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  • Category Archives Scenic NYC
  • Fine Looking Forest

    The old adage, you can’t see the forest for the trees, applies as well in NYC as anywhere else. The best vistas of Manhattan are from outside the borough – Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey afford some spectacular views. This photo was taken on a recent trip to Jersey City, just across the Hudson River. From there, it’s a Fine Looking Forest :)

  • 40s or 50s

    I recall a visit to a local pub in England which dated back nearly 1000 years. I sat at a table adjoining a stone wall. As I ran my hand across the unfinished wall, it occurred to me that this very stone had likely been touched by someone 1000 years before. I questioned the waiter if, in fact, the structure did indeed date back to the time that I had read. As I ran my hand over the wall again, I asked if, in fact, this very stone would date that far. When he confirmed, I expressed my awe that it was incredulous and seemed almost unfathomable. He laughed and left, perplexed, I imagine, since the very old is very common in Europe, with reminders everywhere to be seen.

    America, however, is a very young country, and 100 years or even 50, is a big deal.
    In my case, 44 years, to be exact. That’s how long I have lived in New York City, and nearly all of it in Greenwich Village. My mind’s eye, however, like most, fabricates images as best it can from memorable scattered bits and shards. There’s nothing like a photo(s) to fill in the detail and bring to full resolution the sketchy sketches of the past. Today, I am featuring three antique photos of the Village from the 40s and 50s. And, since we’re not in an English pub, I really don’t have to specify which 40s or 50′s :)

    More antique photos: Blocks of Ice

  • Angelic Protection

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    In 2008, the New York Times announced that New York City had officially joined the recession that plagued the nation. They also reported that: “The real estate market, especially in Manhattan, has softened substantially in the last several weeks…”

    Sure. If so, it must have been the world’s shortest recession, perhaps coming and going at night when most of us were asleep. A recent assessment by the online publication Curbed jives more with reality. “What Recession? Here Are NYC’s 10 Most Expensive Listings,” with listings of apartments for sale from $50 million to $100 million. Articles in 2004 from NPR and The New York Daily News on dog walking report that some dog walkers are making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

    But perhaps, you say, these are the isolated facts taken from the top of the market, and the haves always have at the top anywhere you go. Point well taken. So, perhaps like the statistician, you ask to see a larger sample size, something more statistically significant.

    Take a property in the Village like One Fifth Avenue, a prestigious prewar Art Deco landmark co-op, built in 1927 by Harvey Wiley Corbett. It has 184 units. Yet, currently, there are only 3 apartments available for sale in the entire building: one at $11 million, one at $4.6 million, and one at $2.35 million. A modest one-bedroom apartment in the building, when available, sells for one and a half million dollars. On the rental side, Manhattan has a vacancy rate of about 1.6 percent, with a median rent of $3200, up 3.5% in the last year.

    Today’s photo, caught during the magic hour, gives perhaps the answer to the durability and stability of the Manhattan real estate market – Angelic Protection :)

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Dead Man Gawking

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Mention Ken Rockwell to photographers familiar with Ken’s website and pronouncements, and you will likely get mixed and strong reactions. He is seen by many as the master of misinformation. A tireless self-promoter. Some say a buffoon, but it matters not to him – his website gets enormous traffic, and Ken generates income from various forms of text-link ads and other sources. He is debated and critiqued on countless forums. The controversy, however, only fuels the traffic to his site.

    Ken’s assertions are often dramatic. However, no one can be wrong all the time, and even experienced photographers enjoy his site from time to time, sorting the wheat from chaff, often looking, as I do, for validation for things they already know, but just presented more emphatically, passionately, and authoritatively.
    On November 17, 2011, I wrote The Magic Hour, about that time of day that artists and photographers have also referred to as the Golden Hour, the hour before or after sunset when the character of the light is very unique, often bathing subjects in a spectacular golden/reddish light.

    This has led Ken Rockwell to make a number of outlandish statements:

    Glorious light only happens for 60 seconds or less any particular day, if it happens at all. If it happens at all, it usually happens sometime in a window 15 minutes before or after sunrise or sunset.

    Glorious light doesn’t happen in the day. It happens at sunrise and sunset. We call this “magic hour” in Hollywood.

    Most people sleep through sunrise. They lose half their potential shots. I have to get up at 3 AM, get out at 3:30 AM, get to the location at 4:30 AM, set up by 5 AM and wait for a 6 AM calculated sunrise. I’m crazy. Are you?

    Sunset is as tough. Most people are eating dinner while I’m out shooting. I have to jerk around my schedule, as well as the schedule of normal people with whom I travel, to be out at sunset. Photographers have dinner at 4 PM so they can be shooting at 6 PM. A bunch of us were photographing at sunset, and I thought something interesting might happen. The rest of my photography group took off for dinner while I stayed around in the dark. I got this shot, one of my all time favorites, while they were having dinner.

    If you sleep at sunrise and eat at sunset you’ll miss the only light that shows things the way I, and many others, like to see them. That’s why most people have never seen colors I show and think I’m making all this up in Photoshop. If I could get these results artificially I would, however one still has to trudge out and get this from nature the hard way.

    These colors don’t happen every day. They may happen once a month, once a decade, or once in a lifetime. This shot got the orange color in the sky 20 minutes after the sun set because of ash in the upper atmosphere from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

    9 times out of 10 the sunrise is dull and a complete waste of time. While everyone else is eating dinner I’m out setting up hoping for great light at sunset, and again usually I get nothing. That’s why this takes patience.

    You can’t predict nature, even 5 minutes before. I can try, but I never know what’s going to happen. I have to be out there and set up every time. Sometimes what I expect to be dull turns out to be explosive, and sometimes what I expect to be incredible never happens. Nature changes minute to minute.

    You can’t expect God to create miraculous color any particular day just because you took that day off for vacation in Yosemite. You need to be out every single day.

    You don’t need to be in Yosemite: most of my shots are from my own neighborhood. It’s all about the light and color, not the subject. Ansel just happened to live in Yosemite and waited for clearing storms. It’s not Yosemite; it’s that he was there every day.

    Yesterday evening at about 8:15PM, I was walking the streets of the Village. It was a beautiful evening. As I gazed into the sky, I was startled by nature’s drama. Distant buildings both east and west were all aglow, virtually on fire, with the light of sunset. I knew from past experience that 6th Avenue looking south had virtually unobstructed views of the Freedom Tower. I hustled there, and sure enough, I witnessed the most spectacular evening light I have seen in this New York City vista. The Freedom Tower was in brilliant light, framed with Trump SoHo and, nearer by, the triangular shaped residential condominium building at 2 Cornelia Street, evocative of the Flatiron Building.

    The photo opportunity could not be missed, and I planted myself in the center of oncoming traffic during red lights. My reckless behavior inspired others, and soon there were no less than 6 people taking photos in the middle of the street. It was reminiscent of my Dead Man Walking, however, on this night, in the sunset glow of the Golden Hour, I was Dead Man Gawking :)

    More sunsets and spectacular sky views: Night on Bald Mountain, In a Fog, Moonrise Over Hernandez, Back to Our Main Feature, Fire and Ice, Who’s Getting Technical?, Mother Nature, Brooding

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • A Different Kind of Sunset

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    There are many, many juxtapositions and sharp contrasts in New York City. But, barring an occasional visit from the Mennonites, there is nothing quite like seeing Hasidic Jewish men in an urban setting. The beards, payot, rabbit fur hats, tzitzit, skullcap, and formal all black three-piece suits that are worn year-round and are particularly startling to see on hot summer days.

    For eons, I have admired the spectacular vistas of Manhattan while crossing the Williamsburg Bridge by car and had promised myself I would return by foot to take photos of the New York City skyline. So, armed with my camera, I finally made the pilgrimage across the Williamsburg Bridge via the bike and footpath from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back.

    It was evening, and an extraordinary number of Hasidim were making the passage from Williamsburg to Manhattan in small groups and large. At various moments, they dominated the view down the walkway. I saw two jogging across the bridge, still dressed in traditional attire. I was not the only one to take notice – as a group passed, a man next to me stopped, turned, watched, and then commented, “What was that about?”
    I am sure that visitors to the city are startled by such an apparent anachronism. I don’t find even the piercings and tattoos of urban youth quite as shocking – the phenomenon of extreme body art and mutilation can be seen around the world and is more and more common, whether in New York City or the suburbs. But the traditional, conservative dress of Hasidic Jews along with strict religious practice, rituals, and customs, such as closing on the Sabbath, are truly remarkable to see in a place like New York City in the 21st century. Enormous retail giants like B&H Photo forgo what I imagine would be substantial business by being closed Friday afternoon and Saturday.

    I got numerous interesting photos of the bridge structure, ships passing, graffiti, building rooftops, the Domino Sugar Factory, and people crossing. Ironically, the worst photos are what I set out to shoot – the skyline. Even though I timed my visit to take advantage of the sunset, none of the skyline photos, which needed to be taken through chainlink fence, were good. It was not at all what I set out to capture. The most interesting images were of men in black in the amber glow of the setting sun. It was, altogether, A Different Kind of Sunset

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Blossom

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    In Back To Our Main Feature, I wrote of how, in New York City, Mother Nature takes a back seat to the people and everything that people make and do. Certainly, no one lives in this city for nature’s splendor, nor do they visit as ecotourists. And at its extreme, I have heard remarks that champion its dirt and edge. During the battle over the renovation of Washington Square Park, some accused architect George Vellonakis as wanting to turn the park into a flower garden. Yes, it was an accusation, not praise – many of his opponents bristled at the thought of the park losing its edge by being beautified and, as they saw it, sanitized. In 2009, I wrote in Toronto:

    But many defend the edginess and grit of New York City as important, defining characteristics. I remember reading an article years ago speaking to this. The article was defending the edginess and made a suggestion for those who did not see the grit’s charm: “There’s a place for you. It’s called Toronto.”

    However, in small and large ways, there are many, many here who work to improve the quality of life through nature. There are community gardens, botanic gardens, flower shops, zoos, and parks, including some of the world’s most outstanding such as Central and Prospect Parks. Of course, nature’s cup does not runneth over in New York, and those seeking such things must look a little harder. For urban explorers willing to travel to New York’s hinterlands, one’s journey may be rewarded by beautiful places like Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

    The efforts can be seen everywhere. Abutting a nondescript brick wall aired by a building’s exhaust, isolated and forgotten in a small patch roadside choked with car fumes, within a park surrounded by towering glass and steel, flanking a dog run and public toilets, or growing along side an electrical junction box in Staten Island – make no mistake. Here, as everywhere, the human spirit can and will, like flowers in spring, Blossom.

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Only One Stop from Manhattan

    Perusing my archives, I came across this series of images, unused for this website. All were taken in DUMBO in 2006, the inaugural year for New York Daily Photo. The photo series illustrates the dramatic scenery in this Brooklyn neighborhood and what draws people there. The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, East River and Manhattan vistas, a rocky beach, superb post-industrial architecture, and cobbled streets, all packaged in a sequestered corner of New York City, yet so conveniently located by public transportation. With so many pluses, it’s so easy to sell. You can hear the broker’s pitch now, flaunting his trump card – and it’s only One Stop from Manhattan

  • Island Nation

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Recently, while in Queens, I took a quick spin around Roosevelt Island. It had been years since my last visit, and the lure of an island is irresistible to me. Most of the city’s other smaller islands are inaccessible to the public. Roosevelt Island is located in the East River under the 59th Street (Queensboro) Bridge. However, the island is not accessible from the bridge directly. From Manhattan, the island can be accessed by the Roosevelt Island Tramway or, since 1989, the F train subway. Getting there by motor vehicle will necessitate a trip to Queens and then the short lift bridge, Roosevelt Island Bridge, which connects Astoria, Queens, to the island.

    Traffic is permitted on the island, however, auto traffic was not part of the island’s planning, and a number of the island’s primary sights, such as the lighthouse and the smallpox hospital, are accessible only by foot, bicycle, or public bus. The big draw here for the visitor are the spectacular vistas from around the island – Manhattan, the river, bridges, the tram, Big Allis, Queens, U Thant Island. On the island, there is the historic Blackwell House (1796), the Octagon (once the main entrance to the New York City Lunatic Asylum), the Blackwell Island Lighthouse, the Chapel of the Good Shepard, and the amazing, enigmatic ruins of the Smallpox Hospital.

    I always loved islands. At one time, I dreamed of visiting the South Pacific, perhaps living on a remote, idyllic tropical isle like Fatu Hiva. But New York City is the archipelago I have chosen, a world unto itself and virtually an Island Nation :)

    Related: Manhattan Island

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Beast

    I was standing in my brother-in-law Alan’s shop in front of his mechanical beast – a drag racing motorcycle capable of over 200 miles per hour speed. Alan was telling me about the details of drag racing – races that only last seconds, engines powered by rocket fuel – nitromethane – and that needed to be rebuilt after every run. I was particularly fascinated when he told me that the roar of engines was so loud that race goers can see their shirts flutter when hammered by shockwaves. All the numbers he was citing were extraordinary and off the charts – horsepower per cylinder, decibel levels, speed, G-force from acceleration,  and races won or lost by hundredths of a second. It sounded like an experience worth having at least once, however, I have yet to attend a drag race in person.
    When I commented that much of his life seemed defined by speed, he corrected me adding “and power.” In a world where we often feel powerless against Mother Nature and in our feeble efforts to combat her, the quest for power is understandable. I immediately reflected back on my high school acquaintance who had told me that upon graduation he was going to trade school to major in power (as I wrote about in Pork and Power).

    Do vehicles sporting tremendous power and speed seem to be a world apart from New York City? Perhaps not. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the company that operates the well-known boat tours around the city, also runs New York’s only jet powered thrill-ride speedboat attraction – The Beast. For $27 you can experience a roller coaster ride atop a neon green, shark-toothed, 70-foot, 140-passenger monster machine traveling at 45 miles per hour to blasting music. The 30-minute ride, replete with 180-degree hairpin turns is guaranteed to get you wet while seeing the sites of New York City from the Hudson River.

    For a tamer tour via the city’s waterways, there is kayaking, sailing, or the classic Circle Line tour which circumnavigates the entire isle of Manhattan. There are many ways to see the city as there are modes and methods of transport. For some, it’s a stroll in the park, a walk down Fifth Avenue, a ferry ride to Staten Island, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge by bike, a Water Taxi, flying down the Cyclone, or atop the Wonder Wheel of Coney Island. For others, Power and Speed are necessary components, and whether atop a nitro-powered drag racer or perhaps aboard a jet-powered tour boat, no vehicle will do it short of a mechanical Beast :)

  • The Domino Effect

    I am willing to take risks, however, I am not interested in being arrested or going to jail. Unfortunately, this means it is unlikely that I will get firsthand the types of photos had by trespassers who visited the abandoned Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg as reported by the Gothamist. The series of illicit photos can be seen in their article. A 2010 media tour did NOT include access to the refinery interior. According to the insurance companies, as reported by the Gothamist,

    “the majority of the buildings are filled with large machinery, much of which spans multiple floors. Also, the majority of the buildings do not have solid floors, and instead, machinery is connected to walls and pillars with cat-walks and metal flooring.”

    This type of environment is a dream for many a photographer, what some are calling “ruin porn.” I recently toured the area and photographed the property street side, keeping to the outside of the chain link fence.
    Incredibly, this massive sugar refinery was in operation for over 150 years and only closed as recently as 2004. The plant was built in 1856, and by 1870 it was processing more than 50% of the sugar used in the United States. Who would fancy that this 11 acre, 5 block, industrial site with its iconic Domino Sugar sign would sit along the East River all in plain view from Manhattan? A large mixed-use residential and retail development is planned for the property. The Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) sold the property to Two Trees for $185 million in 2012.

    The image of sugar has been tainted for some time. On the one hand, sugar is synonymous with sinfully sweet goodness; on the other hand, it has over the last decades been pointed to for many health-related ills. Diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, etc. Whether by William Duffy, author of Sugar Blues, published in 1975, Gary Taubes of the New York Times’ article “Is Sugar Toxic,” or by Mayor Bloomberg with his recent ban on large sugary drinks (over 16 ounces) in New York City, the white crystalline substance has been likened by many to a poison.
    As I toured the Brooklyn property, I came across a large sign with the classic Domino packaging. The words “Pure Cane Granulated Sugar” brought back memories of the pure white ingredient of candies and confections, not poison. The complex of industrial properties in Williamsburg, like sugar itself, is likely here to stay. That’s the enduring power of The Domino Effect :)

  • Views From Governor’s Island

  • Happy New Year – 2013

    The Empire State Building all aglow with its new laser light show on New Year’s Eve.

  • Coney Island at Sunset

    Things look better or worse at different times of day or night, season or weather conditions, particularly New York City with its very uneven landscape. It is especially unattractive on hot, humid summer days when the dirt, litter, and grime become foreground and little beauty remains. When blizzards blanket the city, it can be seen with a rare pristine quality – everything unsightly is hidden from view, leaving a fresh, new, white wonderland where everything is enhanced. In the spring, we share the feeling of renewal with our country brethren. In the autumn, cool weather and clear skies provide a welcome respite from a hot summer in the city.

    Recently, friends from Kansas were visiting the city. As is typically the case, their prior visits were dominated by the attractions in Manhattan. I volunteered my services and suggested a personal tour of Brooklyn. One member of the family had a long time interest in seeing Coney Island. Perfect – it was a beautiful summer evening, and I would time it for sunset. On the trip back, I would make certain to travel via the Belt Parkway, with vistas of the Verrazano Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and spectacular views of Manhattan from the promenade in Brooklyn Heights. We also toured Dumbo and returned via the Brooklyn Bridge. Such an itinerary is guaranteed to elate any visitor and affords prime photo opportunities.

    Coney Island has been in decline since the 1950s. Recent efforts at revitalization has improved the area, however a seedy pall still hangs over the area, and depending on time and one’s mood, the amusement park can still be depressing. The boardwalk, abutting the Atlantic Ocean, is a constant positive, as are some of the historic rides, such as the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone. We took a ride on the Wonder Wheel – always a joy with spectacular vistas of the ocean, boardwalk, the Manhattan skyline, and, of course, the amusement park itself.

    This particular outing was my first in the evening, and we were blessed with a extremely spectacular sunset. The dimming light was just perfect to obscure the area’s blemishes while the bright lights of Nathan’s and the various attractions turned the entire environment into a menagerie of lights, all bathed in a red aura with deep blue sky and pink/orange highlights and clouds. We were all taken by Coney Island at Sunset :)

    See my complete photo gallery here.

  • no title entry linkThis entry has no title posted on July 26, 2012

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Just There for the Taking

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Nothing gives a good overview like a view over. I have always gravitated towards tall structures – some readers are familiar with my obsession over the Washington Monument, the Chrysler Building, the Arc de Triomphe, et. al. These aerial overviews give a good sense of the lay of the land. So many people have little sense of direction or scale – in New York City, it is particularly easy to get lost in the forest or jungle. I am frequently asked which direction is north in Manhattan, when anyone who has glanced at a map of the city would immediately see that the long axis of Manhattan and its major avenues are oriented north-south. And, of course, a glance at the sun’s position will often easily provide that answer, but this approach to orienting oneself is virtually nonexistent in the urban world.

    My first act as a child before coming to New York City was to acquaint myself with the city by looking at street maps. I was fascinated with locating (and hopefully later seeing in person) places I had heard of or depicted on TV. I was particularly intrigued with the opening sequence of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which showed a nondescript laundromat that was secret headquarters for an international spy organization. Sadly, I was to learn that even the exterior shots were all done in a backlot in Hollywood.

    In my travels through the myriad of businesses I have visited over the decades in Manhattan, I am sometimes privy for some moments to a spectacular view from an office or industrial space on a high floor. I was recently shopping for a sofa in the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea at 601 West 26th Street. The property is enormous, spanning an entire city block between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues and between 26th and 27th Streets. The full-block freight terminal, warehouse, and office building was built in 1930-31.

    It was a Sunday afternoon, June 3rd. The neighborhood and building were essentially deserted. The showroom was small and spare. The whole experience was rather depressing until I moved towards the windows, which had unobstructed views North, East, and West. Helicopters were taking off and landing from the heliport, affording me the kinds of views I had hoped for when I originally visited. Looking northeast were the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, as well as many lesser-known players in the game of one-upmanship by New York City’s tall buildings.

    With a view of midtown like this, I am often reminded of one of my favorite scenes in the film The Producers and the words of Zero Mostel as he tries to lure Gene Wilder into a moneymaking scheme and whispers over his shoulder, “All of these pleasures can be yours.” Like a small boy or girl looking down from atop the Empire State Building, where cars look like toys that can be picked up, when one has a sweeping vista of Manhattan’s cityscape like those in today’s photos, the industry, ambitions, drive, and achievements of generations of New Yorkers seems so tangible, Just There for the Taking :)

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

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