Manhattan at Night

Back in 2009 I went to Manhattan at night with my Rebel XTi and my 50mm f/1.8 to do some night time photography at Times Square. The 50mm was key because its wide aperture allowed me to keep the ISO low and get nice, clear photos. (Although there’s something to be said for the aesthetics of grainy night shots of busy cities) Of course, it also helped that Times Square is quite well lit. Cities like Toykyo and New York City are well-served by color photography when you’re trying to document the crazy, colored buildings, but I think when doing street photography, it helps to have the output be black and white so that to focus is on the people rather than the colors. Here are my best shots from that night:

The rest of the photos can be seen at this flickr set.

Top 200 Photos: #186

Today’s Top 200 Photos.

photo #186:
A wonderful and [most importantly] natural smile

Sometimes when I was at functions with Danielle’s family (especially before Dina and Daniel started dating (others, not each other)), I’d get bored because everyone was speaking all Vietnamese, so I’d just grab my camera and wander around taking candid shots. And I’d often get gems like this one. After all, most people look better when they aren’t posed. By the way, this is Danielle’s cousin, Mai, and she’ll be featured a couple more times, I’m pretty sure.

NYC Tet Trip Day 1

After reading Dan’s great Japan travelogue, Super Ichiban Travel Blog, and another source where someone had his children always keep a journal when they travel, I decided I wanted to do this as well.  To practice for when I go to some place that’s foreign to me, I decided to start keeping a journal when I travel to places I’ve already been.   Here’s the first entry from last weekend’s trip.

This entry was originally written on 12 Feb 2010

For the past three days I’ve been trying to figure out whether or not to take the plunge into Lomography and buy a cheap Holga medium format camera.  I’ve been going back and forth on whether it even makes sense to give film a try when digital photography has reached the level it already has.  I am certain that within the decade we’ll have 30 megapixel 35mm-equivalent cameras that can essentially take photographs in near darkness thanks to the advances in engineering that mean we can have ISOs in the six figures without too much grain.  As I try to figure out whether or not to do this, I try and think of how I would justify my purchases to my wife or others.  It’s not so much that I have to justify what I buy in general, but in order to help her make sense of what I am doing.  I know part of what attracts me to the idea of buying one is the idea that I’ll be touching a part of photographic history.  This would be in two ways.  First of all, the Diana, Holga and other lomo cameras are recreations of cameras from the 1960s through the1980s and so I would be connecting with that.  Second, it is really the most affordable medium format camera I can justify.  And many, if not most, photographers in the olden days of photography have used medium format cameras.  Ever since I discovered that were was another format of film larger than 35mm, I’ve wanted to try this format.  The fact that it’s the format of professionals just spurs me on even more.  The  digital medium format cameras are in the $30,000 range, so those are way out of my reach.  But a Diana, Holga, or even an LC-A would be affordable.

Of course, there is the other side of things.  First of all, Holga cameras are crap.  So I wonder if I’m setting myself up for unjustified disappointment in the medium format.  Second, am I just following the crowd?  There are a bunch of people, of which I wish to have no association, that proclaim that digital is inferior because it’s too “clean” and that film is the only true way to do photography.  I doubt they would be against 35mm film, but many photographers were against it at the time.  Third, there is the cost and logistics.  If I end up enjoying film photography – I have to buy film and I have to pay for it to get developed.  And I don’t even know where in the world I could get it developed.  I guess I could learn to do it on my own, but that’s quite a ways off, if ever.

So, I’ll be going to the Lomography store in NYC in an hour and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do.  Last night I decided to go there and see what vibe I get from being there and let that determine whether or not I buy in to Lomography.  And, if I hate it – at worst I’m out maybe $100.  It’s certainly worth it to see if the hype is more than hype.

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.