Last year after Dina and Brian went to The Village for Halloween, I did some research on this tradition and decided we would go whenever things worked out. Well, this year was that year so we decided to spend Halloween night in Greenwich Village in NYC’s Manhattan. But, first, we rewind once again to last year. Danielle’s mother made an awesome Chun-Li costume for Dina that rivals anything you can find in a US costume store. Brian was Ryu and both got lots of accolades for their costumes. Fast forward to this summer. We decided to also have Danielle’s mom make our costumes this year.
This was the first time we dressed up for Halloween since we did so for a Halloween party at Cornell. And I’m pretty sure that was the first time since attending a Halloween party when I was as 10th grader in High School. Danielle and I wondered what we should be for Halloween. Eventually, we decided to be characters from Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland to head off the glut of Alice in Wonderland costumes sure to be around next year due to Tim Burton’s live action version being released next year. She was Alice and I was the Mad Hatter. We saw a few characters from Alice in Wonderland and, once again, I think our home made costumes rivalled anything we saw. We were definitely more faithful to the source material, with many Alices choosing a sexy interpretation of the costume.
Dina and Brian also chose the home made route this year and chose Poison Ivy and Batman, respectively. Interestingly, I also fit in with them because in Batman the Animated Series there is a Mad Hatter Batman enemy. Unfortunately, things were starting to get a little late by the time Dina and Brian were in costume and it was starting to drizzle, so I forgot to take a photo with them posing an enemy. Dina’s costume was fully home made. Brian’s costume was mostly home made with a store-bought cowl. Unfortunately, it restricted his head movement (leaving him facing forward the whole time) and made it nearly impossible to breath through his nose. So, unfortunately, he spent most of the night with the cowl off. He had one awesome customization to the cowl in that he put his sunglasses on underneath to mimic the fact that you can’t see Batman’s eyes in most of the live action interpretations of the character. For his bat symbol on his chest Dina used an adhesive felt material that stayed on his costume the whole night.
Unfortunately, it was cold in Brighton Beach so we thought it would be cold in Manhattan so Dina didn’t get to show off her costume for most of the night as she was stuck wearing her jacket. Luckily for Danielle, she had a bag in which she was holding our umbrellas (she doesn’t share Dina’s or my aversion to holding things) and was able to deposit her jacket in there. Also, unfortunately, it was raining so I had to keep my hat in a bag most of the time so it wouldn’t get ruined. (It was made of heavy weight paper) Of course, with such a high “unfortunately” density in these paragraphs, don’t think we had a bad time. I actually, as I will elaborate, had a great time. But these little niggles made it a less than ideal Halloween.
Danielle’s younger cousin, Diane, also joined us in a store-bought maid outfit. We headed for the city in a cold, light drizzle, unsure of whether the night would be ruined by the weather. Danielle had the great idea of taking photos on the train and we got some great shots of Batman taking the train into Gotham and Alice trying to find her way back in an industrialized Wonderland. Also luckily, the train was empty for most of the ride up. So we were able to get lots of shots. Here are some of the best.
When we arrived in The City, the rain had stopped and it was much warmer. I was glad I had rebuffed attempts to equip me with another jacket – I was warm enough with the one I had on. From the Canal Street exit we made our way towards the parade – spotting more and more people in costume as we got closer. And now I pause to talk about gear.
I took all my equipment in my Lowepro Nova All-Weather bag. They don’t sell my bag anymore, but the 170 seems very close to what I have. This bag cost me 20 minutes on my trip up to NYC since I forgot it at home (Sorry Danielle!). But it turned out to be perfect that I went back to get it. While my Canon backpack is water resistant, the Lowepro bag is actually waterproof when I pull out the lining and wrap it around the bag. And since it was raining for a good amount of the time we were outside, it was great to know my camera was protected. Of course, the rain made me wish I was shooting with a 1Ds Mark III and L lens since those are basically waterproof in rain. (I wouldn’t dunk it into a river) I only took my Canon 400D (instead of also bringing along my 350D) because I didn’t want to have so much equipment I’d be a nuisance to others. This also turned out to be fortunate, because I wouldn’t have been able to fit all that equipment into that bag and so it would have been getting wet and, potentially damaged. Of course, since it would be dark, I threw on my Canon 580 EX speedlite. I’ve been doing a lot of strobe work, so I knew my flash batteries were probably close to giving up the ghost so I threw a set of batteries in my bag as well.
Since everyone was moving around and it was really chaotic, I set my camera to “P” mode. This basically turned it into the same flash mode as a point and shoot – everything other than the people in the photo were completely dark. I wasn’t willing to risk all my pictures being crap by using Aperture priority mode. Especially for photos I took of people without asking them to stop, I think the results would have been disastrous. So nearly all of my photos once I got to the city are at 1/60s and whatever aperture the camera thought was correct. If I go again, I’ll experiment with second curtain sync and Aperture priority mode, I just haven’t had good experience with that and I wanted to get good photos because who knows when I’ll be in The Village for Halloween again.
This is a really good time to thank everyone who was with me for being patient with my photography.
I brought my GPS along to geotag my images and it turned out to be a bit helpful in getting us oriented in the right direction to find the parade. While NYC is very easy to navigate since it’s all a big [mostly] numbered grid, you don’t always know right away if you’re headed in the right direction. You might need to walk a block over to realize you’re going east when you should be going west. Of course, at night the sun isn’t useful for navigation. So I got us going in the right direction and then Dina got us to the parade. But at first we accidentally ended up in the parade. (It hadn’t started yet) We asked some helpful NYPD cops where to go, but unfortunately they led us a bit astray. (Or maybe we got a bit lost because sixth avenue has some diagonal streets that connect to it) We did meet up with some awesome photo opportunities along the way, but by the time the parade was starting and we tried to get a spot along the route, we couldn’t see a thing. This was unfortunate, as Danielle had originally wanted to get to The City early to get a good spot, but given that it was raining, I’m not sure if we would have wanted to sit watching the entire parade. And, the fact that we left in the middle ensured we were able to get a table at a sushi restaurant. Later on, people kept coming in and finding the restaurant (and most others) completely crowded.
And now to go back in time a little bit and talk about my experience walking around. The costumes that most people don in The Village are amazing. It’s like going to Comicon or Otakon except people are dressed up like any character for anywhere in pop culture. I saw a couple pairs of people who were John and Kate plus Eight. I saw at least two Waldos from Where’s Waldo. Of course, there were tons of super heroes. And there were people protesting health care reform and Mayer Bloomberg’s bid for a third term. In fact, you were just as likely to see politically-theme costumes as any other.
Going back to the Otakon thread, I’m so very happy I went to photograph Otakon this year. It really helped me to get over my shyness with respect to costumed people. Thanks to that, I was able to ask tons of people for their photo. And, in the case of other characters from Alice in Wonderland, ask them to be in a photo with us. And NO ONE said ‘no.’! In fact, everyone else from Alice in Wonderland was happy to be in our photo and asked us to be part of theirs too! They seemed to be delighted that someone would want to include them in a photograph. And, as I realized in Otakon, asking someone’s permission photograph them when they’re in costume is the sincerest form of flattery. You’re telling them their costume is awesome enough to photograph. So, many thanks to those at Otakon that helped me get over my fear. Thanks to my wife for pushing me to get over my reluctance to go up to others to be in a photograph with them.
Returning to the end of the night, after dinner it was pouring and so we reluctantly made our way back to the train station. It was only about 2030 and there was so much more to the parade and so many more costumes to see! But I do understand that I was the only one having fun taking photos and that I didn’t have to hold anything, so I was the least inconvenienced. On the way back to Brooklyn, we saw some great costumes on the train including this Steam-Punk couple.
And we had a chance to get a few more “Batman on the Train” photos.
To see more of my Halloween photos or to comment on them on flickr, visit my Halloween 2009 set.