With all the ethnic groups represented in New York City, there is probably a festival or parade just about every weekend. There is a cluster of Brazilian shops and restaurants over in the 40’s just west of 5th Avenue. The crowd is enthusiastic. Green and yellow are the colors. And everyone is having a good time.
Being based in the Middle East, the day almost got by me. When I traveled to the US recently, the Saudi movie censors put blurred spots on all the crosses in the cemetary scene in Sherlock Holmes. No other religious signs are permitted except traditional Muslim. So my last Easter Parade in NYC was back in 2012. To be honest it’s not a parade. They close off Fifth Avenue in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral and people mill around seeking attention. There are the traditional and the strange all mixed together. If you wear it, I will photograph it.
I studied the internet and got info on the venue and the parade route. I knew it would be crowded and rowdy. I arrived hours early by subway to scope out the venue and to pick a place to shoot. As I walked the empty parade route, I encountered these three young ladies. They immediately posed shyly and let me take a few images. I took many more shots that day, hundreds and hundreds. I managed to get into the middle of the parade route and walked along side the marchers getting intimately close. But after all that, this is one of the best images and memories of the day. Who knew it would be one of the first shots. … I could have gone home early…
Halloween 2011, Columbia University, Baker Field, Yale vs Columbia. At least I didn’t travel far. It was snowing hard before kick-off and it never let up the whole game. Yale won. Yay! Snow is wet. I had an umbrella and my trusty long lens 80-400mm. I shot. I tried to keep my gear dry. I shot anyway. Alex remembers this game fondly. I remember being wet and cold. I’m used to cold when I ski. But when you are sitting and just moving your finger on the shutter, fun has an entirely different context. His Elis won and I got some shots. Everyone was happy.
I admit to being a photo opportunist. Alex wanted to follow his beloved Yalies to the ECAC Hockey Championships. It was held in AC, Atlantic City. It’s hilarious because Alex and I don’t gamble. The venue was where they used to hold the Miss America pageant. And no camera; I was stopped as soon as they saw my serious camera gear. I think it was the 80-400mm lens that really scared them. Other people got in with medium teles. So I fell back on my Canon G11 point and shoot. Now that’s a real challenge. There’s a shutter lag, you shoot, and a few milliseconds go by before the image is captured. At that lag, how in the whole wide world do you capture the action. Lighting is horrible and everything is moving to say nothing of the glass that surrounds the rink. You might as well not turn on the camera. So I just sat there and experimented. As with anything, I figured you have to follow the action. That means the puck is where the action is. Yup! I got a few with the puck headed past the goalie. Not great but not bad. You have to look close but that puck is in the frame.
I was fortunate enough to make it onto an island full of puffins. I’d do it again. The problem is that it would be a very arduous trip. So for now, once was enough. It’s not just the birds. There is fog and lupines.
You need the whole experience. The shot one sees on the post card is of the lovable bird statically positioned. You can’t point your camera and not capture a zillion of these shots. So what is unique? Pondering, I fell back on my sports experience (tennis, Manny) and realized that “flying” was the ticket. Ninety percent of the time the puffins are standing around. The last bit is flying. There’s plenty but it is not easy to have the focus, focal length, and composition all working simultaneously for a bird in flight. On this one I had no lessons or advice. I just relied on experience and imagination. It was a one shot deal. There are other things I might do since I am more experienced now. It’s great that things change and make you want to get better.
This post ties in with other discussions on this blog. J recently ran the LA Marathon. I met Charlie and we flew in his Bell 47 helicopter. I shot with Manny, from Sport’s Illustrated. Manny told me of the quintessential shot of the NY Marathon in which the image is made of the runners cresting the Verrazano Bridge. Well, I was in the position to try for this image. The shot had been described but I had never seen it. It was crystal clear blue sky day as Charlie and I hovered in his ship over the bridge. It also helped that he had been a former NYC Police helicopter pilot. We were not chased away from the venue. All that remained was to get that “shot.” You can go wide or tele. I know I didn’t quite get it right. I got a lot of images but the “one” got away. I still count myself lucky to have been there. A lot of stars came together for me to have the chance.
Boston is very different from New York. There are the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Jets and the Patriots (sports team adversaries). And then Boston, the start of the Revolutionary War, has its tradition of Patriot’s Day. Maine, almost an annex of Massachusetts, has a day off for Patriot’s Day. No such thing happens in New York. Nope! The significance is that this is a photo op. The day is devoted to re-enacting the early skirmishes of the Revolutionary War. I attended twice. Two acts of random kindness were bestowed upon me. I held a musket while the owner shot me (photograph, of course). And in the second, I got an up close and personal look at what it must have felt like to be the target of a British dragoon. One needs to remember that everyone here is American, just dressed in period costume.
The accuracy of the long musket was surprising…bad. I thought the long barrel made it a deadly accurate weapon. In fact firing the weapon was a challenge. There was smoke and fire. And, you were blinded for a few moments after the weapon discharged. Note here that everyone had their eyes closed upon firing. No one wanted to be injured in the making of this image. I discovered the key to the image was the smoke and fire.
While I’m on the subject of the ocean, I thought I’d mention the annual Lobster Dip in Maine. New Year’s Day at around noon a hardy group of folks gather and make a run into the ocean. This particular day was cloudy gray and colddddd! You can see snow in the background. For all its hype and build-up, it happens rather quickly. Everyone runs into the surf and right out again. No frolicking! There are divers on standby waiting to rescue anyone who flounders. No one does much more than get their ankles wet. Me, I was dressed in layers and in full winter gear except for my camera. Yeah it was as cool as it looked. This was the only time I was in the right place to attend, once and done.
You can hardly dive in these waters and not see lots of clownfish. They are in symbiosis with the anemone. Each protects the other. The colorful fish are aggressive if you approach the anemone. It’s always worth a shot. Sometimes you don’t see the fish well, there’s to much backscatter, focus is off, and loads of other issues. As time goes by, there is no lack of clownfish images from which to choose. Some are better than others. I just keep waiting for a quintessential image. In my head, I hear my wife’s voice saying, “You have an image, why do you need another?” To which I say, “Because…”