Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mad Men

I'm a fan of the AMC program Mad Men. The show takes place in a Madison Avenue ad agency in the 1960s. Madison Avenue, for some reason, had a plethora of advertising agencies located there during this time period (somewhat dispersed now). So, the name "Mad Men" really means "Madison Avenue Men".

I was visiting my dentist who is located on 46th street (and Madison) and emerged to see the Roosevelt Hotel. This hotel has been featured on the show, as the main character has been exiled there by his wife due to indiscretions. It rang a bell and I began shooting some pictures.

This picture is an update of the Mad Men concept with generic business men representing the ad men. The three featured biz guys here are not connected in any way other than being on the same corner (they came at different times).

I wanted to make sure the Madison Avenue street sign was in the picture so it might be cropped a little higher than I might have chosen otherwise.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cropping Decisions

I was wandering at lunch time and headed towards a school on the lower west side. In the shot below, I first noticed the woman hunched over the baby carriage (think she's on a cell phone). I rattled off about 5 shots and noticed an interesting number of elements, each of which could be a picture. As a whole, however, this shot seems to hinge on the man in the center, not the baby carriage woman. He's the hub of the photo but not really what I wanted to emphasize. So, it made sense to do a little cropping.

Besides the woman to the right, there is some interest on the left side if you draw attention there. The guy with the sunglasses is still the main draw, but there is a balance. The school bus is a nice background piece, the little crosswalk symbol saying to walk is a nice element. There could be a pleasing composition if it was done like this (right).

You could even take this same shot of the grouping on the left and move in closer, drawing attention to the guy even further behind. He seems to be inspired and looking off into space. Being out of focus kind of adds to his mood of thoughtfulness. Also the little crosswalk man could be what is in his imagination.

Getting back to the original focus on the right side of the shot... The look of happiness on the woman with the baby carriage seems like it should be emphasized. But, looking above her to the rear, there are two guys speaking. Another nice compositional balance. They could also be a focal point (right).

In the end though, to emphasize the woman in the baby carriage, the balance needs to be redistributed on the right to minimize the prominence of the man in the center. To do this, the left side of the picture needs to be eliminated completely. After cropping for this, I found a shadow on the sidewalk to be distracting and removed that. Also the backlighting is dramatic but made the buggy woman's face a bit hard to see, so I isolated her and brightened very slightly.

That could be enough, but classic street photography tends to be more gritty if it is rendered in black and white. To do that though, the trade-off was to lose the attraction of the yellow school bus in the rear. As I find the color of the bus draws your eye away from the woman in the buggy, the black and white tends to help to meet the original objective of the original street observation. The final shot looks like this below.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Queen Elizabeth 2

Today was the last day the QE2 cruise ship would ever be in North America. The 40 year old oceanliner is being retired and will survive on as a floating hotel in Dubai. To honor the end of the line(er), a fellow Cunard ship, the Queen Mary 2, joined the old QE2 in New York Harbor and started on a joint trip across the Atlantic. This would be the 806th and final trip and across the Atlantic by the QE2.

I happened to be in a business meeting in a lower Manhattan skyscraper at the time of the engagement of the two ships. I knew that our 37th floor conference room was well positioned to see the event unfold during the 5pm-6pm meeting. I alerted the participants and we would grab peaks out the window as we anticipated the arrival of the ships while we spoke about technology.

First the Queen Mary 2 (above) came into view appearing between the buildings as it approached from the Brooklyn piers. It waited for the QE2 to come down the Hudson for the rendezvous and then head past the Statue of Liberty and out to sea.

While it waited, the Queen Mary 2 spun around in a section of the river that seemingly didn't have room for its size. And, it waited some more. After about 20 minutes, the QE2 appeared between the buildings. Dwarfed in size by the Queen Mary, which a few years ago was temporarily the largest ship in the world, the QE2 pulled up alongside and together they made their way through the approaching darkness and out towards the Verrazano Bridge and to the Atlantic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Look up, look down... you might see something differently. Depending on the angle, a view of a common place may become something interesting.

For instance what's beyond the surface of that puddle down there? Or, what's on the other side of that reflection. Or, what does that person look like from an angle looking straight down?

Here are some examples. To the left, is a guy standing on the other side of a street puddle. He was actually reflected upside down, but when the picture is rotated 180 degrees, this picture spins him around right side up but as seen through water with a bit of a surrealistic edge.

Looking down from an elevated plaza down on people passing by on the sidewalk below shows the tops of heads (I saw a bunch of bald spots) and hats. The shot below seems to me to make this guy look like a gnat. A bug guy of sorts.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sotheby's Catalog

I received the Sotheby's catalog that included the picture of the Berlin Wall that I previously wrote about. I really didn't understand why they wanted the picture. It was cleared up when I received their splendid catalog of 20th Century Italian Art. These include works of art that are up for auction. My photo was included as atmosphere for a painting by Italian artist, Mimmo Rotello, of the Wall (titled "Il Muro di Berlino"). This is the London Sotheby's so all prices are in British Pounds but it works out that the original would cost at least $150,000. (My photo was available to them for considerably less).

I was extremely impressed by the quality of the book. High quality glossy paper stock, well written descriptions, and the surrounding material makes it an interesting work of art in itself. It makes me almost want to buy one of the paintings in the book. I guess that's the idea.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The conditions are not always the best to take pictures in the rain, but the resulting shots are far more interesting than when on dry land. Street lights, traffic lights, car taillights, neon lights all pop. The water reflection on the pavement creates a doubling and surrealistic effect. Umbrellas provide colorful elements that are a nice accessory. When it's raining, frequently I will go out and try to find a dry perch to that can give me a view of the street activity.

The problem is that its wet outside when it rains. It's a bit harder to take a picture when you're holding an umbrella. The lens gets wet. It can be cold. But, it's worth it.