Fleet Week 2014: The Fun Has Returned!

[This is a belated post on all the good things occurring during a holiday weekend in New York.]

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Every year around Memorial Day Weekend wonderful things tend to happen in this city. Usually, it starts warming up and beach season is called out for the last weekend of May (I said usually, not always, and unfortunately not this year). Then, people get together to grab a hotdog or Read More »

Three Young Photographers…

These three teenagers young adults made me blush and turn green with envy – at the same time:
How can you be 19, 20 and 21 respectively and already shoot so many beautiful pictures? The brain sprouts with creative energies. These kids seem to know how to implement their visual gift right. When I think back to 7 years ago, when I was their age once in what now seems forever, I really don’t think I was focused on any of my hobbies, least to say passions, the way they are. Matter of fact, I was still in the process of figuring things out (and some things just never change) and partying my head off. Oh, and not to forget: Going to school, of course.

Well, I certainly don’t know what these three devils do but whatever it is, they sure have enough energy and time to focus on what matters most in their lives: Creating art and experiencing photography. So here is the clique:

The youngest in the crew: Glenda
Who seems to snap some gorgeous family portraits and is interested in a wide array of themes

http://www.glendalissettephotography.com/
http://www.glendalissettephotography.com/

Then Nicholas: The Fine Art Guru
Who sets out to explore not only Virginia but also many other places and incorporates these into his portfolio.

http://nicholasscarpinato.com/
http://nicholasscarpinato.com/

And last but not least: Kyle
I stumbled across Kyle because an article was featured on, tada, good ole Facebook. He received attention through his stunning and touching self-portraits he took over the course of the past 2 years. Only in the past few months has he gained more and more prominence and now has a vast followship of more than 16,000 people on his social media site.

http://www.kylethompsonphotography.com/
http://www.kylethompsonphotography.com/

Needless to say, all three are friends and go on a few photo tours together, it appears.

How great and perhaps even inspiring to see that photography not always comes hand in hand with tons of experience and building out the visual eye aka vision. I believe that this art is one of the few where age does not play too much of a role (be it young or old) when it comes to seeing the subject in a special way and grasping a concept or even pursuing a project. Dedication combined with talent is all that matters. And dedicated they are!

These three make me wish I had discovered my visual interest way sooner. But you can’t turn back the hands of time.Everything is good the way it is right now. We live to love and appreciate. And I appreciate their work!

Why Photography Was so Challenging in Mexico

See those speakers in the background...?
See those speakers in the background…?

One of the real challenges during my recent trip was photography itself (well, taken the language barrier aside). I had been prepared to take some awesome shots of traditional Mexican costumes, some exciting snaps of people on the streets, and of course breath-taking pictures of landscapes, beautiful colors of the houses and what not. But after a few days of being there I had re-evaluate my goals: Being a photographer in Mexico would be much more challenging than this!

The first “problem” I encountered was when my camera of choice simply gave up about a week before I was supposed to go on the trip. Yup, that’s right, the Canon T3i wouldn’t work and after bringing it into a repair store the only option was to send it to Canon since it was still under warranty – luckily.
Anyone who has done this before knows that it takes about 2 weeks until they return it so I was quite bummed about not being able to use it. Luckily I had a backup camera in my old but faithful Canon XT, which has around 8 megapixels (a crushing fall from the previous 18 megapixels) but has proven to be quite solid over time. The only problem with it was that the screen was a bit small and didn’t give much feedback on how a picture turned out.

Now, getting used to the new old gear took some time by itself but eventually I had more troubles adjusting to the light conditions than anything.

Guadalajara lies in a dry climate, meaning humidity was not so much of an issue. What did indeed comprise a problem was the glaring sun coming down at almost every time of day except for sunset. That’s right, even when avoiding those all-so-dreaded times between noon and 3 PM, I still had to fight the intense sunlight at 6 o’clock at night. The result? Washed out images, harsh shadows, and an unflattering picture in altogether. Boy, was I disappointed in the first few days!

Great motive but can you see a sky?!
Great motive but can you see a sky?!

After traveling to Guanajuato and San Miguel, I was able to shoot early in the morning or late at night. But another problem followed immediately: How is it possible to enjoy your traveling when you are constantly worrying about getting or missing that one shot? It is not possible!

So I had to set my priorities straight: I would either enjoy a great trip or I had to focus most of my energy on shooting. In both cities I devoted my time to walking around for one hour a day by myself and just seeing life as was in both locations. This also meant that I had to get up earlier than the other girls or miss out on an opportunity of dining with them. It did have advantages. Having to wait on them or them having to wait on me seemed more nerve-wrecking than setting my own pace and shooting as I went along. So in this case it worked out fine. In Guadalajara not so much, as I was always with one of my friends who were my designated tour guides.

Nothing special about this one
Nothing special about this one

A fourth problem was simply the tourist part: How to shoot candid images of Mexico’s everyday life if I am only traveling to tourist sites? This is why most of my images turned out to be from well-known landmarks and parts everyone is familiar with. The approach also goes hand in hand with a sense of comfort and awareness. Mexico is not the safest country in the world. Hence, going to poorer neighborhoods could prove to be dangerous (a risk neither my friends nor I were willing to take).

Severely cropped image of a girl celebrating her 15 years.
Severely cropped image of a girl celebrating her 15 years.

Then of course there was the language barrier and not knowing if I was able to take a picture of this activity or that person without being called out or having my camera destroyed. When getting this shot from a basket weaver in Tlaquepaque, I asked the lady beforehand. She said I was only allowed to if I were to buy one of her items. I ended up purchasing a wooden spoon for 5 pesos and snapped this image of her, not too bad after all.

5 pesos picture
5 pesos picture

Between gauging if this site was too touristy but another site was too dangerous, it also turned out to be pretty hard to enjoy myself with the camera challenges in my head. After noticing how stressed out I became and how this influenced my friend’s attitude as well (no one wants to get crap for showing a tourist around, simply put), I decided to give it a break and just shoot what came in my way.
And some night pictures did indeed turn out quite well. But Mexico also seems to have a short sunset and blue-hour-sky, so be prepared for this if you ever plan on getting cityscapes at night.

Night photography in Guanajuato
Night photography in Guanajuato

Overall, I think I made the best of my trip and I am very grateful for having had two awesome tour guides (as in friends) who were very patient in showing me around.

Luckily I didn’t have the problem my friend fought with in Tulum: His camera fogged up entirely because of the high humidity in the South of Mexico. So, unlike him, I was still able to get quite a few shots while he had to simply give up after his first day. I feel for everyone who has to go through this fail!

9/11/2013: Remembering…

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Remembering the day 12 years ago when the world was forced to change its outlook and nations were affected (by shock, by loss, by war yet to come).

Once again, for the second year in row, New York is remembering by shining its bright lights through the sky. The two Freedom Towers, one still in construction, but nevertheless proudly standing on the spot where the World Trade Center used to be.

As I quote from my last year’s post:

I couldn’t help but think that this is New York’s way of remembering 9/11: Through the dark there shines a light and touches everything and everyone around it. While this city has been touched and will be touched in further decades to come, it will never forget that one day in September when its two twins were crushed eternally.

And I can’t put it in better words than I did last year, so please read the full post here.

Today we had our 93 degree (34 Celsius) weather. Hot, sweltering, almost like it was during the summer. One last day of heat, oddly on that one meaningful day. I took these two pictures at the Pulaski Bridge two nights ago. I guess the lights will shine this entire week. 9/11/2001 – you will never leave our heads, hearts, and souls.

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How the Barclays Center Changed Park Slope

The Barclays Center during sunset
The Barclays Center during sunset

Since I moved to New York, many things have changed. Some restaurants closed down which were blooming 3 years ago. Areas have become gentrified and the so-called-hood of Bushwick slowly turned into Hipster-area. Change is natural and in a city as big as New York, it happens on a much faster scale than anywhere else in the world. This is something I’ve always known and always come to love. But sometimes I just wish that things wouldn’t change as rapidly, especially in the area I am currently living at.

I moved into my new apartment about a year ago. When I moved here, the Barclays Center (described by wiki as “a multi-purposed indoor area”) was still under its way of being built up. It was a hideous line of construction running across the entire beginning section of Flatbush Avenue. For the 2 years since I came here until last year, all I could do is first ignore it and then wonder what on earth was going on when walking past it. A little research on my part and stories from an old New Yorker revealed a more than hideous story behind the (almost a) decade-long project the city had going on: Initially purchased in 2004 with the intention to build a Brooklyn-centered stadium for the NETS (who are not even from New York but New Jersey) it had been halted several times during its construction. Local residents, caring citizens, and larger groups of demonstrators made sure to extend the project with protests revolving around “eminent domain.” Eminent domain refers to a private property being taken for public use by state.

8 Barclays Center Brooklyn at night

You can see many examples of eminent domain throughout New York, especially in Brooklyn. Take a large part of the Williamsburg waterfront, for example. Take all those hideous condos blocking the neighbors’ view towards Manhattan and disfiguring the Brooklyn skyline. Not to mention the large project going on in Greenpoint right now, which includes further condo building and gentrifying of a neighborhood that once used to be traditional Polish. You might ask yourselves what condos have to do with public use (and you are not alone in this opinion). Bloomberg decided it would do the neighborhood good to have some high-income housing available so that the tax money can be used for poorer neighborhoods.
The city has systematically kicked out residents who were in ownership of their smaller apartments for decades, leaving them to decide where to move next. How does the government get out of it? There are a few ways but the most popular one is to claim that they will let a certain percentage of socially disadvantaged people live in these new housing “projects.” Which coincidentally never happens once the millionaires decide to buy it all up.

6 Barclays Center Brooklyn at night

Back to the Barclays Center: The neighborhood was clearly upset about what was going on and had regular protest a few times a month. I once saw one when walking home from the subway station: A smallish group with signs in their hands who were furiously trying to get in the way of a bulldozer. What used to be projects and buildings owned by private people, has been reduced to rubble within a few months only. Century-old townhouses and projects which were once homes for Brooklynites – demolished in a relatively short time frame.

Well, as you can tell, protesting hasn’t helped much other than increasing public awareness and getting a news channel out here once in a while. So the Barclays was doomed to open at what must have been the end of September. The glorious Jay-Z performed on its opening night and several weeks thereafter. The Nets prepared for a good season. The subway ads were covered in pictures of young basketball players and their infamous quotes.

10 Barclays Center Brooklyn close up

I once ran into a group of New Jersey people who were all dressed in white and drunkenly stumbling around the neighborhood, looking for a bar. They answered my curious question on their dress code by pointing out that there was an “all-white” house party going on in the Barclays, which they had been looking forward to for months. I wished to never see such a sight again… Oh how wrong I was! Not only did a new bar open up last August right across the street from where I live (the one and only KBH).
We also have a regular influx of Long Islanders, New Jerseyians, and other tourists overpopulating our area on random days of the week. My once favorite go-to-bistro has increased its prizes steadily ever since the monstrosity opened up. Bars and restaurants have switched their waiters for better customer service, which I approve of, but it’s seriously no fun to enjoy chips and guac if you have a screaming group of drunk Long Island chicks sitting next to you.

I sometimes feel transformed back into Manhattan, most likely the Lower East Side. In a way, the Barclays Center can be described as the Times Square of Brooklyn: it’s becoming more and more of a “landmark” attracting all the wrong people. Nowadays I always freak out when I hear German in my neighborhood. I used to be curious how these tourists heard about Park Slope but now I just sneer at them and try to be as rude as possible. “Perhaps that will get them out eventually,” was my initial thought. It doesn’t seem like it.

An obnoxious amount of people in front of Brooklyn's Times Square
An obnoxious amount of people in front of Brooklyn’s Times Square

Now, in addition to the added stream of strangers in the neighborhood, the Barclays Center also happens to look quite hideous. If it at least had a classic appearance or a great architecture, I might be able to ignore all the tumult going on in the area. But no, it sticks out like a sore thumb in the crowd of appealing town houses. Its steel roof looks quite unfinished and a blinking hole in between makes it appear like an out of space invention. I’m sure it’s meant to be great modern architecture but so far I haven’t heard of anyone that it looks like art.

Well, what can I say? Rents have already looped up to a sky-rocketing price. What used to be affordable has now turned into one of the biggest real estate markets in town. I just hope I’ll be able to survive here for a little longer, because on normal weekdays, this neighborhood really ROCKS. And an added treat is the better customer service at Target, which was always one of the least friendly stores in town. Now if I could only remember to get off at “Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center” which used to be called “Pacific Street” when taking the subway… Phewww!

The dubious hole
The dubious hole

10 Barclays Center Brooklyn close up

[For more pictures, go to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn (night view).]

#BllPhotoaday for June: Simplicity

Unlike other times I participated in a photo challenge, I am announcing this one ahead of time. That’s right, this girl is doing another picture show during the month of June. And because I like her topics so very much (and actively suggested 3 of them! *proud-be*), I am being part of Belovelive’s A Picture a Day.
The idea is the same it was with the other four challenges: Take a picture every day, post, and enjoy other people’s ideas.

Theme for this month is Simplicity, as, I quote from Liz, “we can choose to live simply and to simply live.”
Since June also happens to be my birthday month, I think I’ll find a ton of simple, awe-inspiring things to photograph. I also like how she describes this challenge as an actual “journey” – 30 days out of the year to realistically venture out and see something else, be someone else, and do something else.

blllphotoaday june 2013

So, if you’re in, be part of something great that is becoming greater as we speak! Over 1,100 pictures have already been tagged with her picture challenge since December and figures are rising. Get your iPhone, your Android, your digi cam and snap away. Don’t forget to share, either.

Hashtag is #bllphotoaday and photos will be posted via blog and Instagram. But really mostly on Instagram, since that is where all the action is going down.

Peace, let’s stay simple!

Nemo Flaking Its Way into New York

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Another storm has entered New York. This time in form of a blizzard. Heck, we haven’t had a blizzard in over 2 years! I had almost forgotten what real snow looks like until I left my apartment this night.
Crunchy white mass sticking to my shoes, flakes melting as soon as they touched my cheek. Snow in the Big Apple – it’s been so long.

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And while in the season of 2010/2011, we had two real snow days (snow days meaning days off work due to snow storms), today we had to work until the bitter end. Despite the weather forecast texting our all cell phones yesterday afternoon (Bloomberg must have paid an exorbitant amount to make sure every person in the metro area was well informed of the current conditions!), not every company allowed their employees to leave early, least to say, stay home on Friday (today).

It surely was not as bad at 5 PM but it got worse and worse until the constant flow of snow came drifting out of the sky. And still is. Most likely until tomorrow.

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These pictures were taken while walking around Park Slope just a few hours ago. Enjoy!

Cool Places You Can Find Me At (Part II)

A couple of months back I introduced you to nice selection of pages I frequent way too often use to gain some online presence. From then until now, a few changes have happened. And I am incredibly excited and happy to announce that most of these have occurred in a photographic sense.

Number one is …

website

My dream has always been to have my very own web site, not necessarily designed by a blog or some other platform. So after 2 painful months and lots of back and forth with an actual web designer, I can now proudly present to you: My very own photography portfolio!

So far, I’ve expanded it into 7 categories, all with significantly more pictures than the old portfolio provided. More info on purchasing pictures and pricing for session is also given, in case you are interested in private shoots.

I’ve had some incredibly positive feedback regarding my first dot com and I myself am pleasantly surprised that it has turned out to look so professional. It’s easily accessible and not too complicated when it comes to navigating through the selection of pictures. I hope you enjoy looking at the pages and let me know if you find something input-worthy!

facebook page

Then, you will find more frequent photography stuff on my very own Facebook page! That’s right, just look up and to the right, where you will find the “like” button for Facebook. Yes, I’ve broken down and discovered that being an artist and expressing one’s own talent can be quite successful when sharing it by means of a social media page. You will find albums with the most current shots and also links to the photography blog, where even more current shots will be posted. All in all, I’ve gained more following than initially thought and I hope one day I can work on an exclusive referral base. (don’t forget to hit that “like” button!)

yelp

Third, I yelp! I’ve discovered voicing my unannounced opinion and rating bars, restaurants, hotels – pretty much everything on the online social media platform. I’m getting my words out there and have already gotten so-called compliments (you got the “write” stuff, babe). Not that it really means much but I did start relying more frequently on how restaurants were rated on yelp before I head over there. Then again, it’s more fun to explore bars no one has ever ventured to just to be the first person to give a great rating. Sigh, it’s all very time-consuming but also fun and easy to become addicted to. I’d recommend it to anyone who has had a really good or a really bad experience in the service industry and wants to spread the word.

about me page

Last, but certainly not least, find me on About Me – a page which offers an overview of all the online sites you can currently find me under. I don’t remember how I’ve come across this page but somehow I saw it and signed up for it, therefore I am now introducing it to you. It might be sweet for people who are searching in one category or another and discover that you have all the talents they wanted. Either way, I find it quite appealing with the two images you can display on your site and it’s quite easy to walk through, don’t you think?

So far, my online presence has been expanded to the links mentioned above, but when will an end come in sight?! I have recently looked at joining Pinterest as it seems to be the next hot thing in the universe. I am not sure if I’ll ever find the time to sign up for it, though.

Have you guys been stricken by the Pinterest fever? If not, what are your online habits?

Holiday Market at Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Tree

The days are drawing to a close as we approach Christmas Eve. Yesterday I had the chance to experience yet another fancy shmancy market: The Columbus Circle Holiday Market right next to Central Park and close to the shopping mall. Caved in between two cross-overs, it is pretty decent in size and houses many vendors similar to its sister markets at Union Square and Bryant Park. I’ve seen the exact same vendors at all three markets, such as the turning disks which display rapidly changing insects on them.

Holiday Market Columbus Circle - 8

I’ve also gotten the impression that many more jewelry sellers are promoting their merchandise at Columbus Circle than elsewhere. Here I have come across really funky looking rings made of antique brass dating back to the 1940s and equipped with heads of medieval-looking queens. Judy Kaye offers more on her Web Site, in case you are interested.

Holiday Market Columbus Circle - 4

Then I’ve seen Luminite stones featured by Peaceful Presents who were offering a drawing to win an entire set of their lovely art. Of course I had to participate after snapping this lovely picture.

Holiday Market Columbus Circle - 3

There is an actual food court at this market and it looks more organized than elsewhere. People have the chance to eat a variety of different foods, observe their surroundings, and think about what they want to purchase next. Vendors come from different countries. Of course the German Delights stand cannot be amiss. I’ve also come across a French vendor offering oriental spices for cooking and decorating.

As a pre-holiday activity, I planned on checking out the Rockefeller Tree before all of those annoying numerous tourists get to block it on Christmas Day. My way over there was already eventful enough as I walked towards Fifth Avenue and ran across this forest of lit trees.

forest of lit trees

Then the glamorous Fifth Avenue with its displays at the Bergdorf Goodman (possibly one of the most expensive shops around). Hollister’s half-naked models portrayed in the windows (some things never change). A fountain of lights running down a façade.

Bergman Window Deco
Bergman Window Deco
Lit Facade
Lit Facade

And then of course the one and only Rockefeller Tree, already taken in by hordes and masses of tourists. I got as close as I could without having to risk a shove in the elbow or neck and then I made sure to get out of there as safely as possible. I really can’t imagine how I’ve enjoyed a Christmas Day stroll around this part of town after seeing what was going on yesterday. Another cute highlight are the red ornaments displayed on fountains a block over, which I’ve always come to love when I am in the area.

The one and only Rockefeller
The one and only Rockefeller
Cute ornaments a block over
Cute ornaments a block over

The beauty about celebrating the holidays in the City is not so much the actual day but the entire chaos going on weeks before. Macy’s decorations, tree lightings, and all nations imaginable streaming into Manhattan to get some shopping done. Oh yes, this will be yet another eventful Christmas in New York!

[For more pics on the Columbus Circle Holiday Market go to A Picture Every Day!]

A Weekend in Baltimore: Exploring a Highly Underrated City

What’s the first thing to cross your mind when it comes to the state of Maryland? Crabs, seafood, ocean, saltwater? These were pretty much the first thoughts that raced through my head when I thought about the place one of my fellow New York friends is originally from. And less so I would have never imagined I would ever make it here, despite that fact that I have a degree from the University of Maryland (their European division offers courses in my German hometown, believe it or not).

I know it’s close to DC, a city I spent one fabulous weekend in only 1 1/2 half years back. But much further reason to venture out to this part of the East Coast I certainly did not have. Until one day my friend spontaneously invited me and another friend to come visit her home place, the city of her student times, to relive many of the crazy nights back when she used to work and study there.

Unfortunately for friend number 3, he never made it on that bus in time and therefore had to miss out on a fantastic weekend in supposedly one of the most dangerous cities of the US. That’s right, this East Coast gem has many hideous but also paradox names attached to it, such as “Bodymore” or “Be-no-more.” Regardless of its humorous label, we certainly stayed away from the ghetto and situated ourselves in the safe downtown area.

Luckily, my friend found a sweet deal at the so-called Mount Vernon Hotel and Café right in, you guessed it, the Mount Vernon neighborhood of town. If you need any directions, it is a 5 minute walk from the famous Washington Monument and only a few additional minutes away from the beautiful Inner Harbor. Peculiarly enough and certainly unknown to me, Baltimore has a monument, similar to the one in Boston and DC. Since it is the tallest memorial in town, it sticks out everywhere you go, be it day or night.

Baltimore Memorial at Night

After an exhausting bus ride with the one and only Bolt bus (more to come later), we got off and first had to grab a bite to feed our starving stomachs. By then, it was ten o’clock at night and we certainly gave up hope in finding quality food anywhere close to our hotel. Then we strolled past Never on Sunday and I instantly fell in love with this simple but sturdy dinner. Good food, great price and humorous people taking your order – what else could you wish for during your first encounter with Baltimoreans? After getting a tuna club sandwich with the necessary side of fries (half of it ended up in a wastebasket two hours later) and a grilled sandwich for my friend, we then went on to celebrate the start of our trip with a beer from the Stables, a bar not too far from the first joint. On this particular Friday night, the crowd was mixed – students, elderly, even family-type of groups could be found within that one hour we were sitting at the bar, admiring the tap collection and talking through the main goals of the trip.

After this, we called it a night pretty early and found ourselves back in our now freezing cold hotel room at 1 AM. While we had noticed the low temperatures when we checked in, we didn’t really take the time to see if the heat had been actually turned out. Big mistake! And at 1 AM we certainly did not feel like messing around with the switches and knobs and the confusing looking heater. So we ended up waking up in intervals of every two hours just because it was piercingly cold during the night. Luckily for me (and my friend), I made a point in asking for a partial refund and the hotel was nice to offer us $30 back from a total of $200 (which makes it $100/night, not too bad, eeeh?!).

After a great continental hotel breakfast, we walked south towards the harbor, passing many little coffee and tea shops, which helped warm up things quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, Bmore is still significantly warmer than New York, but even in November it’s necessary to bundle up if you plan on spending some time outside (except for my friend, who seemed to have lost all sense of temperature perception).

The Inner Harbor is a beautiful area for tourists and photographers alike. Of course it’s the main hub, attracting many souvenir collectors, sightseers, and other strangers to take in the best of the city. The view it offers is beautiful and it hosts many different city events, such as a holiday market when we were there. From here, we took in a better panorama above the city at a spot called Federal Hill. It also has a few bars and restaurants, in case you every want to spend your time there. Little Italy is opposite of this neighborhood, way on the other side and closer to the downtown area. It was rather deserted when we swung by, but nonetheless very colorful and offering a variety of quaint Italian restaurants to go to. In the end we opted to take in a late brunch/ lunch at James Joyce, a colorful Irish pub close to the Inner Harbor. The ultimate highlight of this trip: Artichoke-Crab Dip paired with Bloody Mary’s! Yes!

From top to bottom: Tuna Club Sammich, Artichoke Crab Dip, and omelette

From here we decided to stroll around some more. Our evening plans were to go once again to Never on Sunday for a quick supper and then to pop in a bar where her friend worked at: Brewer’s Art! Unique beers with funny names were offered here and I even managed to try two different types whose names I’ve forgotten. A bustling joint at 10 PM already, I was harshly reminded how soon spots close anywhere outside of New York: 2 AM is a common, nationwide curfew and that was indeed when we found ourselves transformed back in our hotel rooms, this time with warm temperatures (thanks to complaining). Not without having made friends with some enthusiastic Frenchies, who were thrilled by the city and made fun of the rest of the crowd and other American habits.

Baltimore Harbor and us!

The rest of the trip went by in a blink: Brunch at my friend’s former work spot: The Owl Bar at the Belvedere Hotel (this time also deserted, which back in her time was uncommon, as she pointed out to me). Walking among further smaller neighborhoods, doing more window shopping than actually buying anything (although I managed to snag some books for only 50 cents a piece at the most random book store we could find). Our bus back was scheduled to run at 4 PM, so we ran past the Penn Station of Bmore one last time – a gorgeous old building with a hideous modern statue of an oversized woman in front of it.

Yes, Baltimore, together with its crab dip and old school elevators, certainly made a great first impression on me. I can recommend this not so popular town yet on the East Coast to anyone who wants to dig deep into the colonial history of the US and have a positive vibe attached to it. The Bmore people talk with a sympathetic drawl and are always quick to explain simple facts of their town to you.

Inner Harbor at night

Oh, and the Bolt bus? Shaky on the ride to, and smelly on the ride back. A passenger managed to smoke pot during the first hour of our trip towards Baltimore, which we found rather… well, odd?! I guess it’s always an experience to try these types of transportation out. With $50 roundtrip, we couldn’t really complain, though. The rides were between 3 1/2 and 4 hours long. There is also a train that goes there directly but with only one hour less travel time and more than two times the fee, it didn’t make much sense for us to take it.

Little Italy

[For more pictures go to:

Baltimore During Day (I)
Baltimore During Day (II)
Baltimore at Night]

A Day in Jersey City: Weekend Glories

Wide streets framed with high trees. A typical American diner serving silver dollar pancakes to big families. A not too crowded park that leads you through the jungle to the open water.

Last Sunday I spent a day in New Jersey together with my friends who showed me around. They are a couple and moved into their new apartment at the beginning of this year. Because they wanted to be close to the City but couldn’t afford the outrageous one-bedroom rates of Manhattan, they choose Jersey City as their new home destination. I don’t think they’ve ever regretted crossing the Hudson River ever since. They were simply over their shared apartment situation in Bushwick and NJ was exactly what they needed: A peaceful area with affordable rentals and lots of opportunities to travel in and out of New York.

Now, there are several ways to get over to New Jersey. You can rely on a bus or New Jersey transit, a train that will take you from the main stations, such as Penn and Grand Central, to the bigger cities. The easiest means of travel is most likely the PATH: An underground train that you can catch throughout Manhattan and that catapults you to the Garden State within minutes.

Coming from Brooklyn, I took the PATH from the World Trade Center Station. It is a little bizarre to get there via this route because you first have to take the R to Cortland Street and, instead of switching over to the PATH underground, you will have to walk out of the subway station, a few blocks past the new Liberty Tower, then take a left to finally enter the train station. Got it? Exactly! It took me two tries to get there. In case you get lost, there are a few stingy signs on the way but unfortunately it is easier to orient yourself on the hectic crowds scurrying ahead of you then relying on the scarcely written words. Of course the PATH can feel like you are transformed to a different universe at times, especially since so many people from New Jersey are taking it. While they are not completely foreign, the vibes you get on the PATH are just so very different than anywhere else in the city. The funniest costume I’ve seen on it so far was the Bird Man: An eccentric-looking guy who dresses in fluffy, uni-colored outfits every day and either walks the Brooklyn Bridge or travels over to New Jersey. Back in February he had his red outfit on as he was was buying a ride over to NJ. Right when I got this awesome shot of him.

Other than that, a PATH ride can be rather uneventful. Compared to NYC subways, of course. To get to Jersey City, I got off at Grove Street, which catapulted me into the center of this quaint town (or so it seemed). Especially since it was the weekend, I saw people walking around fruit and veggie stands as soon as I was above ground. Perfect timing for a weekly green market in the middle of the town.

While taking a look around and walking towards my friends’ house, I discovered a good indicator of having left the Big Apple for sure: The streets were wider, the avenues longer, and everyone a bit happier. Jersey City can also easily convey the airs of a hipster town or college student center, I have found. When walking through the streets, I have sometimes been struck by a striking resemblance to Park Slope, except for that the roads are further apart. “No wonder you felt that way!” my friend explained to me. “The brownstones you see here are from the exact same era than the brownstones in Brooklyn. Together with the trees lining the streets and the occasional dog and baby stroller, you can surely have the impression that you are still in the Slope.”

Jersey City graffiti

In the beginning I really did not feel like I had left my neighborhood. Until I saw the restaurants and bars. A neighborhood group gathered around huge TVs. Or the Sunday brunch crowd. Just so very different than in Breukelen. On Sunday my friends wanted to show me how huge the portions are you get in New Jersey. Therefore, they picked their favorite diner only minutes from their apt. “We really love that everything is close-by. You don’t need a car – unlike everyone wants to make you believe when you mention you are moving to Jersey. Bars, cafes, restaurants – everything is so close and we don’t even leave the town anymore on the weekends unless we have to”, my friends were eager to point out to me. True, the PATH was a good 15 mins walk away. But everything else was about as close as it could get.

Such as the Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory diner, for example. A few blocks over and close to the park, we entered it on a busy Saturday afternoon. Early lunch time. Big families with infants and babies who were devouring huge portions of scrambled eggs, and pancakes, and bacon … you name it! My mouth was watering just by looking at the food. “This is our favorite spot” my friend proudly announced as he heard my stomach growl. “And the best thing about it is that it is just so much cheaper than Manhattan!” Well, in Manhattan you would not find diners like these. I am sure they would be boycotted by some green/go-vegan/preserve-the-originality-of-New-York kinda group. Which is absolutely fine, that’s why New Jersey offers a close compromise, where you can devour a family-sized breakfast and not feel guilty. For ten bucks I got a cheese omelet, silver-dollar-pancakes (how original is that!), home fries and some fresh orange juice. What a meal! I was able to finish about 3/4 of it until I finally gave up. Thumbs up to that!

Huge brunch in New Jersey

After our marathon brunch we were a bit stuffed, so my friends decided to go to one of the biggest parks in town. Their little dog Beija accompanied us and stuck her tiny nose in about everything she came across. On our way to it, she discovered a small snake lying around on the road. I never thought of New Jersey even having snakes, so I learned something new that day (one out of many things, actually).

Liberty State Park is an extensive green area, ideal for walking, hiking, yachting, and sightseeing. So pretty much anything you feel like doing on a weekend. They have cute little benches that overlook the skyline of Manhattan. They also have a historic train station which is now out of service but can still be visited for purposes of photo shoots or simply exploring. That day we saw three different wedding parties posing with their bridesmaids, groom helpers and families in front of the red brick walls of the train station. Luckily it was a gorgeous day out, with a high of 75 and no sign of rain on the baby blue sky.

Liberty State Park
My friends at Liberty State Park

Aside from the old wagons, the green trees, and the towers of Manhattan looming in the background, my friends showed me a very special spot of which I and most likely other New Yorkers had no idea it even existed: The 9/11 Memorial, Jersey-bound. Jersey City built the so-called Empty Sky and finished its construction at the same time the Manhattan counterpart opened to the public – on the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11. Its most predominant features are two opposing walls with the victims’ names, through which visitors can walk and see themselves in mirror-like fashion. These kinds of memorials always give me a huge gulp and I was touched by how every city close to New York seems to remember that one awful day in 2001.

New Jersey’s version of the 9/11 Memorial

Aside from the memorial, the town is connected to New York via ferry route. A boat goes out to Liberty and Ellis Island on a regular basis, which emphasizes the crucial role New Jersey withholds in the Tri-State relationship to New York. Often people, visitors and citizens, tend to forget this.

I was happy to have the chance of seeing Liberty State Park and spending an entire day with my friends whom I have a hard time meeting in the City nowadays due to different work schedules and other hectic hobbies. It was an honor for me to be their private photographer and take in their routine of a typical Sunday out in New Jersey. I am sure that I will one day come back to this mysteriously charming place, and if it’s just to see the skyline for the small fee of a PATH train ride.

Liberty Harbor is always worth seeing

For more infos on Liberty State Park, go here and here.
For more pictures on Beija, the beloved dog, go here.
For more pictures on Jersey City, go here.

What If … The Growing Pains of a Photographer

Art-wise the past few months have been quite a lively time for me. I’ve started building up my photography portfolio recently and have been involved in more and more shoots as time has gone by. Photography has developed into a true passion of mine. It is what my heart desires at the current moment. Despite my liking for it and wanting to shoot out in the field every single day, there are a few aspects that have become larger as we speak. They are called the growing pains of an aspiring photographer. I also like to name then the “what ifs”.

Doubt is a natural thing for anyone to have. I have started dealing with doubts the more and more pressure has been put on me. I believe the first time it must have been when I was the only professional shooting my friend’s wedding back in Germany. It all started good, I had my camera ready and was ready to roll. All of a sudden the battery started acting up and the camera shut off. “Don’t you have a back-up or anything?” my friend whispered to me while she witnessed a shocked expression slowly forming on my face. “Uh, I used to but it dropped and shattered into pieces last week” was my shaky answer. I hoped that it was just a temporary thing and that I was still able to get some pictures on that very special day. I knew how much the couple was counting on me. Luckily, for me and everyone else, I got some great 600 shots over the course of the entire event. Canon did not disappoint.
I made a point in buying a backup battery the week I returned from my vacation and have successfully used it ever since.

Something like the aforementioned scenario could be any photographer’s biggest nightmare. Among others, of course. But what are you going to do if your only equipment gives up and you don’t have a Plan B? I have so far bought a few memory cards and other accessories to prevent these things from happening in the future. I have also come into possession of another digital camera, which I warily carry with me now. My photographer friend suggested a great thing: He told me I shouldn’t sell my old camera but keep it as a back-up. So if one fails, I still have another. What a fabulous plan, I find. I guess I have found my Plan B.

Other than equipment problems, there is the pressure of having to give a great performance on the day of the shoot. A good photographer has to be a master in directing. Your subjects are not paying you for nothing, right?! So if they are not in a good mood or insecure, you will have to swallow your annoyance down and try to change their attitude towards the shoot. I sometimes wonder on the day of the performance if I will be able to do it all. If I am able to find a good angle, to satisfy my client, to shoot some great pictures. So far, it has gone well each and every time. I have exceeded my initial expectations and every person has contributed to my outlook of things in a very special way. Still, performance pressure remains. Sometimes this is not a bad thing, I find. Because for every successfully mastered situation you gain a new confidence that stands in opposition to your doubt.

And then of course the big responsibility you carry. “Can you imagine everything going well and then you lose your pictures of the entire shoot?” my friend asked me once. I never really thought about it. And I hate to waste my time on compensation issues and damage payments for a case like this. Still, a reasonable doubt, how I find. I just hope I know how to deal with it the day it shows up.

As much fun as shooting people and events can be, there will always be a form of pressure nagging on you. Be it equipment troubles, performance pressure, weather-related problems or other get-in-the ways – you do not stand alone! Something that really helps me whenever I have any form of fear or self-doubt: Sh*t happens! To anyone. A fellow FIT course-mate told me about her first internship she had when she was in South Africa. She was accompanying a renowned wedding photographer on one of her clients’ special day. Suddenly her boss’ camera stopped working and my acquaintance was quickly made into the main photographer for the remainder of the event. It turned out to be a fabulous occasion for her to show her skill set and she mastered the rest just fine.

Yes, photographers have a great responsibility and carry a good amount of weight on their shoulders. But so do other jobs, don’t you think? The writer who has to come up with two articles a day or a written quota of words for a book. The model who has to get rid of all her zits and body fat within a week because Fashion Show is approaching. Or the CEO of a company who is made responsible for the loss of sales happening over the past month.

Photography is one of those things: As long as it is still fun and it satisfy your inner desires, it is worth pursuing. Responsibility and pressure taken aside: Sometimes you just have to purge ahead and make the best out of each new opportunity!