Flashback Friday: Grand Central Station, NYC (March 2005)

Good Friday at Grand Central Station

Good Friday at Grand Central Station

One of the advantages of documenting my own life in a blog format is that I can choose a point in time and revisit it, for whatever reason. I decided to go back 10 years in my photo archives for this post, to have a look at the pictures I was taking and cringe critique myself. I’ll be the first to say they are technically rather terrible, although I did edit the one above for my Tumblr header, so at least it was somewhat salvageable.

10 years ago I was living in the USA, a two hour drive from New York, and I was there often to photograph and explore the city. At the time I only had a low-end point-and-shoot camera (Canon A80), but if I were using the cameras I have today back then, I probably would’ve taken the same pictures. Probably similar compositions, even from the same vantage point. This is why I tell people who are learning photography that buying a DSLR right away isn’t absolutely necessary. In fact, shooting with a compact digital camera is the best practice situation before graduating to a DSLR, because you form your own compositional style without worrying about the operation of the camera or its heft. Then, once you know what kind of pictures you want to take, you can start adding more control to the pictures by upgrading equipment.

Photography technology is changing all the time, but pictures have always been about content and how the brain interprets the image through the viewfinder. When I was at Grand Central Station on Good Friday in 2005, I remember how chaotic it was with people rushing to catch a train somewhere for the Easter weekend. I don’t think it was rush hour yet, and it was already quite busy. These were the camera settings:

ƒ/3.2 / 11.4mm / 0.5 sec / ISO 50

I shot without the flash, which slowed down the shutter enough to make for some nice motion blur. I especially like the photo below, because one person stood still long enough to get more or less in focus, while everyone around her is moving. You’d think this would be a simple scenario at a train station, but finding a person motionless without people directly around to block the line of sight in the busiest train station in New York City on one of the busiest days of the year is not as easy as it sounds.

I’ve had 10 years since this photo to improve my equipment and figure out my style and come up with an editing process. I’ve improved my equipment (although very slowly), and learning how to edit has been very painstaking (I’ve pulled out a lot of hair), but I think the one thing that has changed the least over time has been my composition style. I’ll probably need another decade to decide whether this lack of change is a glass half-empty (stale!) or a glass half-full (consistent!), but the picture-taking will roll on regularly, regardless.

Original post: Good Friday. Manhattan. Jewtopia.



March 25, 2005
Album: New York City [March 25, 2005]

Jinhee + Gene’s Engagement Shoot In NYC: The Preview

Jinhee + Gene's eshoot in NYC

What could be more New York than this?

I arrived home from New York after 3 o’clock in the morning, still wired from the 500 mile / 800 kilometre drive through three states and a province. But it was worth all the mileage: I hung out with friends on Saturday, shot all day Sunday, hung out some more on Monday, and had one of the best weekends this year (even though we were all melting every day from the humidity).

I filled an 8GB memory card with engagement shots alone, which makes it tough to choose a preview out of more than 600 photos. Here are two before I finally get some shuteye.

Jinhee + Gene's eshoot in NYC

above Madison Avenue

(You know what’s coming next…) More to come, stay tuned!

The Helma

Move over, The Donald, The Helma has so much more personality than you!

The Helma

Helma’s got a massive rhododendron bush in her backyard, so I took some photos and she hammed it up — something that comes completely naturally to her. Helma’s about the same age as my dad, but she is less serious than I am. Seriously!

I’m still in Heavy-Duty Work Mode these days, so I’m posting some of the photos I took last Monday and it’s back to the grindstone.

The Helma

The Helma

The Helma

The Helma

Hearts Everywhere


If you are not a photographer-type, being around a bunch of photographers may drive you crazy because they notice details and get easily distracted.

Take this photo, for instance.

I was archive-diving for unrelated things and came across this photo that I took a few years ago at a diner in Philadelphia with Addie and Seuss. We were eating hearty breakfast-y things around 12:30am when I peered past the butter and syrup to spot this woman’s heart earrings in the adjacent booth. And, in the midst of all that food-devouring, I was compelled to document those earrings for apparent reason other than posterity.

There’s something very satisfying about the sound of a shutter-click and the idea that instead of relying purely on your own memory, you can take a moment from the past and bring it forward again.

Justine At Cape Cod, MA


the water fountain had a mind of its own

Justi wrangling with an ornery water fountain in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I’ve seen her every year for the past three years — twice in 2006 — and as soon as I saw her this time I noticed a major growth spurt. Justi no longer looks like a little kid, she is REALLY TALL for six! I’m 5’3″ and she’s not far from a foot shorter than I am.

Also, Justi looks so much like her brother now, it makes my heart ache. She was only two when Vinny died, I wonder what she will remember of him.


Bring On The Night

crane city

Taken in Alameda, California, the Bay Bridge is off to the left.

I’ve mentioned before how much I like shooting at night, and here’s an example why:

View Large On Black

I love the starburst effect from a narrower aperture (in this case f/29), but it requires using a tripod. I had to borrow Kevin’s tripod for this long exposure (13 seconds). Unfortunately, most point-and-shoots don’t have lenses with that sort of aperture range, the average maximum is around f/8. You’ll have to either borrow a DSLR and a tripod or get a special type of filter on your digicam that will achieve the same effect. I’m sure some of the high-end point-and-shoots (which cost even more than my DSLR) can do something similar in-camera with some post-processing, but I don’t have one of those. In my opinion, if you’re shelling out more than a few hundred dollars for a point-and-shoot, you might as well buy a DSLR and get more value for money. I’d even be glad to show you how to use one, I just don’t think you should waste your money on buying an expensive gadget that can’t do much!

Ever The Optimist

pretty windy for a little sparrow
pretty windy for a little sparrow

I jinxed myself this afternoon.*

Today was my biggest photography day yet — we shot all day, in Marin County and around the Marin Headlands with some fantastic photos from the points facing the bridge, ending with sunset shots from Treasure Island. Then I made the mistake of saying to Kevin about how terrible it would be if the flash card got corrupted, how sorry I feel for people who have had that happen to them.

Then I got home and tried to download the nearly full card first, the one I shot with all day long in the Pentax K100D. The card reader blinked a couple of times, and then nothing. NOTHING. I tried another card, and the reader worked just fine. Kevin tried to download off the card onto his computer. NOTHING. We tried to repair the drive on the Mac. FAILED.

Now, I’ve heard of this happening before, and there’s usually a happy (albeit sometimes costly) ending by taking the card to a data retrieval service. I’m going to be optimistic that I’ll be able to get the pictures off the card, which is the first thing I’m going to do after I get home, inject Beano, and have a good night’s sleep.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the pictures were irretrievable. I shoot with David’s Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 as well, but its specialty is 12x zoom and it has virtually no manual functions. I did get some decent photos with it today, but no wide angle shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, just long-range ones.

downtown San Francisco
downtown San Francisco as seen through the Golden Gate Bridge cables


Oh well, we had a fabulous day in gorgeous weather, anyway, and if my photos don’t make it off the card, I will point you to Kevin’s!

* I’m not actually superstitious.

Longwood Gardens

Since my flight in the DC-3 was postponed to next Saturday due to training, I’ve been catching up on my little computer-related side projects (processing photos, website fixes, etc.).

I’ve only posted one photo from Longwood Gardens and that was back in August, so I thought I’d go through some more film shots:

Longwood Gardens

Next time I’m bringing the UV filter for the Pentax K-1000, to cut down on the haze. It was June 1, but man, was it ever HOT!

And a happy belated birthday to our illustrious host and superb photographer, Adrian (aka Velvet G on Flickr), who took us there!

Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens

Harlem Cloudscape

Canon A80

I loved the atmospheric cloud clusters over New York City that day. I took hardly any photos for some reason, this is one of the few.

Central Park

Central Park

I love the way that film looks, I just wish I didn’t have to take it to a lab to get it developed. (I shoot in colour and convert it to black and white in Photoshop using various methods, including channel separation, channel mixing, or in Lab Color mode. It’s always more convenient for processing when you’re using C-41 film, too. David told me the tonal range is always better converting from colour, and he was the guru.)

Three Times Square

1:30am Saturday

I sent this pic from my cameraphone on the way home from New York. I tried to send it while walking down to the metro, but the photo hadn’t finished uploading when I lost the signal, which resulted in an aborted upload to Flickr… which might’ve answered my question whether Cingular sends the data in one packet or in parts (or is that at Flickr’s end? I’ve seen partial uploads/corrupted data before). I was wondering, since Cingular botched my cameraphone upload of Hugh’s pumpkin inspection last weekend, sending it SIX TIMES, three days later.

Speaking of baffling the consumer, I went to JP Morgan Chase (or is it Chase Manhattan?) to change my pound sterling to U.S. greenbacks this afternoon. It’s been sitting in my wallet for five weeks now because I can’t find a single outlet, bank or otherwise, that will convert foreign currency around here. You’d think I was trying to change Lebanese or Egyptian pounds instead of pound sterling, but the banking officer I spoke to said nobody deals with foreign currency at all in Scranton. Call me a cynic, but I’d probably get laughed out of the bank if I showed up with Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos — even though they’re from next door.

I was supposed to be in New York today, anyway, so I figured it was high time I got the GBP done and converted. I went to Chase because the last time I was in New York to pick up Lucy from JFK, she was able to change it there without too much trouble. She had to show her passport, but at least they didn’t require her to have an account. I remembered to bring along my passport, and stood in the glacially slow Friday afternoon line of clientele impatient to get their weekend money.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Over in the business accounts queue, an irate customer pointed to her watch.

“But I was standing here right at four o’clock!” She looked around for validation.

“Right on the dot of four! How can you not take me?!? I’m the last person!” She did have a point, why single her out? Penalty for not rushing the counter?

Meanwhile, I carefully guarded my spot in the queue. This is New York, after all. Those ‘keep one car-length’ and ‘don’t tailgate’ rules don’t apply here, for vehicles or people. When I finally reached the counter, I put the money through the little security trough. I don’t do bank chit-chat, I’m an advocate of speedy, efficient transactions. Besides, this looks like a lynching mob.

The teller asked me three times what the currency was called. BRITISH POUND STERLING. STERLING. POUND STERLING. BRITISH POUNDS. GBP. She also picked up and rotated several notes like she’d never seen security holograms before, or different editions of the same denomination.

I could see the little thought balloons floating above her head: “Oooh, look at the colours! How pretty!”

Then she took out some forms and asked the next teller how to spell the currency on the forms.

Hello? Is this not Chase Manhattan in TIMES SQUARE, the busiest, most famous intersection in all of the United States? There are more tourists here than the population of Scranton, for crying out loud, does nobody change money anymore? I’m a card person, myself, but you’d think Queen Elizabeth II’s face has made enough rounds in the past sixty years or so that she might be recognised by a bank teller in Manhattan. And when all else fails, one might consult the print on the notes.

Then she asked ME how much money was in the pile. The natives behind me were getting restless, so I told her the total quickly, and offered that she might want to check it. I jumped through all their little hoops, showed my passport, filled out my address, signed it, blah blah blah, then went on my merry way downtown towards the financial district… where they had better know what GBP means! 😛

Took the 7 train eastbound, then the express 4 southbound, but it still seemed to take forever. That’s Friday rush hour for you. Got out at Bowling Green, which should change its name to Construction Central. Yeesh. In the end, I had to be fetched from across the street at Duane Reade because the Ritz-Carlton sign was completely obscured by a tree. (Who’s idea was THAT? Trees grow, even in New York. Whoa Gail, sarcastic much?)

I was there to meet up with Mister M and Mister B* for some nosh in the 11th floor lounge before their flight to Vancouver. Mister B was on Bangalore time, so he was nodding off. I hadn’t seen Mister B for nigh on a year, so I was well out of the loop on his offshore activities, and it had almost been that long since I’d seen Mister M. There was much to catch up on, but as usual the clock ran down far too quickly. The car service to the airport was waiting downstairs after only half an hour. We continued the conversation in the car, which was quite full already — the trunk was chockers, and the front seat piled high with carry-on luggage. But we made do sharing the back seat and were quite glad we didn’t have to manoeuvre through the Friday gridlock through Midtown and along Van Wyck to JFK. It was zooish, to put it mildly. They checked in to Cathay, and I backtracked to Manhattan.

It’s been a bit of a wacky day, and transportation loomed large on the agenda:

  • car to bus station
  • bus to Port Authority
  • subway to Financial District
  • hired car to JFK
  • AirTrain from JFK to subway
  • subway to Port Authority
  • bus to local station
  • car to home

The day started off wacky, thanks to an overambitious Photoshop project and a very funny phone call from Hong Kong. Days like this should be framed and put behind glass, for posterity.

* It’s Mister B who’s privacy-conscious, but for consistency I cloaked them both in mystery. Ha! Mrs. M would laugh if she read this.

City Feet, Country Feet

city feet, country feet

Sticking our feet in Lake Tobyhanna on Saturday. Some relief after discovering Gouldsboro Lake had disappeared.

You can certainly tell which feet are which: mine are the ones trying to escape from the slitherers and the insects, David’s are right at home.

sunset over Lake Tobyhanna


rusty links

Album: My East Coast Life

Flying Over the Delaware River

Delaware River

Photos now, posts later!

I’m still uploading the photos to Flickr, so check back later. Here’s what’s up, right now:

October 1-4, Pennsylvania.