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Sunday, May 23, 2004


New York City in 35 Minutes...

Sunday Chess Game in Washington Square
Photographically speaking, New York City is, to use a recent military term, a target-rich environment.

Today, during my shortest visit ever to the Big Apple, I shot about 80 exposures, the digital equivalent of two long rolls of 35mm film, in 35 minutes. And I was just getting warmed up, when it was time to leave.

Our daughter Leah is a communications major at University of Maryland, and she landed herself an internship with a record company in Manhattan for the summer. She found a great place to stay, D'Agostino Hall (part of NYU) just one block south of Washington Square Park in the Village.

Hey, when I lived in Manhattan 25-plus years ago, the only D'Agostino I knew was a grocery chain!

We rented a minivan last night and drove up this morning, getting there about 3:30pm thanks to an incredible traffic jam on the ramp to the Holland Tunnel. Leah came equipped for a journey to Siberia rather than a 10-week dorm stay. After we had made three trips from the car schlepping her stuff up to her room, Sandy and Leah set about unpacking. We had to head back fairly soon to avoid getting charged an extra day for the rental, so I had a bit over a half-hour of walking around for some photos.

Washington Square has a photo-op density of at least one great scene every half-step or so. I entered the park at the southwest corner, where there are rows of chess tables with extremely intent players and equally intent onlookers and kibitzers. The players look like New York - all shapes, sizes, colors, religions and ethnic groups (although almost entirely male.)
Street Acrobats - Washington Square
Walking on a little further, I heard applause and loud whoops of delight from a crowd near the central fountain area. This turned out to be a performance of a magnificent troupe of street acrobats. They were several handsome and engaging black men in bright red outfits, performing amazing leaps and creating tall human structures. Along with the athletic performance, they had a very entertaining running patter of jokes and clever remarks. It was about as good as street performance gets in New York City, which means very good indeed.

I got quite a few shots of the troupe, and stayed long enough to gladly put a few bucks in the hats they passed around at the end. Meanwhile, a few shots of the watching crowd and some other people-watching type shots.

Then my time was up, and I had to retrieve the minivan and the wife, head south back to the Holland Tunnel, and follow the setting sun down the Jersey Turnpike and back to Maryland.
Sunday Girl-Watching, Washington Square
Speaking of the New Jersey Turnpike, here's a highway that's the butt of jokes across the country - but like The Garden State itself, highly underrated, I feel. As a potential photographic experience, the Turnpike has lots to offer. There are pastoral scenes left and right along the southern part, and fascinating old and new man-made patterns in the gritty stretch from about exit 11 to the Lincoln Tunnel.

The problem, as I see it, is how to photograph it all without getting ticketed or run over by an 18-wheeler. Some of the best views are from various on- and off-ramps or just outside the guard rail on busy parts of the highway. A car would be too clumsy a way to navigate around the interesting areas - you'd have to find an off-ramp, then a way to get back to the area of interst. Maybe a little 50cc motorbike?... could you ride along the shoulder of the turnpike on one of these and hop over the guard rail when you find something interesting?

You'd need to take a tripod and some long lenses to take advantage of many of the scenes. I could see a book in this - and it would take quite a while to cover the whole Turnpike. Do you think people would put a cofee table book about the Turnpike in their living room? I would :-)

Well, it was the very shortest trip to NYC ever for me, but a great experience nevertheless. I'll be back real soon.

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