Thursday, August 10, 2017

Duane Street Summer - a new Tribeca Summer Impression...

...from a photographer's notebook

It’s been quite some time since I’ve engaged in one of those late night visual fugues and turned one of my photographs into something more impressionistic…or, as I like to call it, “messing around with a few thousand innocent little pixels.”

Fact is, I’ve been rather busy with the “literal,” especially since purchasing my first full-frame digital SLR, the exquisitely capable Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, prior to my recent week in New York.

Nonetheless, as Canon celebrated earlier this year the 30th Anniversary of its highly successful line of EOS auto-focus cameras, causing me to realize I had been an EOS shooter almost from the git-go, jumping aboard in 1988 with one of the first two EOS film SLRs, this became a rather special month, what with jumping, no...plunging!... into full-frame D-SLR shooting with one of Canon’s high end statements (and so glad I waited to do it for what the 5D-IV brings to the party!).

But neither this little ramble nor the product of my “messing around” has to do with my new 5D. Rather, it relates to that first EOS film SLR that competed with my trusty Nikon manual focus SLRs for this photographer’s affection back in 1988, the EOS-620.

After serving me quite well for a couple of years, the trusty little 620 stepped aside in 1990, for no fault of its own, to make way for the industrial strength professional iteration of EOS technology, the EOS-1, which I had to spring for once it was clear EOS cameras would be part of my shooting tools, and which I happily still use.

However, in shall we call it a wave of sentimentality (and if you know me, you know those waves crash often upon this shore), I purchased a “new” EOS-620 a few years ago, remembering in this era of menu-driven camera controls just how straightforward was its operation by comparison – sort of a part-time return to a more “comfort-food-y” experience with a camera that had the basic essentials for getting it done without a lot of unnecessary fuss.

The 620 also reminded me of my first exciting visits to both Paris and the Swiss Alps. And, if another excuse was needed, well, the price was right – a minty 620 for twenty-eight bucks, shipping included! Yes, by this point, in 2012, digital photography had pretty much knocked the bottom out of most of the film camera market. And besides, the EOS-620 had been superseded several times by newer EOS film camera models with more features, so in EOS terms, it was a very “old” model. But it was those solid “essentials” I was looking to have in my film camera arsenal once again. So, a happy “new” addition to the ol’ tool kit…

Becoming aware of the 30th anniversary of Canon’s EOS system, I wrote a story about my (almost) thirty years of snuggling my eye up against various EOS cameras’ viewfinders, including both the one that got it started for me, the EOS-620 and that “new” 620 I got hold of in 2012. To illustrate the piece, I started selecting images from my original and “new” EOS-620s – an interesting voyage of re-discovery for me, as it combined shooting from the periods 1988-1990 and 2012-present.

In seeking out some from the latter period, the search led me to the original image from which the impression you see (a portion of) up top was created.

That “new” EOS-620 had come along with me to NYC in 2013 and served me well alongside the D-SLR and another EOS film camera. Indeed, the 620 was in my pack on the delightful first day of summer late afternoon that I discovered the inviting motifs of Duane Street in Tribeca. And while I was doing most of my shooting with the digital camera, I did make sure to use the 620, loaded with Kodak Ektar-100 film, to capture some of those moments in the golden light of a New York afternoon. Some of that shooting was capturing the human activities aspect of Duane Street, richly back-lighted from my point of view looking west along Duane to Greenwich Street.

The shots were fine, but, if you’ve read my blog story or listened to the accompanying “PhotoMoments” podcast about discovering the delights of this short street in Tribeca, you know how magical I found the experience. I could not have discovered this venue at a better time of the day with that special kind of afternoon sunlight that New York provides. And, somehow, the Ektar shots were almost too “literal,” not quite catching, I felt, the special sensual experience of my visit.

And so, my exercise late last night, using one of the original Ektar images, which I think did better capture that special Duane Street ambiance and the warm glow I felt in experiencing it.

This “Duane Street Summer” impression (see it in full scope here) will be available in archival prints on fine art 100% cotton fiber paper in a variety of sizes. If you’d like to own this little golden sunlit slice of Tribeca in summer, please be in touch.

©2017 Steve Ember

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Discovering a plucky bit of contrast amidst the towers of Lower Manhattan

...from a photographer's notebook
Oculus, World Trade Center looking east
There’s something about the constantly changing Manhattan skyline that keeps me so energized when out with the cameras (read: all the time).

Often, it is the old giving way to the new, always the classic and the modern cheek by jowl that inspire. But what really excites is when the old, the classic – literally – holds its ground and can cheekily say to the soaring modern, “I’m here to stay. Get used to it, big shiny neighbor!”

Here’s one example of the latter that really got the juices flowing on my last visit, as the contrast was so striking. Using mild telephoto to compress perspective, I was shooting Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus transportation center at the World Trade Center, looking east toward Broadway and was struck by the contrast between the soaring white ribs and the plucky looking red-roofed tower atop the eight story late nineteenth century building facing Broadway.

Now, you might say Calatrava’s ribbed and soaring design is likely to contrast with any modern neighboring Lower Manhattan architectural statement; but in this case, the contrast between the plucky old and the boldly new, including the colors in the late afternoon sunshine of this first day of summer, really excited me as I composed my shot through the 28-80mm L-Series lens on my new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV D-SLR.

So, what’s your story, plucky little brown and red tower?
As this was my first visit to this side of the WTC, I did not at the time know the significance of said plucky red and brown tower. But I do now. It’s the Corbin Building, whose construction was completed in 1889, and which was pretty down on its heels as New York’s MTA began construction of the neighboring Fulton Center as a means of unifying Lower Manhattan’s jumble of Subway lines and their separate stations.

The Corbin Building was named for banker Austin Corbin, who had earlier acquired the Long Island Railroad, generally acknowledged as the key to Long Island’s growth and development.

Those who ride the LIRR into Manhattan may recall a once-upon-a-time monument to railroading called Penn Station. Well, at least those of a certain age. The original turn of the twentieth century station rose majestically on Seventh Avenue at 33rd Street and made arriving or departing midtown, well, almost as grand an experience as the New York Central’s Grand Central Terminal, further uptown and a few blocks to the east.

Unlike the sad demise of Penn Station's original incarnation, in the case of Mr. Corbin’s building, nestled amidst all the new soaring structures downtown, preservationists have reason to smile (even if in a smaller context). They succeeded in getting the MTA not to demolish the building but, through a painstaking excavation process in building the Fulton Center, to protect its integrity and to then even engage in cleaning and preserving it.

Of course, the transit folks got bang for their buck, as escalators now  connect Fulton Center to the Dey Street Passageway, leading to the rest of the downtown subway lines, as well as the PATH trains to New Jersey in the WTC’s Oculus…via the basement of the attractively restored Corbin Building, which is now being developed as inviting commercial space.

So, win-win. And a rather nice story to learn about as I edited my shots from that June afternoon in Lower Manhattan. I hope it might enhance your enjoyment of the photo.

Contrasts in Lower Manhattan is available in archival gallery prints in a variety of sizes and media, including metallic.

And, yes, my new acquaintance with the Corbin Building means it moves to top of list on my next Lower Manhattan explorations.

©2017 Steve Ember

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