The Big Apple Part II

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You wouldn’t think a Florida boy who grew up next to the Florida Everglades would love a place like New York City but I do. Although I grew up in Florida, I do have some history with New York as both my parents are from there and my grandparents lived there as well. Some of my earliest memories are of New York City and we also used to take the occasional summer trip there to visit my cousins upstate and there would usually be a side trip to the city for an afternoon. Back in October we visited New York City and it was the first time I had a chance to spend real time there and not just an afternoon or a few hours. I saw my first Broadway show, took the subway, hailed taxis, and I have to say I took to it like a native. Although it probably helped that my friend lived in the city for ten years. I suspect it wouldn’t have been so easy without someone familiar with the layout and transportation system. Would I ever consider moving to New York City? Possibly, but most likely not. The Florida Everglades are too close to my heart and it’s the place I go to decompress and gain new perspective away from the chaos that can sometimes take over our lives. I’m pretty sure it’s not so easy to get away from it all in a big city! I can be content for the time being with traveling back there for visits as well as experiencing other places both here and abroad. Whether you’re a photographer or not I think it’s important to broaden our horizons and see other areas of the country and the world.

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Manhattan skyscrapers disappear into the clouds.

When we visited New York City back in October the weather was cloudy, cold, damp, with occasional rain showers. Ditto for last month’s trip in April. While my friend was a bit disappointed, I on the other hand was looking forward to the creative photo opportunities this kind of weather can offer. These kinds of conditions can sometimes make for more interesting photos. For this trip I was able to photograph skyscrapers disappearing into the low lying clouds above, street scenes with dramatic clouds and shadows, and wet streets reflecting the buildings above. None of that would have been possible had it been clear skies and sunny days. If you travel and you’re a photographer you must use whatever conditions you encounter to your advantage. When I photograph something like the Milky Way in the Florida Everglades there is quite a bit of planning involved. I check the weather conditions and moon phases and only head out when the conditions are favorable to capture the night sky. Things are a little different when you’re traveling. Since most trips are booked far in advance, the best you can do is to research the area you’re traveling to and try to go at a time of year when the weather is more likely to cooperate with the kind of photography you want to do. Beyond that you just have to be adaptable and make the best out of whatever weather you get. Even if you’re not into photography researching the best time of year to go to a particular place is a wise idea.

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Bryant Park and the Bryant Park Grill with the New York Public Library in the background.

Due to my father’s military service my parents traveled and moved around quite frequently. One of the things I learned from them is that when it comes to restaurants, cafe’s, and pubs, try to avoid the popular tourist spots (unless of course you want to). Do some extra research and try to find out where the locals go. When my parents were traveling in the 1960’s there was no internet and they had to talk to or follow the locals to find the out of the way places. One of my favourite stories my mother used to tell is one time when they were traveling in Italy. My parents found out about a small Italian restaurant locally and they went there for dinner instead of going to one of the bigger and more popular tourist spots. What they found was a beautiful out of the way grotto restaurant with trickling fountains and portions of the roof opening up to the night sky above. This is something they never would have experienced had they just followed the tour guides. It’s much easier today to do some extra research and find those hidden treasures that make for great memories. Why go to a Starbucks, which you can most likely find in your own hometown, when you can go to a locally owned coffee house which has that extra charm and different kinds of coffee drinks and pastries than you would usually get.

A street scene in Mid-town Manhattan not far from the Chrysler Building and Bryant Park.

A street scene in Mid-town Manhattan not far from the Chrysler Building and Bryant Park.

One of the places we went to after doing some research was the Tim Burton themed Beetle House. What a unique place this was! Our host for the evening was a very talented actor who performs on varying nights as either Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands. Going from table to table, back and forth to the bar, greeting patrons, and making jokes (as Beetlejuice), he made you feel like you were part of that world. Very talented guy and he did it without being overbearing. He is also one of the managers and this is also a very clever way to make sure things run smoothly. The first night we walked in we saw him as a dead ringer for Edward Scissorhands with a demeanour to match. We found out that night that reservations are required and came back two nights later to be greeted by none other than Beetlejuice! It’s a very small place but very authentic and the food and drinks are excellent. This is an experience we never would have had if we had not done some research and exploring.

The Beetle House in New York City from Gator Creek Films on Vimeo.

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A marquee advertises the revival of Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close at the Palace Theater in Times Square.

Above all the most important thing to remember when traveling is to have fun! Traveling is supposed to be enjoyable and getting too wrapped up in having to be at a certain place by a certain time or worrying about seeing everything there is to see can take some of the fun out of it. Nobody can do everything and most of the time it isn’t possible too see all a city or location has to offer in one visit. Pick the things that are most important to you and stick to a plan but also be flexible.

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The New York Public Library.

Coming Up Next…

The Milky Way arcs over a lake in Everglades National Park.

For those of you interested in photographing the Milky Way and the night sky, I’m currently working on a two part blog with some tips and tricks for photographing the Milky Way. Photographing the night sky is not as hard as most people think but there a few things to know that will make it less frustrating. There’s nothing like looking through your viewfinder and realizing that you just nailed your first Milky Way shot! I hope to have it completed by next month so it won’t be as long of a wait between blogs this time. I’d also like to invite you to join the mailing list to receive the monthly Outpost Newsletter which has different content than the blogs. Just click on the Outpost Newsletter page above to sign up. Or just click the link to the left 😉 Most people find it easier to open an email than navigating to a website and I’ll be publishing it monthly. Best part? if you get sick of me you can always unsubscribe 😉 Until next time I hope you all have a safe and fun summer and I’ll see you back here in July. Happy shooting!

-Mark Andrew Thomas

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