Archive for the ‘Manhattanville’ Tag
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…