Friday, October 23, 2009

Walkway Over the Hudson

October 14, 2009

Back in the late 1970's I spent many a hazy weekend in the clear mountain air of the college town of New Paltz. For someone with no car (or drivers license even) there were three ways to get there; knowing someone with a car was the best, and most enjoyably direct. The Trailways bus was a less than enjoyably direct route, given the necessity of a trip to Manhattan and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Also, a round-trip ticket was something on the order of twenty bucks as well, making a serious dent in one's beer budget.

The third way was far less direct, but much, much cheaper. ConRail from Grand Central Station was around 12 bucks for a round trip ride, maybe less, I really don't remember. Trouble was, it only got you as far as Poughkeepsie, on the opposite shore of the Hudson. But the entrance to the Mid-Hudson bridge being only three blocks or so from the station, made hitchhiking the last twelve miles a fairly easy thing to do, often in a single ride.

More often than not I'd have to walk over the bridge before getting a ride, not a terrible thing though, since more cars were likely to stop on the far side, which has wider shoulders, and it gave me time to gaze at a wonderful abandoned relic, the Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge, a spindly-legged cantilever crossing that had only gone unused for five years when I first saw it.

Looking north from the east tower of the Mid-Hudson Bridge

There had been many a proposal for its re-use over the years, and possession changed hands more than once. In 1992 a non profit organization took over, and, with the New York State parks department, conceived and constructed a concrete surface across the span and created the Walkway Over the Hudson, a New York State Historic Park.

Looking north from the Walkway

It opened on October third as New York's newest park, as well as the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. I'm also willing to bet it's also the narrowest park in the New York state system, at least on an unofficial basis.

Original bridge girder

The walkway is twenty-five feet wide for most of the length, with two 35-foot wide sections at either end. The narrower sections allow you to see the original steel girders of the bridge, but that's all that's visible of the actual structure from the walkway itself. A square yard of glass in the flooring that would let you see down one of the towers would be a neat touch, I think, but may freak out too many people.

Sherry and I took the bikes up there about a week and a half after the opening. We started on the west side, which has a smaller parking lot that the Poughkeepsie side, but plenty of street spots. We crossed the bridge and took in the spectacular views. Absolutely gorgeous, and even higher above the river that the suspension bridge for traffic a mile downstream. We then followed a fairly well-marked route through the city streets to the entrance of that bridge, crossing it and completing a three and a half mile loop a few hundred meters on.

I'll be back in the spring, because I need to get down to the water level so I can shoot the bridge itself, from the human perspective.


Friday, October 16, 2009

EAT: The Sign

Mastic, New York - February, 1991

This bleak scene caught my eye one cold winter day in 1991, while tooling around the east end in my little black Nissan Sentra. They were the only pictures I took that day, too. Four frames, three angles of view. I probably drove over 125 miles for two horizontal, and two almost identical verticals, and I never did anything with them till now.

And of course, I only came across them while looking for something else, naturally. But what intrigued me was that I swear I've seen this sign more recently than eighteen years ago. I think it was used sometime in the last few years in the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip.

(For those of you unfamiliar, Zippy is a surrealistic daily comic strip, nothing at all like your father's Blondie. Bill Griffith, the creator, has his title character  visiting diners and bowling alleys,
interacting with various roadside icons: holding hallucinogenic conversations with Bob's Big Boy, for example. He also draws detailed scenes like the photo above, with lots of signs and power lines, for Zippy to wander through.)

This place is still open, too. I did a little Googling on the name (Jimmy's Diner, the sign is visible in one of the other frames) and tracked down the place in Mastic. Odd, since I thought for sure it was somewhere on the north shore, along route 25A. Google Maps and street view show a remodeled building on the corner, but alas, no sign. The gas station, like a lot of Getty stations here on the Island, is now a Lukoil, but the utility poles don't seem to have been replaced or moved, and they still tilt at almost the same angles.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cat Break

May 20, 2009

After three straight entries about cemeteries and an equally depressing image of urban renewal, I figured the time was right for a new cat picture. So from earlier this spring, we have Betsy.

I like the general composition of this picture, but there are a few things I would do differently, were I living in a perfect world. (You must realize that in this case, 'a perfect world' would have cats that sit still, follow direction and actually hold a pose.)

It could be sharper. Even though the lens (70-200 @ 200mm) was stopped down to f13, the focus is a bit off, because I made the focal point on the nose, rather than the eye. I also wish I hadn't cut
the top of her ear off, but she moves around so much it was hard enough keeping her in the frame. I should have zoomed out a bit to keep her entire head in the frame.

The lighting is what saves the picture for me; the way the shadows and light outline the ears and head, shaping the individual hairs and illuminating each individual whisker.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Past is a Curious Place...

Patchogue - October 5, 2009

Shipwrecks were fairly common off the south shore of Long Island during the nineteenth century, so it's not unusual to come across several headstones of victims of the same event.

The three-masted schooner Louis V. Place was wrecked off the Great South Bay during a horrific nor'easter in February of 1895. It took two days for the Life Saving Service (the forerunner to the Coast Guard) to reach the men clinging to the rigging, by that time all but two were dead. One of them, Soren Nelson, the man in the middle above, died of tetanus less than a month later.

Go back for a minute, enlarge the picture and reread the words carved in the stone. "Taken from the rigging" "Died in the rigging". Eight crewmen crawled up the ropes of the sails, in the face of a howling storm. For those of you unaware, a nor'easter is basically a hurricane that comes from the northeast in the middle of winter. They spent two days with the wind, the surf, the rain and the ice, with their woolen garments saturating and freezing, waiting for rescue.

There's an old joke that's told to see how well your audience is paying attention to you. The joke goes like this: If an airplane crashed on the exact border of New York and Pennsylvania, where would they bury the survivors?

The account of the shipwreck that I read on says the lone survivor of this disaster, Claus Stuvens, eventually went back to sea. Which would explain, I suppose, why the stone bearing his name (on the left, above) has no date of passing. It doesn't explain why there's a stone bearing his name here at all, however. He survived, right?. There's a gravestone for the ship's captain here as well, though that same account says Capt. Squires is buried in a family plot in Southhold. The past is a curious place, indeed...

July 15, 1991

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Family Reserve

Infrared and cemeteries were made for each other as far as I'm concerned. There is just no better way to convey the other-worldliness of some graveyards than with heat-influenced exposure.

July 19, 2009

Lakeview Cemetery in Patchogue, New York is one of those places I've watched evolve over the last twenty years, from completely overgrown and forsaken during the town's mid-1980's blight to the well-kept yet sparsely visited expanse it is today. There are a number of fascinating graves as well. Victims of two local shipwrecks line the main drive, and some of the largest zinc monuments that I've ever seen are here as well. I'll be detailing them in a later entry, but today I wanted to feature the shot above of a typical family reserve, with the plot marked off by a low railing held up by concrete posts.

June 5, 2009

St. John's Episcopal church is a small, wood-framed building, easily overlooked save for a white picket fence along Montauk Highway in Oakdale. This tiny building was the first church on the south shore of the Island, built in 1765 and still standing to this day on the north side of the highway. A brick footpath leads from the door through the graveyard, past the late 19th century headstones.

Again, the infrared imaging adds to the eeriness of the picture; in straight black and white the shingles of the building would blend into the darkness of the surrounding trees and grass, while here the grass and leaves make up the highlights and midtone of the picture, instead of midtone and shadow, bringing the building and path forward as the main element of the picture.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

InfraRebel LensBabies

I like to give myself special assignments sometimes, particular subjects or physical limitations. Sometimes I'll only shoot in black and white, or I'll only use the infrared camera, or more commonly, I'll limit myself to shooting with a single lens. Last week I decided to double the restrictions, and found myself wandering the boardwalk at Jones Beach with the LensBaby stuck on the InfraRebel.

Jones Beach in early fall is similar to the way it is during the other three seasons, a flat, vast expanse of windswept sand, only with fewer half-naked people than just a few weeks earlier. The sky was a slate-gray overcast, with just a tiny bit of filtered sunshine peeking through now and again. Never enough to matter, just enough to put a gleam in the shiny trim.

I've visited this snack shop before, during a more restless time in its existence. And, although it's still constrained within a snow fence, it seems whatever kind of architectural thorazine therapy it's undergone in the last two years seems to be working.

Once again we have one of my favorite subjects, those stalwart silent sentries of scenics, the cast-iron quarter-eating spyglass. Since the company that manufactures them now puts their web address on the units, I visited their site and was able to learn a bit more than I need to know about these things. For example, I always referred to them as a 'spyglass'. Well, no, according to the Tower Optical Company's FAQ's, the proper name is 'binocular viewer'. The FAQ's then go on to list another thirty-nine terms for the item, none of which, I should note, were 'spyglass'. Of course, I also think of them as mouthless aliens, which is what they look like.

October 2, 2009


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Broadway Hotel

December 25, 1988

The building looming in the background looks like it could be part of the King's Park complex, given its abandoned appearance and the fenced-off lot filled with rubble. But this was taken several years before I ever set foot on the grounds of the north shore asylum, although, since it was the location of my first apartment, I can attest that the building was something of an asylum on its own.

This was taken in the dead-end of Edwards Boulevard, south of Broadway, with the Boardwalk to my back, in Long Beach, New York. The apartment building is 25 West Broadway, where I lived in apartment 502
from 1983-84. No ocean views, though. Of the four windows, each of my two rooms had one facing north, and one facing an airshaft.

The rubble is the remains of the Jackson Hotel, a nursing home/residence hotel razed during the initial phase of the Long Beach renaissance. A luxury high-rise rental building would rise on the site in the coming year.

This picture was a finalist in the 8th annual spring conest sponsored by Photography Forum magazine in 1989.