Aladdin on Broadway

When we went to my graduate degree graduation, it was also Alex’s birthday so we went to see Aladdin on Broadway. It was really good. Danielle and I enjoy Broadway shows, but have not really enjoyed the Disney Broadway shows. Mary Poppins in particular was quite a disappointment. Aladdin, on the other hand, hews a lot closer to the story that movie audiences remember. The only changes they make have to do with the fact that it’s harder on broadway to have animal characters. So instead of Abu, Aladdin gains a few friends (and a fun song about them in which they are busking. Iago becomes a man who seems to be doing a mix between Sam Kinison and Gilbert Godfrey. While we’re talking about impressions, one of Aladdin’s buddies appears to be doing an impression of Horshach from Welcome Back Kotter. Of course, the star of the show is Genie who plays on our stereotypes of overweight people to impress as he does the most impressive feats of broadway of the entire cast.

If you disagree that NYC’s Stop and Frisk program should be ended (or changed),

Read this article about Questlove being stopped repeatedly despite being, well, Questlove!. A few choice quotes:

Questlove said his most recent stop was conducted at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge a few weeks ago following an appearance at the hip venue Brooklyn Bowl. Officers pulled over his driver, shined flashlights into the car and asked him why he was sitting in the back “like a don,” Questlove said. After showing the officers a copy of his new memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues, Questlove said he was let go.

A New York State senator testifying in the recent stop-and-frisk trial said Kelly once told him the practice is intended to “instill fear” among black and Latino youth. Describing the emotional toll that ongoing, baseless stops can have on a person, Questlove said, “I think there’s just a bit of our soul that sort of just melts away when things like this happen.”

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: #145

To New York City at Christmas time for today’s Top 200 Photos.

photo #145 is:
Rockefeller Skating Rink and Christmas Tree

In 2006 I went, for the first time ever, to go see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. It was crazy to see so many people there given how cold it was. My takeaway was that the tree always looks bigger in photos and on TV than it does in person. I had a great time during that trip seeing NYC all decorated for Christmas.

Top 200 Photos: #167

Back once again to NYC for today’s Top 200 Photo.

photo #167 is:
Dave's first ride on the New York Subway

Since I have family (in-laws) in NYC, I’ve tried, on occasion, to take my brothers to experience parts of NYC that we never got to see in the brief time my family rolled through before. On this trip, Dave got to ride a NYC subway for the first time.

Top 200 Photos: #183

Back to NYC in this installment of the Top 200 Photos.

photo #183 is:

In March 2002 I went to NYC for the second time in my life.  It was exciting for so many reasons.  I was meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time and I was going to one of the biggest cities in the world.  I’d been to NYC once before as part of a college trip up the east coast, but we only got to spend one day there.

This photo was from my first time going into a Chinatown anywhere.  Now, Danielle and I make a point of visiting the local Chinatown everywhere we go – London, Washington DC, and Hawaii, for example.  I was fascinated by the bilingual signs, the crowded sidewalks overflowing with people and goods, and the blatant selling of bootleg goods.  Let’s just say that New Yorkers are unaffected when Kazaa or Grokster are shuttered.  Whenever we go into The City for an extended period of time, Chinatown often emerges as the answer to, “What’ll we do for lunch (or dinner)?”

Franka Solida III

Franka Solida III

Last time I mentioned my Franka Solida III, I had just had my first roll in my Yashica developed. I mentioned being a bit worried about the fact that I couldn’t tell what was in focus by looking through the viewfinder. Turns out that my fear was founded as I originally thought the units on the lens were ft when they were in fact meters. The results show:

My first Franka Solida III Photo

For my first photo shoot with the camera, I took it to Coney Island at night. I think the results came out amazing considering that I was hand-holding the camera (no tripod) and have not been able to achieve the same effects with my dSLR.

Deno's Wonderwheel

Squaring 3/4 of the Circle

Carnival Game

Overall, it’s a very nice piece of kit. Unfortunately, its 1 second exposure is a bit broken, so I lost a couple exposures on that (a lot on a 12 exposure roll) and some other shots were at the wrong focus setting. I’m a little iffy about using it in situations where I can’t just focus to infinity, but I’ll probably give it another shot next time I order another roll of film.

Day Three Hundred Fifteen:  Meet the Franka Solida III

MoMA and Family BBQ

On my Father’s Day Weekend visit to NYC I finally got to see some MoMA exhibits I’d wanted to see for months. First off was a Picasso exhibit called “Variations”. Ever since my parents took me to the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, FL six years ago, I’ve been very interested in painters – especially artists from the 1930s-1950s and the surrealist and associated movements. Also, as a person of Spanish heritage, I’ve had a special interest in artists from the region. So I was very excited to see this Picasso exhibit.

When I first walked into the exhibition space, I was initially disappointed to read that this exhibit was focusing not on his paintings, but rather his pencil and printmaking works. After going through the exhibit I was very happy to have seen this side of his art that I had never experienced before. A good part of one room was dedicated to his series featuring a minotaur representing lust and the id side of sexuality.

Picasso's Minotaur Bacchanal
My favorite photo from the series. I just love the playful style and the audacity of the image.

I found this series to be both playful (because of the art style) and highly symbolic. Unlike the extreme abstract art we sometimes see with post-modern art, Picasso’s symbols were clear. Before I read the caption explaining the series, it was quite obvious to me that the minotaur represented unrestrained sexuality. I enjoyed being able to understand the art pieces without having to first read about what the heck it was I was looking at.

One of the most interesting aspects of this exhibit is that it showcased most of Picasso’s least surreal/cubist/etc artwork. It was often pretty obvious what it was you were looking at. The following sentiment will probably reveal my boorishness when it comes to art, but frankly anyone can create cubist art. It seems to simply require forgetting everything you know about 3D and putting the back and front of an object on display at the same time. Kids often do this when they’re learning how to draw. (this is not to take away from the skill required to properly paint it) But to see this artwork showed that Picasso was a master artist. His drawings reveal that he could draw and paint normally if he wanted to. That is, of course, how I define art – knowing the rules before you break them. So, a kid scribbling on paper is not art. But an artist scribbling on a canvas with a purpose will have the same result as a kid, but it is art. So to know that Picasso was not drawing weird simply because he didn’t know how to properly draw a face made me see him as an even greater artist.

On display were also a bunch of portrait drawings of each of his mistresses. Apparently each woman with whom he became involved sexually also became one of his muses. He made dozens of sketches of each of these women and they also appear in other works of art where they are not the only focus or maybe even not the primary focus. As I observed these, my mind wandered from the art to real life. What would it be like for his wife to have him not only involved with all these women, but sketching them and incorporating them into his art. Would she feel sad that she could not provide him all the inspiration he needed? Did she feel it was so brazen for him to create art from his mistresses?

And what of these other women. When they could no longer provide him with inspiration and he tossed them aside for another, did they feel spurned? Did they feel used as they became part of his art and he earned money from their likenesses? I also wondered how they felt about his portraits. While some of the portraits were drawn in the traditional manner, many of them are cubist or surreal. I know, from the captions at the museum, that at least one of these women was a surrealist artist. She would have appreciated the distortion in his work, but what of the others? Did they find it weird or grotesque to be depicted in this manner?

Above I mentioned the playfulness on display in some of the art from this exhibit. Another series which exemplified that spirit of play (but which I did not photograph) was a series of drawings of a bull. This series is Picasso playing a reductionist game to see how basic he can make a bull with us still recognizing it as a bull. Each successive work has less and less detail. (by analogy, the end result is similar to a stick figure as representative of a person) This is playful on an intellectual level and it tickled my brain to see it. But what I found extra funny was that amongst the details Picasso deemed essential to know it was a bull (horns, almond head, large body) were large testicles and a penis.

As I ascended the stairs to my final destination on the sixth floor, I stopped to see a photographic exhibit consisting entirely of female photographers. The first impression I got while walking around the exhibit was that there appeared to be no inherent difference between having a male or female behind the lens. In other words, there was nothing on the surface that screamed out, “This was taken by a woman!” On closer inspection I found a few threads that ran through the exhibit, but, at least in the way this exhibit was curated, they were only the faintest of threads. One such thread was an examination of the female condition — using the photograph to show others what it means to be a woman. Often this was very subtle, although there was one piece by an artist featuring a series of self-portraits that appeared to document her life in an abusive relationship. The images were brutal without being overly graphic and it made me hope that it was staged and not photodocumentary.
Another thread, again, very faint as it only encompassed a few of the photographs on display, was that of motherhood. The piece that stood out to me here was a series of portraits of the photographer’s daughter — one per year (only a subset of these were on display). Each was taken on a chair by a window. It was interesting to see the expression on the face go from childlike happiness to “ugh, I have to do this again!” to appreciation of the effort as she grew. The most profound was the last photograph chosen for this exhibit in which the daughter is now pregnant — presumably with a daughter of her own.

As expected, there were far fewer images of the female form than in a male photographic exhibit. Although there have been exceptions, throughout photographic history most images of the female form have been by male photographers. (As was the case with painting) Nor were there many images of the male form — it appears to be more off limits — perhaps exposing an undercurrent of sexism in the art world? In my surveys of photographic history and in what I’ve seen of paintings in museums, males have seldom been depicted nude. Far more likely has been the depiction of the nude or semi-nude female form. In fact, masculinity often is masked, as in the case of Picasso above, in the form of a minotaur, centaur, or other mythological half-man create. Part of this appears to be changing — at least from what I can tell on flickr. If females are not taking more portraits of the female form with other models, there is a proliferation of self-portraiture of the female form on flickr. This may, however, simply be a symptom of our narcissistic culture colliding with our voyeuristic culture. The female form will attract a much greater audience to someone’s photostream. Still, it removes at least one layer of exploitation to have the woman photographing the naked woman. But, as in other fields (pornography, music videos, film, etc) a case can be made that the woman is simply still functioning in the same world under the same pressures even if it is for a female master. Suffice to say, it’s a complicated issue and one that will not be explored any further in this post.

My main draw to the museum was a comprehensive exhibit of the work of photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. This exhibit occupied all of space on the top floor that was available for public viewing. (Another area was under construction for a new exhibit) This collection of photos was amazingly vast. The space was arranged to take the visitor through Cartier-Bresson’s career in a roughly chronological order. The chronology was broken up a bit in order to divide his photojournalistic work into different categories —mostly on geographical boundaries.

The bulk of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photojournalistic work was accomplished in the 1930s and 1940s. His photographs appeared in all the important photojournalistic magazines of the world at that time. On display were magazine photo essays from American and French magazines. Given that commercial aviation was still a novelty during this time, it is astonishing that Henri travelled to so many places to bring back photographs for his assignments. Photographs on display included locales as diverse as America, England, Communist Russia (one of the first non-communists allowed to photograph there), Shanghai, China before and after the Maoist revolution, and Spain before, during, and after the 1930s civil war. Even today, with all our modern airplanes and relatively cheap flights (especially compared to the 1930s) most people don’t get to visit so many countries. But, back then before the Internet, his photographs (along with other photographers of the time) were all that Americans would get to see and know about places like China. It probably conferred both a great responsibility to properly represent the countries he was photographing and a feeling of great privilege to travel to all these places. In addition to the photojournalism work, he had photographs of some of the most famous people of his time including Jean Paul Sartre. They also had photographs of women and his capture of feminine beauty.

It was interesting to see the photos in a museum setting. For the most part, museums are associated with art (especially when the museum is named the “museum of modern art”). While photojournalism can produce photographs that people would conventionally consider art, I do not believe that 99.9% of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs would fulfill those requirements. They are great photos, often capturing a great moment. Most of the time they also exhibit great technique. To me, this makes them art. But they are not artsy photos. And that is what had my wife feeling a bit disappointed. She was expecting a great art photographer – I had told her nothing about Cartier-Bresson other than that he was a famous and heralded photographer. I guess, when it comes down to it, she found the photos too ordinary. To put it another way, she asked why my similar photographs of NYC life were not on display on the walls at MoMA. What made his photograph of a man in Shanghai haggling at the market different from one a tourist might take today that was of the same technical merits. I could not answer that question. He was, no doubt, a great photographer – as I mentioned, his photographs both capture that special moment and display perfect technique. But in modern times we are inundated with photographers of similar skill on flickr. Who will decide if one of them will end up in MoMA in the future?

That evening I went to dinner at Danielle’s cousin’s house. I was able to get some shots of people interacting with all the kids. They’re all in the 3-6 year range so they make nice, cute subjects. Here are a few photos from the evening.

Kayla and Danielle

Timmy and His Dad

Nam Eating

Finally, we all went to see Toy Story 3 (in 2D) at a 2230 showing. I will discuss this in my next blog post.

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.

Do they really need to know this?

nyc- times square

I’m not often annoyed enough with mainstream news organizations to make a big deal out of it. Plenty of stuff they do annoys me, but I rarely get so charged up that I blog about it. Recently they stoked my fire when discussing the attempted terrorism on Times Square. Take, for example the following excerpt from a newspaper article:  “The vehicle identification number was defaced, but detectives found it stamped on the engine block and axle to get a lead on the current owner.” (Alison Gendar – New York Daily News)

Even if the police were dumb enough to brag about where they found the VIN, you should have been smart enough not to print it. This guy thought he was pretty slick, rubbing out the VIN from the obvious places. You just went and told future guys about the other areas the VIN can be found. They just barely caught this guy! He was on a plane to Dubai and the doors were closed – the plane was going to take off in the next 10-15 minutes. If they hadn’t had the VIN to confirm he was the buyer of the car, he might have escaped custody!

And then there’s the following. (Start watching at 2 minutes 12 seconds) (I know it’s risky to embed video because it could disappear at any time)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Explosive and the City
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

For the day when this video clip is unavailable, it’s a montage of TV news programs where they mention how the guy screwed up his bomb and what he’d have to do next time to get it right. Thanks a lot! Don’t make them actually search the net for what they have to do, just tell them right there. “Oh,” Johnny Terrorist says, taking notes, “leave the propane tanks OPEN. Got it.” Seriously, why are you doing this? Most of your headquarters are in NYC. You’re increasing your chances of death. Can we have a little more common sense entering the newsrooms?

For the day when this video clip is unavailable, it’s a montage of TV news programs where they mention how the guy screwed up his bomb and what he’d have to do next time to get it right. Thanks a lot! Don’t make them actually search the net for what they have to do, just tell them right there. “Oh,” Johnny Terrorist says, taking notes, “leave the propane tanks OPEN. Got it.” Seriously, why are you doing this? Most of your headquarters are in NYC. You’re increasing your chances of death. Can we have a little more common sense entering the newsrooms?

A Daily Photo: The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge. It was completed in 1883 and it links Brooklyn to Manhattan. It’s also possible to take the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, but it’s far less picturesque. I’ve been to the Brooklyn Bridge a few times to take pictures with the first time being when I bought my Fujifilm Finepix S7000. This was the first time I took photos from Brooklyn Bridge Park; every other time had been from on the bridge itself.

Halloween in The Village

The Whole Gang
All of us in our costumes, ready to head out to The Village

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.

Dina and Brian as Chun-Li and Ryu
Dina and Brian as Chun-Li and Ryu (photo taken by someone else)

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.

Alice and the Mad Hatter
How is a raven like a writing desk?

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.

A Punch Connects
Batman and Poison Ivy duke it out

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.

The Mad Hatter Joins In
The Mad Hatter is too far gone to appreciate the ladies around him

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.

Alice Lost in a Metropolitan Wonderland
Alice Tries to Find Her Way Through this Wonderland

A Deadly Kiss
Poison Ivy Attempts to Ambush Batman

Impatient Mad Hatter
The Mad Hatter wants to get to the party

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.

What's in Your Wallet?
What's in your wallet?

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.

Skeleton Jack, The Pumpkin King
Jack Skellington!

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.

Why So Serious?
Why so serious?

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.

Two of the HUGE Puppets in the parade
Part of the Parade

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.

A Political Costume
Anti-Bloomberg Political Costume

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.

Late for an Important Date
Late Late Late!

Introducing Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
And we heard the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter

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.

Steam Punk on the Train
Steam Punk on the Train

And we had a chance to get a few more “Batman on the Train” photos.

And the Truly Deadly Kiss
Batman was done in by a kiss when he removed his cowl

To see more of my Halloween photos or to comment on them on flickr, visit my Halloween 2009 set.