I was down in Bryant Park in New York City a little while ago. It was the second Saturday in August so “Summer Streets” was going on in NYC. Street photography is one of the things I like to do in the big city and in and around Bryant Park is one of my favorite places to go to take photos. I used to take a bus down to the city but in recent years (heck all the way back in 2008) they cut the bus schedule in half and it became unreliable. Luckily at the same time they built a new train/transfer station in Secaucus NJ cutting down the time it takes me by train to get there. I drive to the train station in Nanuet NY, take the train to Secaucus, and then catch another train from there to Penn Station in NYC. It would actually be a lot easier just to drive in the to the city (it’s only about 40 miles) but would cost too much in tolls and parking. So the train it is.
I pull my camera out after I get to Penn Station and start taking street photos as I walk uptown to Bryant Park. It’s not easy taking street photos because everyone is walking and moving fast. It’s mostly looking for a good photo and burst shooting. That means pressing the button and the camera takes half a dozen photos in a row. It the world of photography you have to make the law of averages your friend. I realized the other day that I got my first film camera back in 1985 when I was in college and then got my first digital camera in 2000 (I was an early adopter). I’ve almost been shooting digital as long as I shot film. Another year and I’ll pass my film days. I wouldn’t have guessed that. Time flies.
I don’t miss film at all. I’m not nostalgic for it in the least. If I had to go back to shooting on film I’d be disappointed. Digital has taken over because it’s so much more convenient. I can shoot stuff and look at what I’ve done not only right away but as I’m doing it. And it’s so much cheaper. On a typical morning and afternoon in Bryant Park I can take a thousand photos (with burst shooting the numbers really add up quickly). I could never afford to do that with film. If a roll of film cost five bucks with another five for processing and twenty five exposures per roll that would be four hundred bucks of one afternoon of shooting. Instead it costs nothing. No wonder so many more people take photos these days.
I didn’t make it to Bryant Park right away that Saturday because it was a Summer Streets day. From 7AM to 1PM they close Park Avenue to cars and let people ride their bikes, jog, rollerblade, and walk up the avenue. I decided to take some photos up and down the street of all the goings on. It’s not easy taking pictures of moving cyclists. At least not good pictures. But I made the Law of Averages my friend and took a lot of them. Some of them came out okay but my batting average was lower than other street photos. The faster everybody is moving the tougher it is to find and take the photo. You have to be patient and quick. Not an everyday combination.
After 1PM rolled around I made my way over to Bryant Park. I’ve been making short afternoons out of my Bryant Park trips and catching a 3PM train back home so that gave me two hours to take photos. Bryant Park is a good place to take photos because of its wide open lawn in the center with trees and chairs all around it. A couple of different environments. Plus on the Fifth Avenue side of the park is the Midtown Library with its famous steps and giant sculptures of lions so there are always tourists stopping there to take photos. And I like to take pictures of people taking pictures. Weirdly that’s a common subject matter for photographers.
Often I take pictures of whatever tourist is posing in front of the library or I’ll take a picture of whatever tourist is taking the photo but on some occasions I can get both in one photo. I managed to do that on that day because they lined up in a nice composition with the stairs behind them. I try to make myself as unobtrusive as possible when taking street photos and the library steps is a good place for that. Not only are there a dozen people taking pictures at any moment in the day but there is a lot of space to stand back and then use a zoom lens to get closer. I’ve always liked photos of people going about their every day business.
It was a sunny day as I walked around to the park side of Bryant Park and there were lots of people milling about the place. It was a little strange arriving there after having already been taking photos for hours since it’s usually the first place I go. I was a little out of sorts so I sat down and had a snack. I had just been walking while taking photos for over two hours and sometimes I forget how tiring that is. Baby carrots and granola bars are my usual out taking photos food and that’s what I had. After I got settled in a little I started walking around the park looking for a photo to take.
What do I take photos of? I’d say I end up photographing women about two thirds of the time because, well, I’m a guy. But what I’m looking for are faces, expressions, interesting stances, body language, and gestures. I’ve noticed behavior and gestures changing over the years too. Like these days almost everyone is looking at a phone or some such device. It used to be books. And there is definitely a photo taking ritual that is nearly universal these days. Two people are standing there, one moves off and poses, the other takes a photograph, and then the subject of the photo runs over to the photographer and they both huddle around the camera to view the picture. It happens over and over. I take pictures of them huddled around the camera.
Finally I leave myself some time to walk back to Penn Station and take some photos along the way. Once again patience and quickness. One of my favorite type of street photos to take is at the corners of the big streets where a lot of people gather. Sometimes there are too many on my side of the street but if I catch it just right and traffic cooperates I can get a nice shot of anywhere from ten to thirty people across the street waiting to cross the road. Or even better just as they start walking. All the different shapes and sizes of people in all their different poses and walking stances makes for a nice photo. And then they all disperse never to be gathered in the same place again. Another ephemeral every day moment.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.
Check them all out here:
We’re deep into the summer TV season and I thought I’d write a little something, as I like to do every now and again, about the shows I enjoy. Or the shows I just watch. Sometimes I don’t enjoy them as much as they’re okay but not great. First off I miss “Burn Notice”. That was always a fun summer show and this is the first summer it’s been gone. Oh well, nothing lasts forever.
Let’s start with a new show: “Extant”. It stars Halle Berry as an astronaut sometime in the future that returns to Earth after a long solo mission in space and things are not what they seem. It’s one of those conspiracy “What the heck is really going on here?” shows that I often love or hate. Or like or dislike. This one is “Like”. It moves along at a pretty good clip, reveals new thing, and lets us know a little more about what’s going on. That’s all I ask for. Often these post-Lost shows don’t give me enough information about the mystery and I get frustrated and bored. This one has kept me watching though.
I first saw Chris D’Elia on the Whitney Cummings’ show “Whitney” and thought he was good on it. “Whitney”only lasted two seasons but I enjoyed the show and thought I would check out D’Elia’s new show “Undateable”. It’s solidly okay with some potential. It’s a show about a guy (D’Elia) who gets a new roommate and starts hanging out with the new roommate and the roommie’s buddies in the roommate’s bar. D’Elia is also supposed to be trying to teach the guys about women. But is it really D’Elia who is “Undateable” or the goofy guys? That’s the question. It was only a ten episode season and has been renewed for ten more next year so I’ll be back. It has some funny moments and tries hard so maybe soon it will raise it’s batting average.
Watching “Undateable” lead me to another ten episode show from the same producers called “Ground Floor”. It ran last fall but I missed it entirely. It also has ten more episodes coming in its season two. I haven’t watched all of season one but I think I already like it better then “Undateable”. “Ground Floor” is a sitcom about the rich young men who work for a financial company and some of the less rich and powerful building employees who work on the ground floor. Of course one of the upstairs guys starts dating a downstairs gal. Cue the odd couple type comedy. They do a good job with it. The supporting characters are cool and there are some laughs to be found. I’ll take that.
As many comic books as I read I don’t nearly read all of them. There is a new TV show “The Strain” based on a comic book of the same name. It’s a horror story. The lead character works for the Center for Disease Control and has to work out what is happening when a plane full of people land in NYC and are all dead. Turns out it’s vampires. And not the pretty and attractive modern vampires but the old fashioned kind that are monsters through and through. The story has moved along a little slowly so far and there a few characters who, four episodes in, have not been integrated into the main plot. I have no idea how they will fit into the story. That’s a bit strange but overall it has held my interest.
“Rizzoli and Isles” is one of those buddy cop police procedurals that I sometimes like to watch. I kinda only watched it with one eye in the past but this season, its fifth, has kept me more interested than the others. The two buddies, the cop and the coroner, are both women so that makes it unusual for a buddy cop show but they’ve been there since the beginning so I’m not sure why I’ve liked this season more. It’s a solid show. It’s like a lot of other cop shows so I won’t go into detail about its plots and characters. It’s pretty standard stuff but well done.
The other procedural I’ve been watching this summer is “Perception”. This one is in the quirky detective sub-genre. This detective’s quirk is that he is one of the world’s leading brain experts but he has a degenerative brain disease himself. He is a consultant who has an FBI agent as a partner as he teaches in a college and solves crimes in his spare time. Once again this has been a pretty good season for “Perception”. This is the show’s third season and it seems to be hitting its stride. Solid but not spectacular.
A weird show that I’ve been watching is called “Welcome To Sweden”. It’s a story about a successful accountant who quits his job to move to Sweden with his girlfriend. He has no job there yet and not much of a plan. A bit of the show is in Swedish. The show in and of itself isn’t so weird but the idea that the show even exists is strange. Who green-lit a show about moving to Sweden? Why did anyone think that was a funny premise? The show is light, amusing, and I enjoy it but I didn’t think Sweden was in Hollywood’s consciousness. Turns out that it’s a joint US and Sweden production and it’s already been on in Sweden and been renewed for another ten episode season. That and Any Poehler is a producer on it. That woman is hot right now and has some pull.
A returning summer TV show that I’ve been watching is “Under the Dome”. The first season was all right but I’m liking the second season much more. Things are happening as they are killing off more and more characters and pasts are being revealed. We may not know as much about the dome as we want to but it still feels like the plot is moving forward. That’s all I can ask of these post-Lost mystery shows.
One last summer show I’ve been watching is a canceled fall show. It’s “The Michael J.Fox Show”. It ran in the fall and spring but was canceled before all the episodes were even shown. Those unaired episodes have been showing up on the internet though and that gave me a chance to watch them. I’ve heard people say they found the show hard to watch because of Fox’s Parkinson’s Disease but that didn’t bother me. I though the show was okay but also think it became funnier at the end of the season. The unaired episodes were among the best of them. Ain’t that always the way. So what are you watching?
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.
Check them all out here:
So I got it in my head this morning to write about one of my ink book page drawings immediately after I drew it. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. For those of you not in the know my ink book drawings are the basis for a lot of my other work. I grab my 5.5×8.5 inch spiral bound sketch book and a black marker, usually a Pentel Sign Pen, and start doing some surrealist automatic drawing. That’s the name for a type of drawing where you don’t think about what you are going to draw but instead just start making marks on the paper and see what comes out of the strange crevices of your mind. I also like to define the borders of my drawings first so I make little boxes on the paper and then draw in them. I also work from the top left of the page, then across, then down a row to the middle and across, and finally the bottom row.
If you look at the first picture I drew you can see a line that splits the drawing in half with an oval in the middle of it that forms the man’s chin. I draw this line with a U in the middle of it all the time. I have no idea why but it often comes out of my pen. You can see a similar line in the last drawing except the U is on the top. I often struggle to find something to do with this shape but here I made it into a face with a bit of a positive/negative face and vase thing going on.
The second drawing is of a figure that’s almost one of my usual triangular “Mod Man” figures. But instead of the triangle of the torso being continued down to his feet I lifted his legs off at the hips and moved them out into space. I do this sometimes to get a get a better gesture out of the legs. It doesn’t make sense on an anatomical level but it’s a drawing thing. And there is that line with a U in it shape above his head!
Picture number three is a single eyed half masked man with a body made up of odd little bits. Any resemblance to actual anatomy is strictly coincidental.
With drawing number four we get to one of my more landscape flavored drawings. As I was drawing this I wanted a bit more of a feeling of deep space rather than my usual use of flat modern space. I ended up with something that doesn’t really make sense on a literal level. It ends up looking like a Steve Ditko type of magical dimension. There are a couple of different horizon lines and two figures that are not in scale to each other. I often work with out of scale figures but if I was ever to make this into a larger drawing I’d have to figure out the space.
Drawing number five makes a nice bullseye in the center of the page. I wonder if it’s placement in the center influenced it’s composition? I like this face. I like that the face turns into the hair and some sort of piece of machinery. It’s one of those things that works in a small sketch but as I look at it wonder how I could make it into a finished drawing. That’s always a problem when looking for a sketch to make into something finished. Just what I like about the sketch, the head/hair/machine, won’t necessarily make sense at a larger size and in color. The last things I added to this drawing are the white circles in the background. That’s a motif I use every so often and it works here.
Drawing six started out as a distinctly female figure but morphed into this androgynous drawing when I put the eyes on her chest. I was also playing with some deeper space on this one as I created some strange but simple shapes in the background. Other than that this is another body made of of simple shapes. And big ears.
And then I went out for a bike ride and spent a while dealing with some mundane paying work. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I started to draw again and made drawing number seven. And I think that shows. It’s a real oddball of a drawing. I’m not sure exactly what it is. It looks most to me like a body/torso but the head runs off the top of the page and we only see a neck. Then the turtleneck of the shirt has a face on it with a couple of ears too. And then there is an eye on the front of the shirt where the chest is. Or it could be something else. It’s a weird and unsure one.
Drawing number eight is straightforward and a little dull. A long necked figure stand in front while a small full figure stands atop something in the back. This one is a little too well defined for me. Everything is clearly what it is and in the right place. You’d think that was a good thing and often it is but here it’s not working. I don’t know why. But I also think that on a good day I could take this drawing’ blow it up, and redraw it into something interesting. The basics are there but the intangibles aren’t.
The final drawing has a lot of ancient civilization art and architecture in it. That’s what all those little shapes and lines are. With the eyes down the bottom maybe it’s a closeup of an ancient Maya king with his crown on or maybe it’s a wall carving on some pyramid some where. I’m not sure. It could be a dog with sneaky eyes. Anyway you cut it up I like the extreme closeup nature of the drawing. I hadn’t done that yet on this page and one of the things I try to make these ink book drawings about is variety.
So there it is. All while it was fresh in my mind. Now I have to go back and do some more boring work. Oh, well…