Union Squared

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Though Union Square can be overrun with tourists and skate kids, when the sun comes out, they really are the centerpiece of the park. The park is one of the best places to people watch. I wouldn’t say it is full of fashionistas like other haunts in New York, but there is a definite trendy edge to the many denizens of Union Square.

I am always on the lookout for cool statues, and the famous faces of Lincoln and Washington give stability to the chaotic nature of the park on a sunny day. Their stoic bronze faces peer through the endless buildings to the south. Their dark figures are the perfect contrast to the endless blue sky.

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I spotted some kids boxing on the east end of the park and snapped a few pictures of the faux scuffle. I am more partial towards martial arts, but they made such a fuss with their crowd of friends, I couldn’t help but capture the moment. What I would give to come back as Puerto Rican child in New York!

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The skater kids on the west side of the park were ever so cool. Wisps of cigarette smoke permeated the area. Feet covered in Vans and Chucks shuffled about. I always liked red Chucks.

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I was about to be ran over by a guy who was skateboarding nearby as I wandered about with my camera, but I narrowly avoided a cement-laden demise and caught a cool blurry photo of him zipping past.

The sun is here my friends, finally. Go out into your parks and enjoy the warmth we have been waiting for!

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Hocus Crocus!

Holy Springtime, Batman! Its that time of year! Tonight everyone is supposed to set all of their clocks forward an hour to be in line with daylight savings time. Why the planet adheres to this antiquated practice of messing with time (and circadian rhythms) is beside me, however not to be outdone, Mother Nature sent some of her finest blooms up early for all of us to enjoy.

If your know the signs of Spring, there are two flowers to look for: Crocuses and Forsythia. The latter is hard to come by in New York, but there were crocuses aplenty in my old garden in Midtown. They peeked their brightly colored heads out from underneath the fall leaves in little flurries of spring color.

The Daffodils decided to join in on the party, and trumpeted the coming arrival of the vernal equinox with a splash of goldenrod and cream. Their skinny leaves fluttered in the breeze.

I made a new friend in the garden named Jamie, and he has been a resident of Hell’s Kitchen for decades. He told me about his ritual of recording the passing seasons through photos in the garden. We agreed that our little, gated slice of heaven was a perfect timekeeper for the seasons.

 

A ring of Tulips slowly began to unfurl their velvety bezier curve leaves in the shade of the giant Tulip Magnolia tree in the center of the garden. The bees have not woken up from their slumber yet, so it is only these hearty perennials who have arrived without their presence.

 

Together, these tiny flowers have set the seasonal clock in motion with their Springtime festival of color and light. The year began a few months ago, but it is now that 2012 really comes to life. The colorful clarion call of the Crocus banishes the winter, and brings an end to the bitter cold.

Spring is here. Finally.

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Good Morning, Grey Morning

This morning I decided to go for a little journey. I wanted to get a great view of The City so I went to Sinatra Park in Hoboken. The sky was grey and the wind a bit nippy, but I set out in my favorite coat from Uniqlo with my camera looking rather festive.

I started off at Elysian Park on Eleventh and Hudson, and wandered through there until I found my way down to Sinatra Park. There were lots of loving dog owners out with their four-footed friends. I was jamming to some Kylie and Ke$ha this morning so I didn’t hear any of their barks and yips. Kylie is divine, never forget that.

There was a War Memorial in Elysian Park that caught my eye, and I was upset that one of the Sphinxes that crowned one end of the ark the monument sat upon had been defaced. Who does that?! Last I checked, Sphinxes asked Oedipal tourists questions and defaced them, not the other way around. Oh well.

I saw buds on a tree waiting for their elemental cue to burst forth with life for Spring, and I remembered just how fast 2012 was passing by. Springtime is almost here!

On my journey from park to park, I imagined the views of The City from the apartments on Hudson and along Sinatra Park. Though the newer buildings do not have any old-world charm to speak of, their stunning views of Midtown Manhattan are second to none.

There were some geese wandering around the park, but they were my only companions this morning as I snapped away in the breeze. They paid me little mind and continued on their way. The way they waddle about always makes me smile, and reminds me of the geese on the riverbank of my childhood home chasing after little baby geese.

Once I reached the apex of the park, I marveled at the Empire State Building for a while, and captured its splendor as best as I could in the grey weather. It looks great regardless of a lack of sunshine.

I looked southward to One World Trade Center and imagined the army of workers assembling what will be the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere once it is complete next year. Rising 1776 feet above the rubble, it will be a testament to our ability to bring our dreams to life.

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A Camera That Just Happens to Make Calls

Mom spoiled me beyond reason when I was home and got me a new iPhone 4S as a present. I was overjoyed because my 3GS was on its last legs, vibrating whenever it wanted (all the time) and taking forever to send a text. When it comes to my devices, I like to keep them looking clean, so I opted for the white 4S, as fingerprints are much harder to see on its body (the screen still needs to be wiped on occasion).

You have already read dozens of iPhone 4S reviews on dozens of blogs, so I am not here to tell you how fast it loads apps (FAST), how helpful Siri is (She is!), or how beautiful her Retina display is (Gorgeous). What I am here to tell you about though is the camera included on the 4S. It is so good, we shall hereto forward call it “the camera that just happens to make calls.”

Eight megapixels does not sound like a lot of resolution for a digital camera these days, especially when certain Finnish phone makers spew out cameraphones with 41 megapixels (Nokia, I am looking at you), however, the camera that just happens to make calls does not disappoint at all.

First, it loads several times faster than that on my 3GS, and rightly so. The A5 processor that powers the camera makes for a snappy experience that doesn’t get you caught out there missing special moments.

Second, its f/2.4 aperture and backside illuminated sensor allow you to shoot in all kinds of low-light environments that would otherwise be difficult. The flash is fast and bright, but as a die-hard Cartier-Bresson fan, I never use it. The HDR mode is surprisingly good, and it is a wonder the same thing isn’t on professional cameras. HDR processing is so tedious on a computer!

The ability to crop and make minor enhancements directly in the app preclude you from having to work on your photos in another app, however if you MUST use Instagram, the camera that just happens to make calls delivers well for 3rd-party apps as well.

I do not believe in iCloud yet, as I am a MobileMe subscriber, and have been for the past 3 years, so I can’t tell you anything about Photo Stream. I just want to tell you about the virtues of MobileMe Galleries and being able to host your website through iWeb, but alas, that deserves a post of its own.

However, what I will tell you is that the 4S is also a very capable video camera. 1080p video is something my trusty 50D can’t do (wishing for a 5D Mark III!!!), so I can’t even hate on the beautiful video it captures. Sound is bleh, but to be expected. You totally could get away with just taking video on the phone and synching it with audio recorded on another device though.

In sum, the camera that also happens to make calls delivers photos and video better than any other I can remember, and is on par with many prosumer camera on the market in terms of automated exposure. If it allowed for finer control and manual exposure somehow I would be even more thrilled, but for now, this little device is my trustiest camera that is always on my body.

There are samples here from the beach with my mom, our hotel by the beach that had deer for neighbors, the cemetery paying respects to my grandparents, and the plane ride back home. Let me know what you think!

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The Leap Day Post That Almost Didn’t Exist

I am rushing to finish this post for you before the Leap Day is over, and before February is over. Though I did not post anything all month, I wanted to share the last of the photos I took while at home with my family.

My dad and his wife took my brother and I to Deception Pass, up the coast of Washington. To be honest, I slept through more of the ride than I normally would have, but I did wake up for a quick trip to a vintage car shop, where I saw a very sexy Mustang and some cool Impalas.

Once we made it to Deception Pass, we were a little disheartened that the boat service that we were hoping to ride on, was closed for the season. Sadface! After some guffawing and haranguing, we scored some tickets to come back later when the season is full throttle. I did see a live BALD EAGLE though! A living symbol of America!

Instead of boating around the islands, we kept our visit topside and walked across the pass. The wind whipped around us, and the air was so fresh and full of the green goodness that emanates from all the trees.

The little emerald islands in and around the waterway were beautiful to behold. Though the water wears them down over time, they still remain, and are truly stunning against the rushing water.

We stopped by a National Park on the way home, and I would be pulling straws if I were to try and recall the name, but it was even more beautiful! We didn’t stay long because the day was getting shorter by the minute, and the sunlight was running out. We took a ferry back to the city and enjoyed the view.

Though the trip was not what we set out to do, I can’t imagine spending a great time with my family any other way. I cannot wait to come back home to take more pictures from the beautiful place I grew up in.

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At the Ocean with Mom

I had not been home to see my parents in forever and a half, so I took some time and came home to Washington to stay with them for a week. I have definitely been needing some time to recharge, reassess, and relax, so I am enjoying my time here with them.

Mom and I had been planning on spending some time to ourselves for a while, so we decided to come and stay in Ocean Shores for the weekend. Our hotel, the Grey Gull, is right on the beach, has a fantastic view, and is quite nicely appointed.

The two of us wandered down to the beach before sunset, and caught a glimpse of the tide starting to come in. I can’t wait to go to the jetty tomorrow and see what washes ashore in the morning. I like going the morning after a storm and being first on the beach to find treasure.

Between the gulls and the grey skies we had a great time walking along the beach. Hearing the ocean roar is an amazing reminder of the power of nature and the infinite detail in the world that we live in.

The goal tomorrow is to find some cool shells on the beach, investigate any cool animals or treasure that washes up, and check out a little house for mom to retire in that is not too far from the beach.

More to come soon!

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Fun With Frigid Photos

Currently, it is 22 degrees in New York. Brrrrrrr! I don’t even want to get into how chilly it is factoring in the wind. I will refrain from complaining too much though, because at this time last year, we were covered in snaux. My feelings on the white stuff are as follows: it looks nice when it is fresh, and is fun up until you actually have to trudge through it. In short, I was pleased we did not have a white Christmas this year.

All in all, we have had a pretty mild winter so far (knocks on wood). I have been able to wander about more than I normally would given the temperature, so I have been grateful for the extra rays the sun has been throwing our way (whether or not I made the sun shine lately).

Today I was set on taking photos for Gizmodo’s weekly shooting challenge. I am always amazed at the entries and winners each week, but have never participated myself. Something stirred in me today, so I set off for my old garden, and the High Line, to take some fabulous winter photos that used the compositional rule of thirds for the challenge.

My first stop at the community garden on 48th between 9th and 10th was relatively brief, but I did see a few interesting things and captured a couple good shots. I missed the explosion of color from the tulip tree and the constant buzzing of bees the garden is full of during the summer months. Some kids followed in after me and tossed a football back and forth, and I didn’t want to get in the middle of their game, so I headed back to the train at 50th street.

From 50th, I took a downtown C train. It was a tiny stroke of luck that I noticed my crush on the train and he said wassup. I tried to compose myself, after remembering that I bumped into him at brunch last week randomly too.  I managed a smile and a nod and stayed cool and exited at the next stop. Since when am I shy? I turned my headphones up a little and continued on.

At 23rd and 10th, I made my way up the tinted elevator and onto the High Line. I had not been there in some months so it was a solemn winter homecoming. I remember taking photos of Anthony there last year and drawing a huge crowd. Summer bliss.

Once atop my perch on the High Line, I noticed that there were stunning, crimson berries growing on small bushes on the east side of the walkway. I took a few shots of them and then noticed I had made a tiny friend.

I am no birdwatcher, but this bird was quite interesting in that it was so handsomely patterned even in the winter. Perhaps some kind of finch? I remembered how the goldfinches played along the river bank of my old home in Tukwila, and then I got excited about seeing my family later this month.

I ended up giving this little bird quite the photo shoot, and it provided me with the perfect shot to use for the Gizmodo competition. No cropping was necessary, because the bird remained still throughout shooting, like it waited for me to compose the perfect shot. Kismet. A decisive moment from Cartier-Bresson himself.

I continued along the High Line, looking up into fantastic condos and co-ops as I wandered the wooden path. I couldn’t feel anything but crystalline pain in the tips of my fingers, so I quickened my pace and stole a few more shots from the winter cityscape, and the window displays of DVF and Alexander McQueen as I made my way back home.

Once home, I realized that while I set out to accomplish my  goal of capturing a single, perfect moment trapped in the thirds of my camera frame, I saw that nearly almost all of my photos adhere to this most golden rule without even trying. As with phi, the golden ratio, there is something pleasing about the rule of thirds and how it draws your attention to a subject and simultaneously gives it enough space to breathe life into the image.

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***UPDATE***

Though my entry in the shooting contest did not win this week, it was still featured in the gallery on Gizmodo today! I was supremely happy to see my little bird perched there amongst some amazing shots. Go ahead and check it out here.

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