Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm talkin' toilets here . .

toilet 2
the toilet
the urinal

I was asked by a customer who was interested in purchasing my "the old thinking room" if I had more photographs of toilets and old bathrooms etc. She was looking to frame three prints of old toilets to hang in her bathroom wall. (pretty cool idea) She loved the one I had but was having a hard time finding two others she liked to go with it. "Do you have any others you have not shown yet, or perhaps are you inspired?" she wrote me. Well, the fact of it was that I had been meaning to do more of that subject and well, with her need of a couple more prints I felt inspired enough to get out and get to it. I asked if she might wait a week or two and I will try to come up with a few more for her to see. She was pleased and I was in search of some old toilets. . .
Here are a few that I took at an old military base here in Brooklyn.
Now, there is a bit of a story behind these. One of the buildings I had ventured into was an old police precint complete witha long hall and lots of rooms. Very dark and spooky. To start things off, I had a Raccoon scare the wits out of me as it ran across the hall and out a cracked window. So there I am getting my nerves back together and setting up my shots. Must have been in there for nearly an hour when I hear a truck pull up outside, talking, chatter on handheld radios and persons walking into the slightly cracked open door. This would have to be the police. Damn, I should have closed that door behind me all the way, but I didn't because I needed some light to see my way inside. (forgot to bring flashlight) "Yeah, it's opened, gonna have a look" I hear one of them say. Now I hear another truck door slam shut and more footsteps and chatter. I'm packing up my stuff as fast as I can and thinking about my next course of action. Do I hide? Hmm, maybe but worst case scenario one of them sees me, gets startled and shoots me dead. Not a good idea. I'm thinking I should face the situation head on and make my presence known because after all the door was not locked and there were no "No Trespassing" or "Keep out" signs up on this spot. Plus, with my camera and gear its quite obvious I'm just a photographer perhaps going a bit too far for a shot. So, after several more endless minutes I gether the nerve. "Hello, is someone there?" I yell. Now I hear footsteps running out the door and someone say "Holy shit, someones in there!" OK, so now they are outside and know someone is inside. More doors slamming and more radio chatter. I am now imagining a swat team setting up outside waiting to storm the place. . . I'm wondering whether this was a good idea after all. I had better start getting to the door and showing smyself before this tension and situation gets out of hand. So, camera gear bag on my back and very large tripod in my arm I head to the door and open it rather slowly trying to look un armed and non-threatening. After opening the door all the way and stepping out I see a Parks Department truck and two park maintenance guys by the truck looking horrified. "Hey, I'm just a photographer taking some pics of old buiildings and toilets" I say. " Holy crap! My buddy here needs some new underwear. You scared the shit outta him, man" one of them says. I'm quite relieved at this point and say sorry but the feeling was mutual.
They asked me if I was sure I didn't kill no one in there and I said yep, pretty sure. These two were pretty cool and after showing them my ID and some of my images on the cameras screen they were convinced and relieved themselves. They were actually about to bolt the door up and so its a good thing I did come out when I did or I'd have been locked inside.
They told me of a building in the grounds where I could possibly get a permit and access to more of the old buildings and so I think I will try that next time :)
As it turns out, my customer loved and ordered the last two photos here to go along with "the old thinking room"


The last several days here in Brooklyn we have had some pretty dramtic skies and cloud formations. Exactly the type of conditions I like when going out shooting especially landscapes and such.
The other night we were watching "Two Brothers" on DVD with my son Kyle. Great family movie btw about two Tiger cubs and their adventures as they grow up. Great action and a tear jerker at times. . .
While we were watching, there was a thunderstorm developing outside. It was pretty dramatic but passed quickly. In its wake was some of the most wonderful skies and lighting I had seen in a while, and so even though the movie was good I kept looking outside the window and enjoying the incredible illuminations. Finally, I could not contain myself and just had to run up and down the street with my camera. There was not much of a landscape by me to go with the skies but I decided the skies and clouds alone were enough of a subject to stand as they were. So here are a few

Monday, June 29, 2009

A walk on the Manhattan Bridge

Every once in a while I like to walk along the Manhattan Bridge. What I like most is the views of the gritty rooftops of the old buildings in Chinatown, on the Manhattan side. Most find it repulsive, and I certainly understand but I always liked grit and grime and all things old, worn and decaying. Hmmm, wonder what Frasier Crane might say about that. . . ;)
Here are a few images from the bridge looking at some of the close-ups of certain things. There is a tremendous amount of grafitti, most likely because these rooftops are readily viewable from the brooklyn bound trains and taggers love a captive audience. The Brooklyn bridge can be seen in the distance in the second photo from the top.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Water Towers

As some of my followers may already know, I have been working on a series of photographs of Water Towers in the New York area. This series actually began in 2004 in my film shooting days and has been ongoing ever since. Whenever I happen to see one of these gems perched up proud on a rooftop, I write down its location and try to get there at a time of day when the lighting and sky will add to its charm.
Here are two that I came upon while venturing through Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

N.Y water tower 13

N.Y water towers 12
N.Y. water tower 12

Friday, June 26, 2009

Keep this place Clean!

These are a few photos that I took while venturing through an abandoned building in Brooklyn, New York. The neighborhood was Sunset Park. The last shot is from down in the lower level looking up through a hole in the floor above. I'll surely be back there as there were many others I wanted to get but the lighting was not ideal. Must go on an overcast day.
I'm hosting larger photos here via my flickr page but it seems flickr reduces some of the sharpness from the original upload. Oh well, at least they are a bit larger for viewing.

keep this place clean

dark entrance

lower level

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Doll Exhibit

Thanks to Karens post at Brayton Homestead Interiors titled "Gentle Mystery" I was reminded of the incredible collection of Dolls that was on display at Space Farms in Sussex New Jersey. Space Farms is mainly an exotic animal farm but does have a museum as well that is full of antiques and various collections of interesting and nostalgic things from our past.Here are some of the photos I took of their huge collection of dolls. What intrigues me is the character in each of these, some beautiful and elegant and some mysterious and even scary. There was one that was displayed as though it had been murdered, very odd and I'm sure it was not set up that way intentionally, but perhaps overnight while the farm is closed strange things and mysteries begin . . .as in the last photo.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Is Pops for Real!?!

The reason I'm even posting this is because it happened twice in one month and I felt once in a lifetime was too many.
We all have heard the many ringtones that people download to their cell phones and use because either think that the sound/song is cool or funny or whatever but it is really about being unique and/or showing others around you what your all about, somewhat. I have heard practically every song used (heck, I even had Led Zeppelins "Heart Breaker" for a while) many different sound effects and even voices of people yelling "Pick up the damn phone" I guess while your browsing through all the possible ringtones some of these could seem funny or cool at the time, but when it actually rings when your in public it does not seem so cool anymore especially to those around you who really couldn't give a Rats Ass about you anyway.
Well, twice in one month, while riding the bus I heard a baby laughing ringtone. Sounded somewhat cute, I mean who could argue that a baby laughing is not cute. The thing is, the two times I heard this ringtone it was on the cell phone of a man at least in his 70's. . .
The first time was a heavy set black man sort of reminded me a Louis Armstrong. We were sitting on a bus and all of a sudden we heard this loud and whacky baby laughter. As we are looking around to see where it was coming from and we were practically laughing already before this man pulls a phone out of his sports jacket. The sight of this huge old man sitting there with a phone that is laughing a giggling like a baby as he is trying to figure out how to answer it was enough to get the rest of the bus to look at eachother in disbelief and break out laughing.
The other time was also on a bus but this was a little old white man with a cane. He looked like a Jewish man in his upper 70's and I was surprised to learn that he even had a cell phone, but to hear a baby laughing in his coat and see him fumbling to answer it, I started to wonder if this was becoming a trend or a reach or longing of the elderly to be young again and hope that I'm not destined to the giggling baby phone :0 Perhaps this is a light hearted prank by these gentlemens grandchildren or something?
I have since got rid of my Zeppelin ringtone and now have a very simple yet pleasing chime. I'm now very conscious of myself and any signs of a desire to have a baby giggling ringtone. . .please, not me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Autumn within Cunningham Tower

Here is a view from within the ruins of Cunningham Tower located in a state park in Litchfiled, Connecticut. This tower as I was told by a local that was taking his daily stroll through the forest
was used as a look-out tower and had burned down many years ago. Its design is very medieval-era in its stone walls and spiral steps ascending the inner walls. Most of the sides and all of the roof are gone and so there is much lighting coming down inside illuminating the interior for this photo. What remains of the seps are evident in the upper portion of the image above the window. The interior of this stone wall ruin is mostly gray and black and set off the fall colors as seen through the opening. This photograph was exhibited as a 20x28" print last year at Gallery 364 in Brooklyn and took Best in Show. It sold as well.

Rear Window

Having come from the great blog of Lianne, at my kitchen table and reading her two part post about seeing a man suspiciously dump a bag in a back alley dumpster I was reminded of the movie "Rear Window" by Alfred Hitchcock. That in turn reminded of my photo titled "Rear Window" which was captured looking off the Manhattan bridge near nightfall. The view is of the rear of an old building in Chinatown. Inside we can see an occupant and perhaps make out a few other things such as the large butcher knife on the table in front of the window.
This photograph is a part of a window series that I had and still will be working on. I find that there is something intrguing about the window dressings, colors, contents of the dwelling that can be seen from the outside and condition of the window and its surroundings. It causes me to wonder about the persons living inside and what I can tell about them from the window. I try not to shoot windows that are open and where the occupants are visible as that sometimes ruins the mystery as well as bordering on invasion of privacy, etc. but in this case I was intrigued by the occupant and the contents of the home and overall condition of the building. It was deliberate on my part that the person could not be identified by this image. More of my window series can be viewed on my
website on the "gallery" link.
Click on the image for a larger version to better make out the details.

Sailing in New York Harbor

This photograph was taken from the Redhook, Brooklyn waterfront. I love the ominous looking cloud cover over the lone sailboat with the cranes and touches of industrial menace lurking on the shores in the distance. It is one of my all-time favorites of mine and possibly so because it is one of those images that just print very nicely.
Some dodging and burning was done and also initially a conversion to grayscale with some sepia tones brought back in for the aged look, that I feel works well with this scene.

Iki is a year old

Well, Iki made it to his 1st birthday and is now officially one year old. Some early photos and info about Iki's plight can be found here.
He really is like a dog. He always runs to the door when were coming home or leaving, he lays around us in bed, always licking our face or hands or legs and loves to play endlessly.
His mother still roams around in the backyard and on occasion I would bring Iki out on the porch and they would see eachother. The mother would just stop in her tracks and look at him and I always wonder if somehow she knows that it was the one of her litter that she removed.
Ironically, the one she removed might be the only survivor from the bunch although I think one of the others might have been given a home.

Slacker Personal Radio

I'm lovin slacker Radio! If you have not heard of or listened to Slacker Radio, you have to check it out. It offers a huge selection of customizable radio stations with great sound quality. What I'm really lovin is the mobile apps that they offer for the Blackberry and iphones. These free apps let you have whatever radio stations you like on your phone including comedy as well as most every music genre you can think of. The best thing is that on my blackberry phone I can actually download radio stations and cache them which means that I can listen to any radio station even if I'm not in an area where a signal can be had, such as the subway. Its great to listen to radio stations sometimes instead of downloaded music because you can listen to songs you have never heard before and discover great new talents that are emerging. Details about the artist can be viewed as well as all the lyrics and album cover.
Give it a go, its free. Its so good though that I think I'll be dishing out the mere 3.99 a month for total access to this great station and portable music.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Church Property

Keep Off!
Fire escape violaters will be prosecuted.

This was a scene taken in Harlem, New York a few years back when I was shooting film. The street was illuminated by a street lamp off to the side and behind me, and it was actually raining a bit as well. This was about 2 in the morning. I loved the way the light was hitting this and although this could have been taken during the day, the light playing on this is just as important to me as the subject itself. Harlem is wonderful for its old buildings and churches, truly a grit town.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Inside the Windmill

This photo was taken a little while back, but it is one that keeps haunting me and I continue to come back to it over again. It is a view from inside the Pantigo Windmill in East Hampton, Long Island. It is one of three still standing in East Hamptons and represents the best machinary and craftsmanship that the community could afford at the time.
I just loved the wood tones and the leak of light coming in through the crack in the door.
The smell of the old wood and the creaking of the various mechanisms and parts really added to the experience of being in this great piece of American History.

The old thinking room

This is a shot I took a little while back in an old abandoned military building. I believe that good lighting is so important and can bring appeal to most any subject. Our eyes love to see shadows, contrasts, depth, and a range of tones and highlights/shadows. Good lighting is eye-candy. I like the debris and dilapidated look of this scene in itself, but the natural lighting coming in from the side and from the frosted glass windows in the back wall created a wonderful dynamic. I had given this a sepia-like tinting but left the wonderful yet subtle colors coming through the back windows intact. I actually have this print hanging in my livingroom as a 20x28" print framed behind museum glare-free glass. My son Kyle tells his mom that "Dad has a toilet hanging on the wall" hehehe He says he likes it too :)
This print is available in my Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=16411884

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is that Photoshopped!?

"Is that Photoshopped?"

is a question that makes me cringe sometimes whenever I hear it. It means different things to different people. The term "photoshopped" has aquired a negative connotation over the years as photographers and graphic artists use it to manipulate images, not always with good intentions. I hear the question ocassionally while meeting people at my exhibits or sometimes via an email correspondance from someone who has seen my photos on the web. It usually comes from amateur photogs or enthusiasts, professional photogs who have refused to move away from film and embrace digital, or someone who was told by someone they know that " the computer can make a photograph in photoshop and its not real". Every photographer be they professional or amateur that shoots with a digital camera uses some sort of photo editing software to edit their photos, whether it be just to crop or to resize an image for web display. "Photoshopped" does not have to be in Adobe Photoshop either but any of the many editing software that is available out there, some of them for free such as Google's Picassa. I find that usually the question means the person asking it does not believe that the photo could have looked that way straight out of the camera. They are right, usually it could not. The question I ask is, why would anyone want to show their image the way it looks straight from the camera? ( aside from photo journalists, etc where documenting the facts require no editing at all) There is no badge of honor to wear for showing an untouched image that looks the way that Canons or Nikons engineers decided should be the starting point. If one is shooting in RAW format, you certainly need to sharpen, adjust contrast, possibly tweak color correction/white balance and maybe crop. If your shooting jpegs, some of this stuff like color correction, sharpness and contrast is already done for you in-camera. So, it is already "photoshopped" before it leaves the memory card. Granted, this is not the degree of photoshopping that people mean when they ask the question, but that is the point. Everything shot digitally is photoshopped at some point. So, of course my answer would be yes, but. . .just a little. That sounds defensive which is a position I feel I need not have to be in. Further, even if a photographer does manipulate his/her images heavily. . .so what. I think the final product is what we need to consider, not the path there. Aside from common belief, not anyone with a camera and photoshop can just click a button and come up with a good photograph. Like any tools that become available to artists from the ever expanding progress of technology, one must know what they are doing and have a vision. In the days of shooting film, most pro and serious photogs would spend countless hours in the darkroom. . .manipulating the negative. I wonder if Ansel Adams ever heard the question " yeah, but is that darkroomed"? Yeah, plenty kid. A fine quote from Ansel that I like very much goes something like "No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit". Personally, most of my works are only dodged and burned with some adjustments to color correction and cropping. There are times when I go further such as building a frame around the image and give it the aesthetic of an old film or viewing through the viewfinder as its called. I will remove things in the photo that I might find distracting such as a branch or odd object not desired in the scene. I might also add a softer focus to areas that I want faded away or to appear misty, etc. I don't like to manipulate heavily, but will not shy from it if it will achieve a desired effect or vision I have.

Here is my photo of "magpie shrike" both the original and the edited version. This is one of the more heavily manipulated images of mine, but I had no reservations and make no apologies for doing so. As a matter of fact, as I'm shooting a subject I may already know what is going to come from me in post processing. If the bird is just no going to take my 20 bucks and sit in the spot I asked him to, then I know I will be removing distracting elements later on and possibly dodging a bit more light on its face. The subject still needs to be in a good spot as far as lighting goes and so forth because there really is only so much that can be done in editing later. So, mostly this is a waiting game. I do find that if I stay long enough on a day when not many visitors are around the bird will be comfortable enough to come sit where I need it to.

Most of my work is now done in LightRoom, which is geared towards photographers and offers much less editing power than photoshop. It allows me to process a large number of images such as when I shoot a dance performance and need to organize and process several hundred files. So when someone now asks if this was photoshopped I can easily say " no, just a bit of LightRoom" :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

accordian player in Union Square.jpg

An accordion player in Union Square Park, New York. He is wearing a rather strange helmet but played pretty well nonetheless. Sorry for the lousy photo, but this was a hit and run with the cell phone camera as I was coming back with photo supplies from Adorama.