The Panorama of the five boroughs of New York City at the Queens Museum of Art has been on my to-see list for many, many years. Finally, the occasion of a visit by my cousin Jeremey’s lovely friend, Jess, prompted us to make the trip out to the old World’s Fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. We were not disappointed by it and other exhibits at the museum.
First, a bit about the museum building. According to the museum website, the building sits on the sites of both the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fairs and is the only structure to survive from the 1939 fair. Its original name was the New York City Building and it contained exhibits about city municipal agencies. Later, it became the home of the UN General Assembly from 1946-1950, during which time, among other events, voting on the partition of Palestine occurred. Much later in 1972, the building was turned over to the Queens Center for Art and Culture, later renamed Queens Museum of Art. Period photographs on the museum’s History of… web page.
Jeremey at the Unisphere fountain, east side of the museum
Earlier, for the 1964 fair, it once again became the New York City Pavilion and the primary display this time was the Panorama. To ensure every single building extant in 1964 was displayed, Robert Moses commissioned Raymond Lester Associates to build this model and assigned a 1% margin of error stipulation. It took three years to research and build. Updates were made through 1970 and once again in 1992 when 60,000 buildings were changed (the reason the World Trade towers still anchor lower Manhattan.) It’s a fabulous thing to see, truly.
View west across Jamaica Bay, Queens and Brooklyn toward Manhattan and the Bronx
Southwest-ish - across Brooklyn toward Staten Island (upper left) & lower Manhattan (upper right).
My slice of the Upper West Side, looking east - Central Park lake (top), Natural History Museum (left)
Queens Museum of Art - Unisphere (silver ball), Shea Stadium (right)
Hi Tom (next to City Island)
It’s so worth the trip to see this Museum. For vehicle-challenged NYC dwellers, it is accessible by subway – take the 7 train to the Willets Pt.-Mets stop (you’ll see CitiField and the US Tennis Center). Be aware that the 7 does not run between Port Authority and Queensboro Plaza on weekends for the next couple of months. You can pick up the 7 in Queens – I took the R from the PA to the Jackson Heights stop and transferred there. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the museum.
The weather the day of the Fire Museum’s Santa Rescue was quite nice, considering it was mid-December. Rather than heading directly home, I decided to take a walk in search of a place I had read about on Scouting New York’s blog. The museum is located on Spring street and a quick ten block stroll north on Varick found me in front of Greenwich Locksmiths.
Locksmiths in this city are a dime a dozen, typically claustrophobic little places of business situated in storefronts crammed between two larger buildings. This establishment is a bit larger but what’s really remarkable about it is the facade. Greenwich Locksmiths is completely covered by thousands of keys, arrayed in interesting patterns. Photographs on Scout’s and the shop’s own website show that the building’s original facade was rather bland. Not long ago, the owner, Phil Mortillaro, decided to liven the place up and this was his solution.
I love this little bit of graffiti:
What a job he’s done. It’s difficult for me to imagine how managed to glue thousands of keys to on the wall without going absolutely batty. My hat is off to both his patience and creativity.
I also appreciate his distinctly New York City sense of humor. Two large black safes flank the entrance and are named Patience and Fortitude (trust me, those little gold labels say “Patience” and “Fortitude” – I’ve found that WordPress does a real tough job in compressing my images).
The shop was closed when I stopped by during the weekend and the shop was closed. If you have a chance to wander around the West Village, stop by Greenwich Locksmiths, preferably during the week as more of his key artwork is visible behind the security gate. It’s truly a work of urban folk art. Scout’s website is also well worth the visit as he’s got tons of fascinating stories about New York and its environs.
After nearly a year’s hiatus, I am back to blogging. In the interim, I hadn’t used the camera all that much but last month saw my motivation slowly begin to return. I decided to head downtown for an event I’d heard about for years but hadn’t yet checked out.
New York City can be a disorienting place under normal circumstances but the holiday season seems to really throw a wrench into Santa’s sense of direction. Every December, he finds himself stranded on the roof of the New York City Fire Museum, in need of a way down.
As always, the FDNY, in this case, Ladder 1, was there to serve. They skillfully pulled Santa from his perch, supported by the cheers from the relieved crowd on the street.
Santa always has his mind on own work so he was quickly whisked inside the museum to prepare to meet the kids who watched the rescue.
The museum also had available hot chocolate and hot dogs for the kids as well as a band playing a holiday-themed music. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it inside but judging by how well the rescue went outside, I’m sure the indoor festivities were just as great.
A few more images from the event:
Setting up the apparatus. It really is quite an impressive machine. (above, below)
The press was in attendance
The Ladder 1 crew
Friday was a gorgeous day, temps nearing 60, it felt like spring was truly on the way. It was not to last, of course, as temps dropped back to the 30s on Saturday, joined by 50 MPH winds. Crazy stuff! Friday evening, while it was still relatively temperate, I hoped for one of those beautiful post-sundown navy blue skies as I had a particular subject in mind that would work perfectly in that setting. Instead an overcast built itself up over the course of the afternoon and I had no shot, or so I thought. By the time I left the office, the clouds had broken apart just enough to allow the setting sunlight to poke through and light them in a beautiful pink glow. I’d been waiting to get a good image of Riverside Church’s bell tower and this was my chance. I hustled up the hill to Broadway, set up and got a couple of good shots, including this one.
A funny thing happened while I worked on this image. I was standing under the elevated subway trestle and the camera was pointing in a south western direction toward the church. A black Crown Victoria pulled next to me, the driver asked me if “I was taking pictures” (he looked like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnston, by the way) and told me people get scared when they see someone with a camera under the tracks. Meanwhile, the car wasn’t marked and I didn’t see a badge so I don’t know who the guy was but he took off after a quick conversation. I don’t know, I would think a terrorist would attempt to be somewhat less conspicuous than to stand in an intersection with a tripod and attract attention.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks, weather-wise. I had wanted more snow, severe winter weather we had, but it was mainly a mixture of wet snow and freezing rain plus freezes and thaws. The result of all of this was piles of ugly frozen black slush lining the roadways. Adding in consistent gray skies and extreme cold weather, it was tough to get outside to do any photography. Inspiration has been at a low ebb.
Case in point. I had walked past this building on Amsterdam Avenue during a lunch hour walk in December and appreciated the shadow these tree cast on this blank wall. I didn’t have my camera at the time and made a mental note to return. Weeks passed until I had my camera and tripod in the office and enough enough sunlight to cause acceptable shadows on the building for images of the place. Friday was sunny and relatively warm and I jumped at the chance.
The site itself is somewhat unusual as open footage in Manhattan is at a premium and here we have a couple of trees in a small lot on Amsterdam Ave. and 126th Street. I have walked past this place numerous times on my way to a nearby library and knew it was old but didn’t put two and two together to realize it had been a firehouse. The 1881 building designed by Napoleon LeBrun housed Engine Company Number 37 and is now the Templo Biblico church. I have never seen the church open so I haven’t had a chance to chat with the pastor or other workers. I assume it’s mainly active on Sundays. I often wonder if the people who use these re-purposed buildings have any idea of the history of these places. I wish it were so. Any place, no matter how nondescript may have an interesting story to tell, if only the time were taken to investigate. Then again, it may simply be a boring pile of bricks!
I must be one of maybe six people in this city hoping for more snow. A selfish sentiment, I know, as the logistics of dealing with upwards of 2 feet of the stuff is a huge physical and financial burden on both the city and residents. Let’s just say I am grateful my car is parked underground.
Apartment dwellers like I have little to care about beyond remaining upright on slippery sidewalks and avoiding drowning risks at every slush-filled street corner. Getting around by car is unnecessary because the subway always runs, no matter the weather (at least in Manhattan anyway). Rather, the numerous snowstorms, seven so far, that coated the city have prompted me to hit the streets with camera and tripod like nothing else. More snow, please!
Thursday’s early morning blizzard prompted me to check out a historic West Harlem (Manhattanville) church that had caught my eye not far from my office. It’s a picturesque place with a garden in front and an actual 1850s clapboard parish house next door. I had a very pleasant encounter with the rector and some of his staff and managed to shoot a few frames. Again, my luck, the lunchtime sun skittered behind the clouds minutes after I set up the camera. I look forward to returning when I have more time, preferably after another snowstorm.
So we’re back to the viaduct one last time. I’d seen good images of the full length of this structure but I hoped I could capture something a little different. Morning sun coupled with HDR did the trick I think. I’m new to this technique and I’m sure the image could use additional some post-processing work but I’m pretty satisfied.
A couple more viaduct facts to share (and repeat):
- Designed by F. Stewart Williamson
- Built in 1900
- Stretches from St. Clair Place (about West 129th Street) to West 135th Street
- 26 bays supported by 130-foot girders, including one double-sized arch over 125th Street
- Girders over 125th Street were the largest built to date
- Reconstructed twice, in 1967 and 1987
If at a later date I can make the top side look as interesting as underneath, I’ll post photos of that, too.
Friday began with some promise. It snowed all night and the storm was forecast to continue into the morning, another opportunity to do some urban in-the-snow work. No such luck, however. The snow stopped falling before I left for work. Still, not a complete washout since post-storm clouds can be good subjects. Alas, no luck again as I was rewarded with clear blue skies and no pre-workday inspiration. I remained optimistic. Thanks to the bright sunshine, lunchtime looked good. We’d had several days of overcast skies prior to Friday, I was looking forward to working on a couple of spots near Amsterdam Avenue that offer some interesting shadows to play with. Tripod in hand, off I went and within 5 minutes, clouds that had been non-existent that morning formed a pretty decent overcast and killed my shadows.
So, no photo work that day but the venture wasn’t a total loss. I scouted a few angles, found contact information for tenants in a couple of very old buildings in the area and nearly froze my fingers off in the cold (I must find myself the right gloves/mittens for really cold weather!). Such a negative story but that’s the way things work sometimes. The forecast is looking good for the latter part of the week after the city endures its fifth winter storm. Fingers crossed!
In the meantime, this image is from the last good snowstorm, aesthetically-speaking. This is a detail of the Riverside Drive viaduct. A product of the City Beautiful movement of the late 19th century, the whole thing was constructed in 1900 to join two sections of the Drive on either side of the valley situated between Morningside and Manhattan Heights. We’re familiar with the valley as Manhattanville. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington successfully protected this area, what he called Hollow Way, from the British in the Battle of Harlem Heights. But I digress. The attention to detail of this structure is wonderful, a mix of beauty and utility. A pleasure to photograph.
When I started working in New York many years ago, it never crossed my mind that I’d end up in an office uptown in Harlem. Harlem was one of those parts of the city that existed as a no-man’s land in my mind; way uptown and scary. Having worked there now, in Manhattanville to be specific, for several years, I have learned that it is certainly gritty and while not necessarily dangerous, still a place to be respected.
It is a neighborhood of former meatpacking facilities, auto body shops and old urban stable buildings. Yet, it is a very old area with its own history and beauty if one chooses to really look. The first snowstorm of 2011 prompted me to set out under the Riverside Drive viaduct. I wondered how the snowfall might have transformed the area and I wasn’t disappointed. This was one of a number of images I took that day. I really like the juxtaposition of the patterns in the viaduct against the stone wall supporting the viaduct. The snow just adds another dimension to the whole thing.
Lots to see in Manhattanville. More to come…
A couple of weeks back, at the invitation of my NJ birder friend, Claus, I drove down to visit a couple of beaches on Raritan Bay. The plan was to search for horseshoe crabs and the red knots that rely on the crabs’ eggs to fatten up for the annual trip to their Arctic breeding grounds.
Horseshoe crabs are such cool creatures. They look prehistoric and, in essence, they really are. Physically, they are virtually unchanged for the past 300 million(!) years and some scientists feel that they have similarities to trilobites, these days only to be seen in fossil form. They’re also not really crabs but are more closely related to spiders and scorpions. They look intimidating but are harmless. One set of eyes is visible at the top of the helmet-shaped shell and they have light receptors all around it as well.
On the move, and they're surprisingly quick underwater...
I remember years ago walking along the beach with some other kids and, coming upon a dead crab, one of the boys said that he would use it as football helmet. Another one basically said not likely and turned it over to reveal the “business side.” We were all slightly revolted and kept going. Alive, if a crab is turned on its back, it can right itself using it’s scary-looking but harmless tail. If you see one upside down and struggling, you can help it by picking it up by the shell only (you can hurt it if you pick it up by the tail) and setting it to rights.
What's left of the business side of a horseshoe crab
May into early June is the time of year when they emerge from deeper waters to mate and lay their eggs on the beach. The largest concentration occurs at the Delaware Bay but NJ beaches see their fair share of these busy critters. At same time, red knots have made their way from their wintering territory from as far south as Tierra del Fuego in South America to stop and gorge on the eggs at these beaches. Studies of red knots indicate a serious decline in their numbers, partly due to over harvesting of the horseshoe crabs.
Red Knot at Nickerson Beach, NY, August 2008
On our trip last weekend, we saw several crabs in both locations we visited but unfortunately no knots. We figured that they’d already continued on their way north. Quite a few dead crabs littered the beach but others were busy doing their thing at the water’s edge or in the shallows. I learned later that we would have seen a lot more of them had we gone after sundown as the darkness offers them safety while spawning.
"From Here to Eternity" for horseshoe crabs?
We had a good day, nonetheless. On the path through the salt marsh to the beach at Ocean Beach, a bunch of marsh wrens were busily singing at each other. Wrens amaze me; they are so small but so loud! They’re also good at knowing when they have a camera pointed at them and flew away each time I got my lens on one.
I also saw my first Seaside sparrow from a great distance, too far away for my camera’s capability. The usual assortment of gulls scattered around the beach, including Bonaparte’s gulls. Some of the gulls seemed to appreciate the crabs as pedestals in the shallow water.
There was a nice variety of shorebirds in breeding plumage. White-rumped sandpipers were my second lifer of the day and joining them were pretty ruddy turnstones, dunlins, pectoral sandpipers and a willet.
A willet is at the back left, dunlin is just to his right, the smaller birds are semipalmated sandpipers
I like how the picture above illustrates the different sizes of these shorebirds. The willet in the back is much larger than the surrounding semipalmated sandpipers.
A nice addition was a pair of Black skimmers at the beach in South Amboy. I’m accustomed to seeing them do their skimming behavior in the ocean off one of the Long Island beaches. Watching them skim in the shallow water so close to shore was an almost intimate experience.
A few more random images from the day are below. My thanks to Claus and Hadas for letting me tag along with them. I love visiting new places and was not disappointed, despite the lack of red knots. Hopefully I’ll see catch them at the beach later in the summer when they’re on their 9000 mile journey down south.
Another type of bird (Semper Fi!)
I spent a fairly underwhelming morning this past weekend at the movie theater watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’d already read quite a few negative reviews about this film. As such, I went into it not expecting much and was grateful for that preparation. This film falls alongside the many expensive and average adventure movies that have preceded it. It aspires to reveal the origins and motivations of one of the most popular of Marvel superheroes, Logan, aka Wolverine, but simply meanders from one explosive exploit to the next with the barest insight into the personalities of this character or his comrades and adversaries.
It begins somewhere in Canada in the mid-1800′s when Wolverine is a young boy named Jim and on the verge of the revelation about his “condition” (claws which, at this time, are extensions of his bones.) He also learns that his friend, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), is actually his older brother and he, too, is a mutant whose fingernails extend like cat’s claws. The two of them also have powerful healing abilities that, other than decapitation, prevent them from succumbing to fatal injuries. We then learn via a black and white slow-motion montage (why is slo-mo so overused as a method of weight and emphasis?) through war to war, from the Civil War through Vietnam. Sometime thereafter, he and Victor find themselves working for a government agent named William Stryker (Danny Huston) in a black ops-type of group populated by other mutants with a variety of useful gifts. Aside from the 1990s X-Men TV cartoon, I’m not all that familiar with the X-Men canon but I do understand that Wolverine was famous for his berseker rage. We do see a couple of justifiably emotional outbursts but the rage is only hinted at a couple of times and never truly comes to fruition. Instead, it’s Victor who grows increasingly brutal, seemingly savoring each of his kills. Disagreeing with Victor’s behavior and disaffected by Stryker’s methods, leaves the ops for a quieter life as a lumberjack in Canada. After Victor kills his beloved Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), the story sets him on a course of revenge against his brother. He’s lured into Stryker’s Weapon X program and acquires his adamantium claws and skeleton which leave him nearly invulnerable. He’s betrayed a number of times and, ultimately, loses his memory (this had been established in the prior X-Men installments).
Hugh Jackman on the Kate and Leopold set, 2001 (I liked this film better)
The writer of this film gives us little reason to care about any of the characters. They are basically shifted from one fight to the next and very little else happens. We really don’t get a good appreciation of Deadpool, Stryker’s big bad. I liked his creepy look and think Deadpool could have been a decent opponent to Wolverine. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of him in this film to judge. About all of those fights: as brutal as these characters are supposed to be, there is absolutely no blood. I have no great need to see a lot of gore but how can Victor murder one of the characters by inserting his hand inside the victim’s torso and pull it out looking as it did before it went in? Did the poor guy not have any bodily fluids? There is a lot of slashing and stabbing of characters who do not have healing abilities but little evidence of the injuries beyond the claw marks.
The effects in general, which sometimes seem to be the “reason” for a film like this, looked really cheap. I understand this film was more expensive than the other better X-Men films but it’s difficult to tell. In one scene set in a Nigerian village at night, I could see the little puffs of smoke made by the smoke machine used to create the foggy background. In another scene where Wolverine examines his new adamantium claws, there is obvious CGI evidence where the claws emerge from his knuckles. I could comment on how awful Victor’s mode of movement on all fours like an animal looks like something out of a TV movie or the terrible computer created backgrounds but there’s no need.
As far as the actors are concerned, all of the lead actors did a decent job. Liev Schreiber was effective as a merciless animal and Hugh Jackman, always one of my favorite actors, did his best as the title character. Danny Huston was sufficiently driven as in his role of Stryker and the mercenaries, including Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and Meriadoc Brandybuck himself, Dominic Monaghan, were fine as well.
In short, I’m grateful to AMC’s pre-noon matinee weekend ticket prices. Had I paid the full $12.50 ticket price, I may have been really annoyed. At $6.50, I didn’t hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I was merely underwhelmed.