Friday, December 30, 2016

Hi Life

I've never been in Hi Life on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 83rd Street even though it's only a block from my home.  Its lighting certainly makes it look inviting though.  Once again I used the Nik Duplex filter from Color Efex Pro4 to add warmth.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jacob's Pickles

As long as I'm posting photos of local eateries after dark, I might as well add this one of Jacob's Pickles, right now the hottest brunch spot on the Upper West Side.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cafe Lalo

Cafe Lalo on 83rd Street is a popular coffee shop on the Upper West Side where I sometimes have brunch with friends.  The lighting makes it look especially inviting after dark.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Broadway Hot Dog Cart

After dark and with the right lighting, even a simple hot dog cart on Broadway can look as magical as a circus.  I used the Duplex filter from Nik Color Efex Pro4 to add warmth to the photo.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Central Park Wildlife

For some reason, I never have much luck when photographing the ducks swimming in the Central Park lake.  This one came out better than most.  I especially liked the coloring of the bird's feathers.  Shot on Lumix GH4.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays!!

I took this photo yesterday at Bryant Park,  It certainly seemed appropriate for the season.  I hope everyone reading this has a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year.  May all your wishes come true.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Shopping at Columbus Circle

Shot yesterday at the outdoor market at Columbus Circle.  I was curious to see what the atmosphere would be like there so shortly after the Berlin market bombing, but everyone seemed to be relaxed and enjoying the Christmas season.  There was a police presence, but it was low profile and none of the officers on duty appeared armed with assault weapons.  Across the street, there was a much larger contingent of police providing security for Trump Hotel.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Railroad Bridge at Riverside Park

This derelict structure is in the Hudson River alongside the new extension to Riverside Park. A plaque nearby tells how it was once used in the transfer of trains from New Jersey to New York City. I doubt the original builders had any thought that so utilitarian a structure would one day become a scenic attraction.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mirror Reflections

Simply by photographing into a mirror outdoors, such as these on display at the local flea market, it's possible to get a new perspective on a familiar cityscape. A good photograph is one that allows the viewer to see its subject in a new manner.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Reflections in Water

The scene shown above - a building on New York's Upper East Side - is familiar to every New Yorker who's ever walked along Fifth Avenue. But when photographed as a reflection in Central Park's sailboat pond, it takes on a totally new look. It's like a glimpse of some alien city never before visited. The buildings shown in the photo below were photographed in Lincoln Center's pool behind David Geffen Hall. They look familiar but somehow subtly distorted.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Winter's Eve Festival

On Monday evening, I took my Nikon Df to the Winter's Eve Festival at Lincoln Square.  This is an annual event that features food samples and live music as well as other forms of entertainment.  I was hoping to get some low light photographs of the crowd, but the small area was too packed for me to be able to move freely about.  There were dancers in wonderfully grotesque costumes who moved about on stilts, but I was only able to get a few blurred shots of them.  I had slightly better luck with the band onstage, but again the lighting was problematical.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Big Price Drop on Panasonic Lumix GH4

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is scheduled to be released sometime in early 2017, and one was already on display at the Photo Expo here in NYC last month.  As a result, there's been a significant price drop in the Lumix GH4.   It's now available at a number of outlets for approximately $1,200 (body only), down $300 from its list price of $1,500.  B&H has gone one better and is offering a $150 gift card with purchase.  Since a B&H gift card is as good as cash to a photographer, this effectively lowers the camera's price to only $1,050.

No price has been set yet for the GH5, but best estimates are that it will be around $1,600, only slightly more expensive than the GH4's regular price.  The GH5 should be a ground breaking camera for video enthusiasts as it will offer a revolutionary 6K video.  It will also offer incremental improvements for still photography - one stop better performance in low light and 24mpx rather than the current 16mpx.  These are wonderful enhancements, but since I don't regularly shoot video and invariably use my Nikon Df for low light photography, they weren't that important to me.  On the other hand, paying effectively $1,050 for the GH4 instead of $1,600 for the GH5 represents a savings of roughly 35%, and that's a big number.

I decided to go with the GH4 primarily because it's not what I regard as a professional camera, like my Nikons.  The Panasonic is really my "carry around" camera that I use for street shooting and travel photography.  As such, the GH4 is plenty good enough for my purposes.  Another factor that influenced my decision is that the Panasonic line, no matter what its reps may say, is really designed as a consumer camera.  It's simply not built to be as durable as a top of the line Nikon.  I purchased the GH2 in 2011 and used it for five years before I began to experience problems with it.  The camera "grip" that holds the lens is losing tension and the electronics sometimes act up, e.g., I keep being asked to set to set ISO or white balance.  I'm not complaining - I feel I got good use out of the GH2 - but obviously I don't want to pour too much money into a camera with a limited lifetime, especially one that's intended for casual use.

In the end, after a great deal of consideration, I purchased the GH4 to replace my ailing GH2 and have been shooting with it for over a week now.  I've been very happy with the results - the photos are quite similar to those I obtained with the GH2, which were excellent.  The only problem I've had with the GH4 is that the user manual is too basic and leaves out essential information, e.g. it's now necessary to check the camera's screen and make a choice when downloading photos via the USB connection.  This was minor, though, and the problem was soon solved via live chat when I contacted Panasonic support.

Monday, November 14, 2016

B&W Street Photography in Soho

I shot these a couple of weeks ago on my Lumix GH2 while walking through Soho.  All b&w conversions were done using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Alamo Cube Returns to Astor Place

After a two year absence, the Alamo Cube was returned to its original location in Astor Place last week.  The cube was created as a temporary art installation in 1967 by Tony Rosenthal but proved so popular that it was never dismantled.  Of course, the East Village neighborhood was a much funkier place when the cube first arrived, and everyone had a laugh pushing it around on its axis to make it spin.  Imprisoned now behind metal railings where no one can touch it, it seems a sad prisoner in upscale Noho, a reminder of happier times.

Monday, October 24, 2016

End of Summer

The temperatures here in NYC were much warmer than usual last week.  On Tuesday, there was a record high as the temperature reached 83F (28C) in Central Park.  Then, almost overnight, the thermometer sank to 45F (7C) as a cold front moved in.  Autumn is finally here now.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 NYC Photo Expo

I went yesterday afternoon to the Javits Center to take a look at this year's edition of the Photo Expo.  Since I just purchased a Nikon Df in January, I didn't bother checking out any DSLR's (I've always found dealing with Nikon reps to be an ordeal anyway) but instead concentrated on mirrorless cameras.  I'll be needing one in the near future and wanted to see what was available.

Panasonic Lumix

I've used a GH2 since 2011 and have been very pleased with it.  Although I don't consider it a professional camera, it's versatile and I like to carry it with me while moving about the city.  (I used it, in fact, to take the photos shown on this post.)  I've occasionally had a slight problem during the past few months when the camera has indicated the lens is not properly attached.  The Panasonic rep, who was very helpful and knowledgeable, told me that the most likely cause is that the lens coupling mechanism is losing its "tension" and will eventually need to be replaced at a cost of roughly $200.  That's not a big number, but I may opt simply to replace the camera itself with a newer model.  

One low end choice would be the DMC-G85 which will be released toward the end of the month (B&H is already taking pre-orders).  What makes this model especially attractive is that the introductory deal includes a 12-60 mm lens for only $100 more than the cost of the body alone.  Since this is a $500 lens, the cost of the camera itself is then only about $500 (total price for package = $997.99).

On the other hand, the new DMC-GH5 will also soon be available and one was already on display at the show, albeit locked in a glass case.  If I ever decided to shoot video, this is definitely the camera I'd go for.  Among other improvements, the video will now be 6K.  There are other enhancements as well, including better performance for still photography at high ISO's.

Fujifilm X-Pro 2

The X-Pro has been available for several years and I've always heard it highly spoken of.  The recently released X-Pro 2 has also gotten excellent reviews.  Its main attraction for me is its rangefinder design.  All the main controls are on the outside - one can even set aperture by rotating the ring on the lens barrel - and familiar to anyone who's worked with a film rangefinder (I still regularly use my Mamiya 6).  It certainly seems a great camera and at $1,699.00 is reasonably priced.

Sony Alpha A7 II

While its specs are outstanding in every respect, what makes the Alpha A7 II truly attractive to me is its ability to work in extreme low light situations.  I do quite a bit of nighttime street photography with the Nikon Df, but the Sony's performance in this area is far better.  At $1,698 ($1,998 with a 28-70 lens), it's in the same price range as the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and, presumably, the Lumix DMC-GH5.

To sum it up, I like the Lumix DMC-GH5 for its video capabilities, the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 for its rangefinder design, and the Sony Alpha A7 II for its low light capability.

Printing Papers

Aside from cameras, the only other items of immediate interest to me at the show were printing papers for use on my Epson R3000.

I use high end printing papers for my fine arts photography, and those that I've found best are Moab and Hahnemühle.  I checked both out at the show.  Moab offers a number of surfaces - I saw some wonderful black & white examples printed on Exhibition Luster - but since I prefer textured papers, I usually go with Hahnemühle.  It's interesting that the company is now marketing a Platinum Rag that can be used in alternative printing processes.  I've worked with the Ziatype formula (a palladium printing-out process) and in the past have always used Arches Platine paper purchased from art supply stores.  I'd be very interested to see what results I got with Hahnemühle's new paper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Elizabeth Street Garden

While wandering through Soho on Monday afternoon, I came across a park I hadn't even known existed.  The Elizabeth Street Garden is a community space filled with unusual sculpture and offers visitors a rare open area downtown where they can enjoy the sunshine.  It goes without saying that there's pressure from real estate interests to remove the garden and build over the site.  There's more information on this on the Garden's website.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Shooting Street Photography in Color

I've been taking advantage of the Nikon Df's extended ISO range to explore shooting street photography at night here in NYC.  For the most part, I've gotten best results when converting these shots to black & white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, but there are a number that I feel work best when left in color.  It's largely a matter of taste, but when a photograph contains bright colors in illuminated scenes, I think it's best to take advantage of them.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Last Flowers of Summer

I went to Central Park during the last week of September to photograph the flowers before summer ended.  Just when I had finished, the weather turned chill.  Now I'll have to wait for spring to come again.