July 2011 Desktop Background

Here are your new desktop backgrounds for July 2011!


Just click on the one that matches your monitor type and then either right-click and set as desktop or save it to your computer and save it as your desktop manually.


July 2011 - 1024x768 - desktop for square monitors
July 2011 - 1024x768 - desktop for square monitors


July 2011 - 1680x1050  - desktop background for Widescreen Monitor
July 2011 - 1680x1050 - desktop background for Widescreen Monitor

Top 200 Photos: #129

And once again we return to Brooklyn for this Top 200 Photo.

photo #129 is:
Brighton Beach Station 5

Danielle’s family lives off of the last stop for the Q or B trains (as of this writing). So it’s a great place to photograph if you want to have an empty subway car. It can get really busy in the summertime with people headed to the beach, but usually it’s pretty empty at that stop.

Top 200 Photos: #146

To Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn for today’s Top 200 Photos.

photo #146 is:
Sheepshead Bay Docks Panorama

One of the main bonding activities between my father-in-law and myself (and other members of Danielle’s family) was going fishing. Danielle’s father has almost always owned a boat and used fishing as his method of relaxation. For quite a number of years, I joined him on his Fourth of July fishing trips. Usually along for the ride were Anh Dat and one of Co Sao’s sons. For the most part, no one spoke and we just fished. It’s only because of weird conditions in recent years that I have stopped going. The penultimate time I went, it was actually freezing on the 4th of July (but only over the water). I had to borrow a sweater and I was still freezing. The water was also very choppy and it was the first time I got seasick. The last time I went, the water was so choppy that even Duc started getting seasick. So I skipped a year or two and then he sold the boat, so I haven’t been fishing in a few years. This photo is a panorama of the area where he docked his boat. It was near a movie theatre, Jodan’s Lobster Dock, and a TGIF.

Top 200 Photos: Photo #197

And I continue to through my Top 200 most viewed photos on flickr.

Photo #197 is:
Wonder Wheel, Wonderful Sunset


Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is one of my homes-away-from-home. I’ve been going there to visit the family that became my in-laws for about 10 years. It was so exciting to find out that they lived so close to the famous Coney Island. I’m certain there will be more photos of Coney Island as this project goes on. It’s one of the easiest places for me to shoot because it’s only a 10 to 15 minute walk if I’m in a hurry vs a 45+ minute ride to Manhattan. Although I’ve never ridden the Wonder Wheel, I’ve always had a fascination with it because every time the fair came to Florida, I’d ride the Ferris Wheel. I am not sure if I’m forgetting some memory, but I don’t think I’ve ever done the cliche riding of the wheel with a date, but maybe I can somewhat buck that by riding the Wonder Wheel with the wife. Along with the Cyclone roller coaster, the Wonder Wheel is one of the oldest and most iconic structures at Coney Island.

Whenever I’m in NY for during the warm months, I’ll go for a walk after dinner on the Brighton Beach/Coney Island boardwalk. I’m nearly always joined by Danielle’s parents and sometimes she or her siblings come along too. It’s a wonderful way to digest my food without feeling lethargic. Whenever I go on one of these walks I always take one of my cameras. You never know just what kinds of great stuff you’ll see happening on the boardwalk. I love me some colorful sunsets, so this photo was just begging to be captured. Just looking at it makes me pine both for warmer days and for Brighton Beach where I have somewhere to walk after dinner where I won’t get eating by mosquitoes (like I do in my neighborhood).

The New Coney Island and The Cyclone

The New Luna Park
Luna Park, the new section of Coney Island

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I went to NYC over Father’s Day weekend to see the Mermaid Parade. Well, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, I went BACK to Coney Island that night to photograph the new Luna Park. I have been documenting the changes to Coney Island and so I wanted to document the aftermath. I took both of the digital cameras I had used that afternoon and proceeded to take some low light photos. I would have preferred to have gone a little earlier in the evening to take the photos, but we thought it might have been a little crowded. By the time we went, it wasn’t too crowded, but there were still plenty of people still in their mermaid costumes hanging around.

The Mermaid Parade isn't over for her!
Some participants from the Mermaid Parade enjoy their time in Luna Park

Most, though not all, of the rides were targeted towards young kids. Dino’s has more of the rides that can be ridden by adults as well as the arcade area. There were still some rides being built, but it looks to be mostly complete. I was surprised by how bright it was in the park. I was able to really lower my ISO a lot more than I thought I would be able to. That really excites me for the prospect of doing some low light photography with the Holga at Coney Island.

Explaining the Ride
Kids on the kiddie version of the spinning chair ride

When we were finishing up, Danielle suggested I ride The Cyclone. I’d been talking about riding it ever since I first saw it over seven years ago. To my recollection, I had never ridden a wooden rollercoaster and I knew this was one of the most famous. I wavered a bit over the price – $8 – but eventually decided to go for it.

Astroland Cyclone
There it stood, ready to be conquered.

The fact that it is wooden, combined with its track design, made it one of the most thrilling roller coasters I have ever ridden. (top honors goes to a coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg) The drops were great, the speed was perfect and it was done without any loops. The only complaint I had (and probably the reason I’ll never ride it again) is that the rickety nature of the wooden roller coaster left me with a headache. All the bouncing of the train along the tracks transferred up my spine to my neck and then head. The resulting headache was definitely not worth the trip. It may be possible that the headache was worsened by the fact that my neck muscles were probably spasmed from having had all those cameras around my neck all day long. But I’m definitely glad I got it out of the way. One less thing for my lifelong TODO list.

My First Time on the Cyclone
Never again will I wonder what it is like to ride The Cyclone

Mermaids on Parade

In reading the New York Daily Photo Blog, I happened to come across a post about the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to try and attend next time it happened. Being the awesome wife that she is, she kept her eye out for the date and let me know it would coincide with Father’s Day weekend this year. So we decided to get a two-for-one deal and go to NYC to see the parade.

We found out where it would start and that it would begin at 1400. So we decided to head out around 1300 and have some lunch on the way there. We ended up getting there at 1330 which was a little later than I wanted, so we didn’t make it all the way to the beginning of the parade. We ended up near the end right before the parade worked its way onto the boardwalk. This ended up being a fortuitous location. At first Danielle asked if we wanted to stay on the boardwalk. But none of the vehicular groups went up onto the boardwalk (of course they couldn’t) so we would have missed out on some of the most impressive floats. We also lucked out that we were kept from crossing the street to join Danielle’s mom because all the floats passed right in front of me — across the (wide) street from her. We had one final bit of luck in that we were amongst the last batch of people able to cross the street into that area. The police were keeping people off of the street for safety reasons.

The parade turned out to be spectacularly long — we were there for 3 hours and we left about a half an hour before it was over. The weather was perfect, if a little hot. I had three cameras with me — the Rebel XTi (400D) , Rebel XT (350D), and Holga 120CN. The Rebel XTi had my Canon EF 28-105mm. USM (discontinued) lens serving as the perfect zoom for 85% of the shots. The Rebel XT had my Sigma 10-20mm lens for those times when we were bum-rushed with dozens of parade people at once and it was impossible to capture them with the longer lens as well as being useful when the mermaids got extra close to me. It turned out to be the perfect lens combination and I didn’t regret the choice at all. Over those three hours I shot nearly 1200 photos combined between the digital cameras. I nearly used up all the memory cards I had — 11 GB total over the whole trip — most of it at the parade. I wasn’t the only one photographing the parade. I was surrounded by other photographers, mostly wielding Canons along with a couple of Nikons and obscure brands. In fact, it was rare to see anyone around me without a camera.

And now… enough naked words. Time for the photo essay.

The Mermaid Parade Begins
The Mermaid Parade started off as a Mardi Gras parade and eventually moved to coincide with the summer solstice. This makes for better parade weather in NYC.
The Regal Procession
Every year some famous people are crowned King and Queen of the Mermaid Parade. They are usually famous New Yorkers. This year it was Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson of The Velvet Underground.
Mermaid on the Moon
The floats range from extremely elaborate to simple and many groups are actually on foot. On average, most of the floats were small like this one and were pushed or carried. If you follow the link to my Mermaid Parade set (at the end of the post) you can see some of the more elaborate vehicles.
Rock On!
There were tons of performers on stilts. This guy was the most masterful as he ran around in the stilts.
Hungry like a Wolf
A big feature of any NYC parade, but especially the Mermaid Parade, is cross-dressing. The interesting thing is that a study of festivals throughout history shows that cross-dressing has always been a popular way to subvert the rules of life, even if it's just for a day.
Mermaid Survivors of the BP Oil Spill
The largest unifying theme of the parade this year was the BP Oil spill.
Stop Violence Against Mermaids
Lots of participants marched with signs against BP's handling of the gulf coast oil spill.
Join the Navy!
Sailors were also a major theme of the parade.
Giant Blue Creature
This is an example of some of the hand-carried floats.
Although women have had the right to go topless in NYC since 2002, many of the participants stopped at pasties rather than be fully topless.
Oil Addict
Yet Another BP Oil Spill themed participant.
The Most Disturbing Darth Vader Ever!
There were also a few mergings of pop culture during the parade. But none were as strange as this group's merging of Hello Kitty with Star Wars.
Strategic Shark
Perhaps because so many people focused on the oil spill, completely original and off the wall costumes like this one weren't as common.
Free Hugs!
New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude. I've found that most of the time New Yorkers are actually very nice. They simply tend to be impatient and sometimes remind me of online forums. This woman went all along the parade route hugging anyone that allowed her to.
A few of the participants focused on glamour designs, but it wasn't too commons this year.
Andy Warhol:  Campbells Soup Top
A large contingent of Andy Warhol themed participants reinterpreted a lot of his artwork in pretty neat ways such as this Campbell's Soup Top
Searching for the Enemy
Of course, just as common as sailors in a sea-themed parade were pirates.
Death Up Close
Another great example of the huge creativity on display at the parade.

For more (and there are a lot more) photos from the Mermaid Parade, see my flickr Mermaid Parade 2010 set.

NYC Tet Trip Day 3

Russian Leica Imitations at Lomography Store

This is part of my NYC Tet Travelogue.

See part one here.

See part two here.

this was originally written on 14 Feb 2010

Life sure is strange.  This morning I was sure I’d be buying a Holga today.  After talking to Danielle, it even seemed that SHE would get one too.  She wanted to have one loaded with color film and one loaded with black and white film.  Then she asked a few questions.  I can’t remember the exact words, but it got me thinking.  Do I REALLY want a Holga?  I mean, the biggest attraction for me was the ability to medium format film.  As I mentioned on 12 Feb, it’s a connection with the past and a chance to shoot with better film than I ever did.  But the more I looked at other photographers’ Lomo results, the more I wondered if this was how I wanted to re-experience film.  What put me off the most is the fact that the results are so random.  I don’t understand how people go on vacations to places as far away as Asia with a Lomo as their sole means of capturing their experiences.  They could be getting completely blown out photos the whole time and come back without any photo memories.

And thus were the memories destroyed

I think, in the end, the more I read about Holgas, the most I realized they didn’t fit my personality.  The focus is not accurate and is often blurry even if you get the settings right.  There’s only one f-stop and it’s insanely small.  So you’re stuck mostly shooting outdoors on sunny days.  Sure, that’s mostly what I wanted to shoot with the Holga – like the Brighton Beach boardwalk, but still – I think the expense in film is what gets me the most.  I guess I have to admit it – I’m a cheap f-ing bastard.  The thought of spending $20 total for film and development is just too much to bear when I don’t even know if the entire roll will be crap.  Digital’s cost structure is just too awesome.

Of course, everything I listed as a negative is exactly what Lomography geeks tote is awesome about the Holga.  So, in the end, it’s like trying to get with a girl because everyone says she’s fun, but everything she likes to do for fun is exactly what I hate to do.  It’s not as much of a match as I first thought.  Again, I’ve definitely experienced that with relationships.  Girls I thought at first would be great fun to be with turned out to be people I couldn’t stand to talk to for more than a minute.

I think there’s still something attractive to me about trying film now that I know more about photography.  Enough that I’m sure I’ll try it. I don’t mind spending the development money if the photos have a reasonable chance of coming out good. I even think that maybe medium format would be fun to shoot.  But I think Holga won’t be the one I do it with.  And that’s a shame because it’s the only affordable option right now.  But, that’s also just life.

Walking Near the Brooklyn Bridge

In other news, I went to the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday.  I always wanted to get a shot from below the Brooklyn Bridge.  I see lots of people take these shots and I never knew how to get there.  While researching other shots to show Danielle so she could help me figure out how to get there, I saw mention of DUMBO.  DUMBO strands for down under manhattan bridge overpass.

We ended up at a different train stop than I expected to, so we had to wander around a little.  We passed by this really neat firehouse with a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge on it.  But when I went to take a photo, they were raising the the garage door.  A guy came out with a chainsaw and he saw us and played around for the camera.  He was cutting some ice and after he was done we stuck around to see if the would close the door, but after a few minutes we were getting a bit cold and bored so we just left.

A Little Too Slow on the Snap

Afterwards we continued to head for DUMBO and found Brooklyn Bridge park.  I got the shots I wanted.  Well, kinda.  I think I really wanted to get closer, but I also realized that I needed a wider lens to get the exact shot I wanted.  From where I was, my EF-S 18-55mm (on my 400D 1.6x crop factor camera), could just barely get the entire bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan in one shot.  I am anticipating getting the Sigma 10-22mm wide angle lens in the next few days (I’ve finally saved up enough money) and I’ll probably be back to try again.  I also have to figure out exactly how to get over there because the way the onramps were designed for the bridge, they a impede direct route to the bridge area by foot.

The Brooklyn Bridge
The Photo I wanted of the Brooklyn Bridge

While we were there, it appears that someone was probably shooting some portraits for an album cover.  They were definitely professional-level photographers (if not out-and-out professionals).  They had a grey Canon lens (probably EF 70-200mm f2.8L), and some assistants holding circular reflectors.  And the subject was a woman with a guitar.  So it could just as easily have been a model or fashion shoot, but we guessed it was a musician shooting for her album cover.  That wasn’t the only bit of professional stuff going on around and on the bridge.  After taking pictures we went back to the steps to ascend to the Brooklyn Bridge footpath.  For the first time, I walked from the Brooklyn side all the way to the Manhattan side.  When I first came to the Brooklyn Bridge (after getting my Fujifilm Finepix S7000) we went from Manhattan across the bridge, but we didn’t go all the way to the “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign.

Photographing An Album Cover
Ok, she's not holding a guitar in this shot, but she was before.

We took some photos that might end up using to decorate the house (Danielle had some very definite ideas in her head for what she wanted).

Manhattan Side Brooklyn Bridge Tower
Something like this, for example

Then, as we got to the Manhattan side, we saw some people filming a rap video.  It was pretty funny to see two different professional events going on in roughly the same location, but at the same time – it IS New York City.  Although it’s not commonplace, it is definitely possible to see various celebrities around the city filming movies or TV shows.  Total, we were moving for an hour with an average speed of 2.6 MPH for 2.53 miles.

Rap video on the Brooklyn Bridge
"The cat in the hat and that was that! Busta Rhymes!" - Mike Birbiglia on rap

Finally we went to a french bakery where Danielle’s dad’s best friend works.  We had tea and some sandwiches and pastries.  The food was good and the the atmosphere was great.  Definitely check it out if you’re into french pastries and french sandwiches.

French Bakery

What are the odds?

Katy Ho on the Bus
Katy Ho, a fellow Cornellian from C/O 2005 on the same bus in Brooklyn that I happened to be on.

One in 1,600,000.  That’s odds of randomly meeting someone I know in NYC excluding my wife’s family.  And yet, due to construction on the Q line, Danielle and I found ourselves on the bus with Katy Ho, who we hadn’t seen since graduation.

I’ve often remarked to my wife that it was odd we hadn’t seen any friends in New York.  And she always reminds me that New York has eight million people and the likelihood of anyone we know being in the same place as us is pretty slim.  I know this is true, but I strangely feel as if New York is a more intimate place.  I think it has to do with the fact that because there are eight million people there, you’re almost never walking alone on a street.  The city seems to be overflowing with people and it seems inevitable that you’d meet someone you know by chance.  But that’s just an example of how bad the human mind is at figuring out probability.  Katy was coming home from yoga and dinner with some friends.  And if the train tracks hadn’t been under construction, we would never have met up.

I’ve only ever seen one other person that we knew and that was Aileen, Danielle’s childhood friend.  But she was staying with her aunt who lives very near Danielle and we met her in that neighborhood – on the boardwalk to be exact.  So that’s a lot more likely because you’d only have to look at the number of people living in that part of Brooklyn compared to the number of people we know, which is at least two, if not three or four.  What was amazing about that particular encounter is that we randomly came across her on the boardwalk twice in one visit.  Although, it was probably roughly the same time each time (give or take an hour) so we were just catching her routine rather than bumping into each other randomly.

These chance encounters are part of the charm of living in a city.  In Maryland the chances of running into someone are much slimmer because you’re more likely to be taking your own transportation.  And there are less places to just walk around like the boardwalk or Manhattan.  I really enjoyed the shock of finding someone randomly in the city (although Danielle deserves the credit for seeing Katy) and I hope that I will run into one of my other friends next time I’m out in The City.

Photos from Brighton Beach’s Boardwalk

Lovers on the Boardwalk
Lovers on the Boardwalk

A few weeks ago I took yet another stroll on Brighton Beach’s Boardwalk.  This famous boardwalk goes from Brighton Beach past Coney Island all the way to Seagate.  This time around I took some iconic photos from the area.  In other words, these are exactly the types of photos you would see included in any survey of boardwalk photos. Here’s the GPS track of where I went in a static PNG and then as a Google Map so you can zoom in and scroll around.

GPS Track of my Beach Photo Excursion

First of all, are these photos which are my favorite photos to take on the boardwalk – older men playing chess.

A Huge Audience for this Match of Wits
A group of men watching two compete at chess
Before Video Games, There was Chess
Another group playing chess

The most interesting thing about photographing these games of chess is getting home and looking through the photos.  It is upon reflection one realized that to these men chess is truly a spectator sport.  There are usually at least a couple of people who are simply watching the game evolve.  They may be chattnig as the game progresses or may be enraptured by the skills of the players.  Where else do you see so many people gathering around a game of chess?  I’m left wondering what the analog will be for our generation.  Sure, video games have mostly replaced chess, but you just can’t do the same – at least with the current generation of video games.  A handheld like a gameboy is hard for a bunch of guys to crowd around.  A regular video game console can’t be played outside so you can’t get passerbys to glom on.

No spectators here, just two men doing mental battle
A game played without spectators

Of course, sometimes, the games are played without anyone else watching.  Here I captured what appears to be men of quite a different age playing together.  This gives me hope that the tradition of playing chess on the boardwalk is being transmitted across the generations.  I would really like to see a tradition like this take place in all the major cities.  One thing other cities, such as Baltimore, would need is an area with benches and, ideally, tables.

Attentive Dog
Dog on the boardwalk

Another great subject for the boardwalk photographer is the pet dog.  Many, many people love to walk their dogs on the boardwalk so if you like to photograph dogs, it’s a great place to be.

Friends on a Boardwalk Bench
A group of older friends on the boardwalk
Another Group of Friends on the Boardwalk
Another group of friends on the boardwalk

I think my second favourite type of shot on the boardwalk involves photographing the older couples and groups of friends that sit together on the benches.  These people generally live on or very near the boardwalk and basically choose the boardwalk as the place where they socialize with their friends rather than sit on their porches or balconies.  They usually segregate themselves by sex if there are four of them.  To me, this is such a great activity with so many benefits.  They can just sit there and wait for friends to walk by on the boardwalk.  My wife and I have often run into people we know on the boardwalk.  So it encourages more socializing.  These people also get a nice breeze and the ocean air.  I just love photographing this cross section of Brooklyn life.

Another interesting aspect of New York City in general and the Boardwalk specifically is that some part of it is always being renovated.  NYC has a LOT of citizens and visitors and they put a lot of wear and tear on the resources.  So you can often find sections of the boardwalk blocked off and being worked on.  If you like to document construction and renovation, the Boardwalk is a good subject.

Boardwalk Rehab
Renovation on the Boardwalk

The east-west orientation of the Boardwalk can lead to some awesome sunrise and sunset photos.

Marine Weather Vane
This weather vane was too tempting to not photograph

Of course, how can you go to Coney Island and not photograph the iconic wooden roller coaster the Cyclone?

Cyclone from Behind
This time photographed from the back on the suggestion of my wife
The Giant Bubble
Of course, people will use any kind of gimmick to get people's attention. In this case, blowing gigantic bubbles.