I Shoot Photos, Don’t I?

Watching the Partial Solar Eclipse in Washington Square Park Was the Best Lunch Break I’ve Ever Taken

Yesterday was the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017, and although Megan and I had considered flying to her hometown in Oregon, which was in the path of totality, for the occasion, we never got it together to make the necessary arrangements. Instead, we spent the day at our respective offices in New York. We didn’t even get around to buying eclipse glasses. Sad.

My lunch break at NYU-TV coincided with the most exciting part of the eclipse, between 2:00 and 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, as maximum eclipse was to occur over New York City at around 2:44 PM. I took my camera to nearby Washington Square Park and snapped photos of the revelers.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

I really enjoyed watching everyone devise creative ways to fashion pinhole projectors and watch the moon partially block the sun.

Perhaps the most expert model was the camera obscura boxes that were distributed by online glasses outlet Warby Parker.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Others made their pinhole-projectors own with cereal boxes.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Others used colanders to see dozens of crescents projected on paper or on the ground.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Yet others used the front-facing cameras on their smartphones to view and photograph the eclipsed sun.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

One guy used two sheets of paper: one with the pinhole and one as a screen.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

There were some viewers using dubious “safety” equipment, such as a perforated black sheet of paper.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

And one trio using strips of unexposed, unprocessed photographic film.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

I hope all these people are okay today.

One of the most enjoyable parts of watching the eclipse in the park was the community among strangers. Many shared safety glasses with each other.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

After I snapped a photo of this undergraduate looking at the eclipse, he asked if I could send it to him.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

I transferred the photo from my camera to my iPhone and emailed him the photo. While we waited for the transfer, he offered to let me look through his glasses. I took him up on the offer.

What I saw was a wisp of a cloud overlapping with the eclipsed sun. It was an indescribably beautiful image, and I was happy to have that as my first view of the sun. Sorry, I don’t have a photo of what I saw, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it and who needs a photograph?

This being New York, of course, there was an enterprising woman selling glasses for $20.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

At 2:40 PM, just a few minutes before the maximum coverage, I bought a pair.

Twenty bucks seemed a bit steep for a pair of glasses that will have about an hour’s worth of utility, but I I earned some karmic equity by sharing them with my coworkers after my lunch break had concluded.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

As countless of people have commented, including me in an Instagram post, this was a rare moment where we gathered together and forgot about our problems and our differences. We gathered together and shared watching the spectacular cosmic dance between the sun and the moon.

View my album on Flickr

A Brick Building in Beacon, 2007 vs. 2017

Beacon, New York

Speaking of photos I took of places that have undergone lots of changes, I was struck by the number of changes in Beacon, New York over the last decade or so.

I first visited Beacon in February 2005 on a class trip to the Dia museum. I was taking a Video Art class and as part of our curriculum, we were to visit the museum where many works by video artists—not just on video but in a variety of different media—are housed. Our class met on Thursdays, and instead of meeting at NYU, we met at Grand Central Terminal to take a Hudson line train to Beacon.

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It would have been a great trip, except that the museum is open Friday through Monday during the winter months. The museum was closed on this particular Thursday.

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I have returned to Beacon many times over the years, including a three-night trip in late July 2007. A lot of places that were around then are still there. These include the Bank Square Coffeehouse, Max’s on Main, and BJ’s Soul Food Restaurant. One place that stood largely unchanged was an abandoned brick warehouse on the corner of Main Street and East Main Street. (Yes, Beacon has three main streets: Main, East Main, and, yes, West Main).

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Last weekend, I returned to Beacon for a midsummer day trip. It was the first time I had been there since October 2015, and there were a few new places, or at least places I hadn’t noticed before. There was Draught Industries (a craft beer bar), Pandorica (a kind of “New Age” restaurant), and an expansive taproom for the Hudson Valley Brewery.

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And like before, there was that abandoned brick warehouse on the corner of Main and East Main Streets. But something was different. The warehouse wasn’t abandoned anymore. It was being renovated for conversion to residential lofts.

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As you can probably tell, a big reason why I wrote this post is to share two photos of the same place, ten years apart. So here they are side-by-side, allowing you to get the full effect.

A lot of what I’ve seen in Beacon is what some would call a “renaissance” and others would disparage as “gentrification.” Regardless of what you call it, this process is not a straight line. One place that had shown up over the years was The Hop. I first went in 2013 when it was a beer store with a few seats and a small kitchen.

Pre Flight

Over the years, the place had moved up the street, rented out two stores, and expanded to include a full bar and a sit-down restaurant. When I went there in July 2015, the place was busy, and business seemed to be great.

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So it came as a bit of a shock when I saw that The Hop was closed down.

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Apparently, the place abruptly closed last October without much explanation. All that remains is some of the furniture, a few memories, and couple of my photos.

My Photo of the Not-So “Bad Old Days” of DTLA

It happened again! Someone used a photo I posted on Flickr for a news story.

KPCC, an NPR member radio station in Pasadena, California, used a photo I snapped in January 2010 to illustrate a story about the rising crime in downtown Los Angeles. The 37% increase in crime, over the last two years, has recently unnerved residents, workers, businesses, and tourists. The area has undergone a “renaissance” over the last decade, perhaps best exemplified by the presence of a Whole Foods Market at Grand Avenue and 8th Street. But the recent rise in crime could undermine gentrification in the area.

I snapped the photo in January 2010 during a Los Angeles Conservancy walking tour through the Historic Core of downtown Los Angeles. The photo shows a bustling street on a Saturday afternoon, teeming with pedestrians walking alongside the businesses on Broadway that largely catered to Latinos. A lot has changed in downtown since I took this photo.

Los Angeles Historic Core

Although this is not the first time that a photo of mine was used for a news story, nor do I mind very much that it was used in the first place, I do find its use to be a bit uninspired. The photo doesn’t really illustrate anything that is discussed in the news story. My photo doesn’t show the relatively new nightlife scene, it doesn’t show any symbols of gentrification in the face of growing homeless camps in the area, and it doesn’t show any signs of crime in the area.

But to be fair, this is not something unique to KPCC. You can see this on just about every news outlet’s site that doesn’t employ a professional photographer or photo editors.

The Face of an Angel

Remember last year when I was visiting a number of small brewing companies and getting a photo of myself enjoying a flight of their products?

One of the places I visited around that time was Angel City Brewing near downtown Los Angeles, and my mother, of all people, got a photo of me anticipating a flight of their beers.

Angel City Brewing

Late last week, I learned from my brother that LA Thrillist used that photo to illustrate their write-up on a click-baity, listicle about “43 Los Angeles Bars You Need To Drink In Before You Die.”

I hold a flight of five beers at Angel City Brewing

As some of you know, this is not the first time that someone has used one of my photos to illustrate a web article. Earlier this year, I learned that Curbed used one of “my” photos of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Phillip Johnson–designed Seagram Building. Similarly, DNA Info used one of my photos of Manhattanhenge from Long Island City after LIC became a hotspot for seeing the sun set in line with the Manhattan grid. And these are the ones I know about.

A quick web search revealed a few other uses of my photos, including:

Keep in mind, there’s nothing specifically improper about these uses. I made all of those photos available under a specific Creative Commons license allowing anyone to use my work as long as it is attributed and not used for a commercial purpose. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to receive an email or a comment on the Flickr page alerting me to the appropriating of my work: something like, “Hey dude, we used for your photo for an article on a ‘bucket list’ of awesome bars in Los Angeles. Hope you check it out.”

But at least it’s nice knowing that my photos might bring people to some interesting places in downtown Los Angeles and midtown Manhattan, as well as Queens and Kentucky.

It’s Only Fair Use

Last week, in time for Manhattanhenge, I received a request to use one of my photographs to illustrate an article about what the kids today are calling LICHenge.


I often read DNA Info’s coverage of Long Island City and environs so I let them use my photograph free of charge. Also, since I use a browser plug-in to block ads and tracking software, meaning they can’t easily monetize me, I figured it was only fair to give something back for all that content I’ve read for “free” over the years.

A few days later, I ran into a former student around NYU. He informed me that he had shared an article about the Four Seasons restaurant with another former student of mine. He reported that they both did a double-take when they noticed that it was my photo illustrating that article.

Pool Room

Unlike DNA Info, Curbed didn’t ask for permission to use it. In all fairness, they didn’t need to ask for permission. Many of my photos, including the one of the Four Seasons, are available for use through Creative Commons. They’re free to use them just as I am free to use other’s content for this website and whatever other original work I create. Old fogies and enfants terribles call this sort of thing fair use.

Besides, I didn’t even take the photo. Sarah took my camera on the OHNY tour while I went to a softball playoff game. It’s really her work, anyway.

They’re Calling it LICHenge


Midsummer is still about a month away, but twice every year—once around Memorial Day and again around Bastille Day—New Yorkers point their cameras at the setting sun to capture it as it lines up with the Manhattan street grid. Because of the similarity of how the sun lines up with the rocks at Stonehenge on the summer solstice, this specifically New York City–phenomenon has been called “Manhattanhenge.”

I first learned about Manhattanhenge back around 2002 or 2003, when a friend forwarded me a link to Neil Degrasse-Tyson’s article explaining the event, which was written not too long after People named him the sexiest astrophysicist alive. I believe he is also credited with concocting the portmanteau “Manhattanhenge.”

Almost every year since then, I missed it. For most of my early years in New York City, I lived in Greenwich Village, and I would invariably feel discouraged to take my camera and tripod to 14th Street, where I would have to dodge pedestrian and vehicular traffic at a busy time of the day. As budding New Yorker, my cynicism didn’t judge it worth the trouble.

However, after moving to Long Island City in 2008, I realized that I had the perfect spot to view the sunset on any given night, and starting in 2011, I got over my reservations over photographing Manhattanhenge and headed for Gantry State Park, where Long Island City meets the East River at Hunters Point. There, I found that I was in good company of other curious photographers, including one guy who used his girlfriend’s head as an improvised tripod.

Shooting the Shooters

And, of course, the photographic results were pretty stunning.


Much like Long Island City itself, watching Manhattanhenge from Long Island City is “blowing up.” I hate to say that because it seems silly to brag about watching a particular sunset longer than anybody else. That same sun has been “setting” beyond our horizon for over a billion years, and it has been lining up with the Manhattan street grid since about 1811. I’m old, but not that old.

However, two events came to my attention this week that suggest the growing popularity of watching Manhattanhenge from Long Island City:

  1. On Thursday, May 28, the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, the non-profit organization that advocates for Gantry State Park and Hunters Point South Park, is hosting a viewing party. The name for it is a portmanteau of a portmanteau: LICHenge. Members of the organization get some vittles and a beverage while they watch the sun set in line with 42nd Street.

  2. Jeanmarie Evelly, the DNA Info reporter who covers the “Brooklyn parts” of Queens, posted a story about viewing Manhattanhenge from LIC. I had actually completely forgotten about Manhattanhenge until she emailed me yesterday, asking permission to use one of my photos of the 2011 LIC-Manhattanhenge. The photograph now illustrates her story about “soaking” in views of Manhattanhenge from the LIC waterfront.

As an exile from Long Island City, I doubt that I will return to the Queens waterfront to view Manhattanhenge. Perhaps, instead, I will head to Transmitter Park in Greenpoint to watch it from a new vantage point. In either case, I would hate to miss it. Even if it’s more popular than ever before, watching Manhattanhenge from here is still a great experience.

What’s not to like about a sunset?

Too Old for the Front Row

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

After months of anticipation, Quintron and Miss Pussycat played Baby’s All Right on Saturday. I had to miss the Weather Warlock show on Friday because I had to move (yes, again) and didn’t have time to get in a Day-After Thanksgiving bike ride and make it to Bushwick for a show at sunset. But as far as Saturday was concerned, there was no way I was going to miss that show.

Before Quintron and Miss Pussycat played their set, they put on a ten-minute puppet show featuring Christmas Bear.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

In the puppet show, Christmas Bear finds an old family recipe…a very old recipe… for baking a special kind of cake. You can see a version of the show from earlier this year and learn how Christmas Bear’s cake fares in the baking contest.

After the ten-minute puppet show, the show started in earnest with a cover of “Rhinestone Cowboy.” As you can see, I had a pretty good spot for snapping photos, even if there were a few people blocking my view of the stage.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

But when Quintron and Miss Pussycat began to play their original work, the crowd went nuts. The crowd turned into the kind you’d see at punk or a metal show. It had been a long time since I had been to a show like that. But since I wanted to get some good photos, I rode that crowd, as it rushed towards the stage, all the way to very front. I stayed there for the remainder of the show where I had an excellent vantage of Quinton playing the Hammond organ and his own Drum Buddy.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

And, I had a great view of Miss Pussycat, too.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

The only drawback was that I had to support myself by grabbing on to a monitor on the stage, hold my camera above my head for most of the set, and ensure that I was not going to get pinned against the stage. But the bright side of getting pummeled by a mass of people significantly younger than me was that I was extraordinarily close to the action.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

My friend John, who came with me to the show, appreciated my position at the front of the crowd. At one point, I turned around and noticed him taking video of the show.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at Baby's All Right

By the end of the almost two-hour performance, I was pretty beat up from having people knocking into me for almost two hours. It really was a case of being “too old for this shit.” But as sore as I was after the show and the next day, being that close enabled to make some pretty dynamic photos that only begin to capture the excitement of an electrifying and intoxicating performance that night.

A Long Way from Cassette Tapes and Twenty-Three Second Exposures

This is an oldie but goodie about the world’s first digital camera by Kodak and Steve Sasson:

Here are some specs: The 8 pound camera recorded 0.01 megapixel black and white photos to a cassette tape. The first photograph took 23 seconds to create. To play back images, data was read from the tape and then displayed on a television set. We’re sure come a long way since then, eh?

Sure, we have.

Twenty three seconds is a long time to make a photograph. I wonder how much of that is due to gathering enough light to make an acceptable exposure versus the amount of time it takes to process the light into 10,000 pixels (0.01 megapixels) then into digital bits.

Apple Shutters Development of Aperture

Since I became more serious about photography in 2010, I have been using Aperture to edit and manage my photo library. While most every other DSLR photographer I’ve ever met prefers Adobe’s Lightroom or Capture One, a small niche of photographers have stuck with Aperture. I preferred it to Lightroom partly because I bought it for about $60, thanks to a substantial academic discount, and because I have had some problems with Adobe software in the past that I would like to avoid in the future.

Earlier today, the small niche of Aperture users learned that Apple will stop development of Aperture and migrate us to their new Photos app, due in 2015.

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture,” said Apple in a statement provided to The Loop. “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS.

That explains why Apple hasn’t updated Aperture since November 2013 and why it still bears the antiquated Aqua look on its buttons and dialog boxes. Adobe has already began courting Aperture users promising that will double-down on its development of Lightroom. And Capture One’s pricing doesn’t look half bad should the new Photos app not do it for me.

Multiple Exposures on Canon EOS 6D

One of the many great features of the Canon EOS 6D, aside from its full-frame sensor, GPS, WiFi, and its price, is its support for multiple exposures. Canon released a video earlier this week showing how to use the feature.

The first time I used this feature was almost by accident during the Center for Holographic Arts closing party in April. I was trying to capture both the backlit plate on the overhead projector and the two men standing in faint light.


Ultimately, I settled on using HDR to make the photo because the lighting for those two subjects was too different to use multiple exposures. But I’ll play around with this feature now that I better understand its purpose.

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