it. However, once I learned, it was as if an entirely new world of depth and creativity opened up. Just aa I began adding what I learned to my studio photography, I found myself adding shadow to my landscape photos. To add definition to my landscapes and interiors, partly and considerately more to put shade and add anonymity to the people, often strangers in my photos. It’s helped me in a lot of ways, including sales.
It’s also made me think of myself growing increasingly introverted and wary of close contact with others. Below are a couple of images I took before exiting Gas Works Park this afternoon.
I feel as if I’ve been chasing the light a lot lately. So much so that I think something different needs to come, and soon. Yet, that time won’t come along until I know I’ve taken that perfect shot, which brings me to this weekend’s short visit to Kerry Park. Though beautiful in that you get a beautiful view of the city from an unobscured view, the crowded spot reminds me of a tourist trap. I think, by now, it’s safe to safe to say I’m a bit of a loner when it comes to photography. One of two people is okay, but when a spot gets crowded with people taking selfies with their phones. I find myself craving solitude. Below is a favorite from my relatively short visit to Kerry Park. On a related note, after joining a Seattle photography group earlier today. I noticed a post featuring an image of the space needle. One that looked almost the same as mine and the countless other pictures of the monument. While by all means, a great shot. It reminded me that I cut my own weird and unique cloth. Angles and all, I want to sidestep the norm.
Looking back, I’d say my journey as a photographer began during my early days in Hell’s Kitchen. Though I had been fascinated with taking pictures since my teens. It wasn’t until I was occupying a one-bedroom in the heart of the west midtown area of Manhattan that my then boss gave me his old Nikon EM SLR along with some film and a couple of photo books that my hobby turned into an obsession. I quickly began documenting my surroundings while graduating from one-hour photo chains to professional printing services such as Duggal and B&H. Within a short time, the towels and sheets that fit neatly in my apartment linen closet were displaced by boxes of photos and trays of slides. My trips to places like Duggal and B&H quickly quadrupled. From my eight years in Hell’s Kitchen to my married life in New Jersey and Washington state. My passion and obsession for photography never waned. My need for living space grew, and the number of photo boxes, enlargements, and ane studio gear morphed. Quickly realizing less is more, I used the premise of moving to digitize all those negatives, slides, photo boxes, and albums before tossing them in the garbage.
As I begin to get the digitized photos back, I can see the vast progress I’ve made over the years. Kicking myself, in a sense, for holding on to the past for so long. Undoubtedly, many photos accurately documented the time and people. Most of it, unfortunately, was junk. Luckily though, there were a few that jogged some serious memories. Photo’s that still show a measure of intent and purpose.
Taken on 48th street and 10th avenue shortly after a snow storm. You can hopefully see the emphasis on the reflections the puddles give. You should also get a rare view of a traffic-free New York City street. Not bad for a photo I took more than twenty-five years ago.
The other night I had a dream involving a very close childhood friend who was both a victim of child abuse throughout his youth and murdered before becoming an adult, regardless of the dream involving us partaking in a crime. Considering the thirty plus nightmares that had me revisiting his blood-soaked body or the blackened eyes or bruised back, this was the brightest and overtly positive dream I’ve had regarding my best friend. A gift of sorts, rewarding me for finding closure after more than thirty years.
Even as a kid, I often felt helpless and afraid to say or do anything to improve the situation.
Being aware of and even witnessing some of the beatings or the following results were terrifying to me. I can only imagine what it might have been for my friend. Choosing between who was more abusive, the oversized nonfunctional alcoholic father, and his quick fisted bartender mom is hard enough. The two of them inflicted enough physical and emotional damage to last two lifetimes. While everyone on the block and my parents were aware of the abuse. Perhaps due to the times or their fears of what might happen if they got involved. Not one of us picked up the phone or visited the local precinct to file a report. The thought of being a rat or pushing into a foster home both played a part. However, in the end, the fear of possibly making things worse formed the most significant cloud over our wanting to protect him.
Considering it took me close to twenty-five years to put his murder and the mental scars of his abuse to appreciate what a special and unique friendship we shared. To get over the nightmares and thoughts that focused solely on the darkness. It feels rewarding to look back at all the good times we shared and the many adventures we embarked on.
Glen loved baseball and, more specifically, the Yankees, for which he knew the history of just about every player wearing pinstripes. As pre-teens, we shared a love for comic books, baseball, the original star wars saga, and slasher films. There were countless sleepovers where we’d avoid sleeping to get a jump start on the next day’s adventure. We did everything in our power to see every horror flick that was released during that time, whether it meant finding a way to break into the theatres’ back door or convincing an adult to pose as our parents or guardian. It seems as if at least ninety minutes of each Saturday dedicated itself to catching a flick. These days I can’t help but think those slasher films were an escape from his own nightmarish life.
I’m not sure, and I don’t remember when or how we met. Though living just a few houses apart most likely initiated our first meeting, my first memories involve being curious about why some neighborhood kids attended pre-school. To think we were already exploring an environment outside of our front yards and parents’ protective eyes is somewhat of a head-scratcher. For sanity’s sake, I’ll say the times were very different.
Glen’s thirst for adventure and nose for trouble led us on countless adventures. Some of which, I find it hard to believe we managed to survive or, at the very least, evade the police and a possible stay in juvenile detention. Whether it be trespassing, shoplifting, vandalism, arson, or worse, Glen had a particular taste for trouble that only seemed to grow over time. Perhaps being the smarter or at least, more analytical of the two. I often served as the moral compass that kept us from getting in too much trouble or, to an extent, getting killed. Funny how in looking back. I never looked too far into the future. Whether a life of crime, prison, or following his parents as both alcoholics and abusers. And though we spoke about juvenile hall as sort of a badge of honor. I’m grateful to add; it never came to that.
Regardless of our differences and perhaps due to our similarities, we were inseparable. There were a few fistfights over the years, but no bloodied nose or black eyes kept us apart for more than a few days. From the age of four to thirteen and beyond that, we were brothers, even taking a blood oath when we were eleven.
For better or worse, his father’s attempt at sobriety took them to Las Vegas when we were thirteen. His father, a long time nonfunctional alcoholic, was finally looking to turn his and Glen’s life around. Returning to his gift for cooking, he took a job as a line cook in Vegas. During the two years apart, we kept in touch through letters and occasional phone calls, conversations about girls, music, and, most importantly, girls. A couple of months before my sixteen birthday, he wrote a letter announcing his plan to take a bus back east. A lengthy bus trip from Las Vegas to New York Cities port authority was undoubtedly a better idea than hitchhiking. Sure, what could go wrong?
Upon his arrival, it was easy to see that the sense of brotherhood we shared was still intact. Though we had grown in different directions, our bond seemed more vital than ever. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, there was talk about my mother adopting him. However, Glen never lived by a set of rules or curfews. His not coming home for days and even weeks proved to be too much for us to handle. While I often wished he would adapt and accept the boundaries of a new life. Part of me fully understood why he couldn’t.
Weeks later, his bloated, beaten, and bloodied body found blocks from where the bus dropped him off to start a new life. There amongst the trash on the side alley of a midtown late-night food joint. Though I never really followed the case, investigated what he got into or why he ended up. Both I and those who knew him all have their theories.
However, with years behind me and somewhat of a sense of closure, I wanted to look back on the best friend I ever had and let him know how much his friendship still means to me. Through closure and a sense of acceptance, I’ve finally opened the doors to remembering all the good times we shared, the adventures we embarked on, and the many discoveries we made along the way.
With a move just a day away and an exhausting week of packing almost done, I hope to move forward with my energy and purpose. Our new home offers many windows of opportunity to put forth. Or, at the very least, supplement the ideas and plans I’ve been looking to add, subtract, or continue as we’ve made it a habit to visit the condo since our closing day regularly, sometimes to bring essentials, others to measure or plan. It never goes without notice how an empty room allows for boundless thoughts, ideas, and creativity. Below is a shortlist of actions and undertakings I plan on implementing or continuing.
Tai-chi – What a great way to start the day? In with the good and our with the bad.
Minimalism – This has been an obsession of mine for some time. Packing for the move has been a revelation—a back-breaking reminder of everything I had to have.
Meditation – Since I was in grammar school, I’ve relied on meditation for long periods, often interrupted by being too busy with complete nonsense. Considering how beneficial the results have always been, I often find myself scratching my head as to why I ever stop. Whether it be stress, anxiety, overthinking, breathing, or just clearing the mind, five minutes to a half-hour of meditation does more than any pill or time with a therapist has ever done for me.
While it might be somewhat intimidating for a beginning photographer to shoot on full manual mode, I can’t think of a better way to learn photography and learn your camera’s settings and functions, as someone who learned photography during the film camera days. There is a big difference between developing your mistakes in a dark room or turning it over to a photo lab rather than uploading them to your computer. Digital photography is excellent because it allows you to make mistakes without the cost of money or space. Whether you’re taking pictures from your window seat or out in the wild, I strongly suggest switching to manual mode and even taking your lens off autofocus. You’re going to learn a lot more that way while taking total control over your photography experience.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with all the available modes and functions of my Canon. However, the AV mode (Apeture Value) is, by far, the least explored. Aperature Mode is an important feature that allows you to choose your f stop while the camera typically chooses the ISO. Choosing this mode is great for a bokeh effect, which a term for blurring your background. It should be noted that the smaller the aperature number the larger the shutter opening and vice versa. Simply put, f 1.8 is a lot bigger than f 22. Below are several mid day images I took from the balcony. The first and third were taken of the North West and the second of the North East.
Understanding full well that my obsession with running out on the balcony or up to the roof to watch/photograph the sunset each night will eventually fade. I’ve taken to abandoning my camera’s priority mode while switching to manual focus on my lenses. Though manual mode is, by far, the best way to learn. With limited time and a plate of homemade tacos waiting for me on the inside, I switched to TV mode, changing my shutter speed with each image. Those unfamiliar with TV mode allow you to change your camera’s shutter speed and let you play around with the amount of time. Giving you the power to create a sense of motion in your images. Below are a couple of pictures and their settings. As you can see, their taken from very different ends of the spectrum, yet the results are similar.