21 January 2010

Reservoir Dogpatch

Just to the east of Potrero Hill, where I live in San Francisco, is the industrial waterfront suburb of Mission Bay/Dogpatch. The area used to be an old railyard area and still contains many factories and a working dockyard. It's being broken down and rebuilt as a biotech hub, along with a new UCSF campus and a whole pile of new condo housing.

Given the intermediate status of the area, it's satisfyingly quiet, urban and a bit run down, leading to some awesome opportunities for photos. I think I'm going to be spending my next few weekends poking around to see what I can see here.

fire lane


These are from the area around Illinois and 22nd St.

There's an active flickr group with many photos of the area. In particular look out for photos by natu®e, who takes some awesome pictures of the area. Hes also a bit of a ninja with his iPhone pics too - very compelling stuff.

rectangular aperture
Side of an parking garage in Mission Bay

USNS Mercy
The USNS Mercy, docked at pier 70

78 stone wobble

11 January 2010

New York City, ancillary auxiliary appendix (in 3D)

No trip to anywhere I go would be complete without some needless, surplus and redundant display of flagrant geekery. Thanks to fksr, I've been bitten by the 3D anaglyph photo bug.

In an effort to try to learn a bit more about the process, I went ahead and snapped left-right image pairs in different scenarios to try to learn what does and doesn't work in stereo.

Anagylph: NYC: Queens

The image above has a pretty strong separation between left and right, with a definite foreground, midground and background. I've chosen to register the images in the midground, and there the 3D effect is subtle and it seems to work reasonably well. However, in the extreme foreground, the separation is pretty huge and this causes the the car in the front right to oscillate unpleasantly.

fksr also points out that stereo elements right at the vertical edges of the frame are partially cut off in both eyes, which probably doesn't help in terms of resolving the picture as stereo.

Anagylph: NYC: Queens

This next image displays the same issues as the one here - the separation distance is pretty huge, so the foreground and background sections seem to also oscillate.

Anagylph: Utah: Salt Lake City?

This image, taken from the plane window flying back to San Francisco, doesn't have the same issues as the first two. Here, there seems to be just a foreground and a background element, and a relatively small amount of shift. The 3D effect is less dramatic, but, to me at least, more effective.

Anagylph: Utah: field factory

As with the first flyover image, the 3D effect here is a less dramatic but more effective. Again, I'd argue that due to the simpler composition - background, foreground - it's less busy and the effect is more convincing. Plus, the more subtle separation between left and right helps.

So what have I learned? Well, so far it seems that for an effective image, separation distance is key, try to keep the image not too busy (i.e. having only a few elements that you want to 'pop' as 3D) and you must attempt to prevent your stereo components from intersecting the left and right parts of the image frame. Getting an effective 3D image, it seems, isn't just snapping left and right pairs - composition in the z-direction (i.e. ordering stuff in terms of depth) is also critical.

9 January 2010

New York City, part 6: The Meatpacking district

[Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here]

NYC:Meatpacking: The Standard

Towering over the The High Line in the Meatpacking district of NYC is the Standard Hotel, what at first glance (for me at least) was a breathtaking, cheesy remnant of 70's architecture. I was surprised to learn then that it was only finished in January 2009.

The spindly supports of the hotel sit over the park, with no easily apparent way of getting in. It's a truly impressive sight.

NYC:Meatpacking: Gold Standard

The High Line park is a converted section of elevated railroad that runs from downtown into Chelsea. Though it isn't completely open, you can wander along a large section of it. The tracks themselves have been preserved, with landscaped gardens interleaved into the concrete walkways. From it's height above ground, it's peculiarly peaceful and quiet.

NYC:Meatpacking: Marilyn's sultry eyes

The Meatpacking district in New York is absolutely packed with street art. All over the place you'll find murals and installations around many indoor galleries all the way up to Chelsea. I think it's safe to say that it was my favourite bit of town and I'm keen on getting a chance to visit again some time.

I'm not sure who is behind this mural but it seems to be at least partially derived from this picture. It seems that the murals do evolve (source: here).

NYC:Meatpacking: D*Face all your dreams

The artist behind this one is D*Face; there's a time-lapse video of this mural going up here.

NYC:Meatpacking: No third terms!

In an attempt to depose the incumbent Mayor, Michael Bloomerg, Monty Burns ran for the post. It's good to know that he didn't do too badly in the race.

NYC:Meatpacking: Leeman 01

NYC:Meatpacking: Leeman 00

Hugh Leeman who makes awesome, floating heads. I've found examples of his work in San Francisco as well (though I didn't know who was behind it at the time).

NYC:Meatpacking: Invader

Invader installs tasty little space invader murals all over the world, documenting the effort. Next time I go I think I'll be keeping an eye out for these little guys :)

That's the end of this series for now. New York was an absolute eye-opener, a thriving, self-assured metropolis of truly gargantuan proportions. I'm looking forward to going again.

8 January 2010

New York City, part 5: Uptown Manhattan

[Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here]

NYC:Uptown: George Washington sunset

Just up the road from my cousin's place in uptown Manhattan is the George Washington Bridge, connecting Manhattan to New Jersey over the Hudson river. It's a two-deck suspension bridge, and it's the highest capacity bridge on the planet in terms of the amount of traffic it moves every year. More awesome: the bridge is also namesake of a character in the Marvel Comics Universe :)

NYC:Uptown: the net

NYC:Uptown: The little lighthouse that could

The Little Red Lighthouse lives under the George Washington Bridge and is the subject of a children's book.

NYC:Uptown: fallout shelter

Turns out that New York City is riddled with fallout shelters. These shelters were nominated areas for people to gather in safety after a blast, and were selected by the government during the Cold War as part of the Community Fallout Shelter program. I'm not sure if the shelters themselves are still stocked and functional, but many of the signs still remain.

NYC:Uptown: long shadows

NYC:Uptown: The Cloisters

The Cloisters function as a museum located in Fort Tyron Park, uptown Manhattan. The museum was built in the forties as a branch of the Metropolitan museum and is a home to many thousands of pieces of medieval art.

NYC:Uptown: The Cloisters

The building itself is constructed from the remains of monasteries and cathedrals from that period in Europe, the name itself describing the many covered, partially open walkways that medieval monks would spend time in, playing corridor cricket, beer pong or simply in quiet meditation.

NYC:Uptown: The Cloisters

6 January 2010

New York City, part 4: The 7

[Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here]

NYC: The 7: 74th St.

The number 7 Flushing local MTA line was our reliable chariot for the time we were staying in New York City, and ferried us between Manhattan and Queens (where we stayed for most of the trip). There's a section of elevated rail that takes you around and above the gritty parts of Queens that lie near the subway. This is absolutely magnetic for taking the kind of photos I like, and I snapped like a madman once the conditions were right for taking photos from the subway car.

The interesting part of these pictures are in the detail, and I'd also highly recommend seeing them as a slideshow (link at the end).

NYC: The 7: Taxiing for takeoff

NYC: The 7: xing 00

The 7 seems to run through crisscrossing gullies and valleys between buildings and overpasses, and you get fleeting glimpses of traffic and life down below as the train rattles along.

NYC: The 7: silvercup

The overland section of the 7 rockets through Queens and spends a couple of minutes passing by the graffiti covered 5 pointz building. The awesome story here is that the owner of a graffiti cleanup became conscious of the art he was painting over, and wrangled a space for artists to come and paint freely without fear that it would be painted back over.

I remember seeing this factory when I was last in New York in early 2001, and with a few pieces of graffiti here and there on the building and it struck me as one of the few places in the city that actually had graffiti. Now, it's the only place in the city where graffiti is legally allowed; the sheer amount of art on the building, especially compared to my memory of 2001, is striking.

NYC: The 7:

NYC: The 7: the artist formerly known as phun factory

Slideshow link for the entire subway ride is here.

5 January 2010

New York City, part 3: No sleep till Brooklyn

[Part 1 here, part 2 here]

The awesome part about traveling around a city with locals is getting to see a side of the city that tourists regularly don't. One of the stops we made was at what is by some measurements the tastiest pizza in NYC - Grimaldis, in Brooklyn. However, like nearly everything over the holiday break in NYC, epic queues are involved.

We camped in the cold for about an hour in line for (admittedly extremely tasty) pizza. However, while in line, we got to have a good long look at some fairly random street art that seems to pop up all over the place in the city.

NYC: Brooklyn: Grimaldis art 00
[I'm guessing that this is from an illustration of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.]

NYC: Brooklyn: Grimaldis art 01

After warming up with the pizza, we headed over the Brooklyn bridge. I'd never previously understood the fascination people had with it - it's not a particularly big bridge, and the pictures of it I had seen were from a distance and seemingly not all that big a deal.

Seeing it in real life, however, corrected that error. The pedestrian walkway doesn't go on one side of the bridge - it goes right down the middle, where as you walk along you are surrounded by a spectacular net of cables.

NYC: Brooklyn: No sleep till

Once you get on to the Manhattan side, you are also afforded a spectacular view of the city. The towers of steel and glass rise incongruously from the old buildings at the foreshore, and in the afternoon light they seemed to take on a non-quite-real rendered quality.

NYC: Brooklyn: Photoreal

The Woolworth Building looms into view when you exit the bridge on the Manhattan side. As far as skyscrapers go, it's one of most splendid and held the title of being the tallest in the world from 1913 to 1930.

My uncle, who is a safety engineer, worked there in one of his first jobs checking that the elevators were safe. The job involved climbing into the dimly lit area on top of elevator cars, finding something to hold on to that wasn't going to mangle or maim you and holding on for dear life as the elevator rocketed up 57 floors, an expanding, tiny little square of light at the edge of vision representing the top of the shaft.

NYC: Brooklyn: Woolworth Building

4 January 2010

New York City, part 2: Midtown Madness

[Part 1 here]

For someone used to warmer climates, New York in the winter can be a bit of forbidding place. With the temperature regularly dropping below freezing, simply getting around town involves layers of clothing and moving around like the stay puft marshmallow man. It doesn't seem to bother New York locals, however, and after a bit of coaching I got more-or-less comfortable with the frigid environment.

A layer of snow in New York - especially a fresh one - momentarily transforms the city into something unrecognisable. The ever-present layer of grit and grime is simply just painted over, and it does take on an unfamiliar, postcard-like look. In particular, Central Park benefits from this transformation.

NYC:Midtown: Central park snow

There's an ice-skating rink on the downtown side of the park, and it wasn't surprising to see it jam-packed with skaters.

NYC:Midtown: Central Park Ice Skating

New York always seems to be busy, and multiply so at tourist magnets. We thought we'd stay off the beaten track for this trip, but the cold drew us inside the fantastic American Museum of Natural History. It was, of course, absolutely stuffed to the gills with people. Just downstairs, however, was the A to Z Holiday Tree (say it like zee, not zed, and it works better :P). I've got a soft spot for paper creations so this was a particular treat for me.

NYC:Midtown: Origami Tree

On the clear days, the temperature at night dropped well below freezing, prompting us to run around outside and voluntarily turning ourselves into icicles. Despite wearing rather excellent gloves, keeping my hands out of my pockets for any extended period of time to operate a camera was a particular ordeal. However, visiting Times Square without taking a few photos would have been complete madness, so I went ahead and snapped away with inappropriate equipment until my fingers stopped functioning.

NYC:Midtown: Times Square tower of light

My uncle Niru tells me that the busy, lively Times Square on 42nd Street as we know it wasn't always as welcoming as it is today. In the 70's and early 80's, the area was known to be pretty dangerous, and he'd avoid wandering outside on to the street when changing trains at the Times Square subway interchange.

NYC:Midtown: Escape from Times Square

The cold doesn't seem to slow down the locals; on the contrary, it seems to make them a bit more eager to get from point to point above ground.

NYC:Midtown: Freezing cold is such a drag

New York City, part 1: Queens

I was lucky enough to get a chance to spend the Christmas/New Years break in New York City. Apart from having a really awesome time catching up with friends and family, I took my camera gear along and went absolutely beserk taking photos.

The city itself is pretty photogenic, having many different faces and feels in it's five boroughs, with the weather itself (snow!) giving it yet another dimension. Rather than pile things together into one rambling post, I'm going to do a short series of posts (one every day for the next 5-6 days) covering different areas of the city.

First up: Queens. The complete set is here.

There was an enormous snow-storm the weekend before we arrived, and that was the thing which gave us the experience of our first White Christmas (pretty much ever).

NYC:Queens: Yell-snow cab

Right near where we were staying at my uncles place are the Big Six towers, just off Queens boulevard. Dating back to the sixties, they were named after the Local 6 of the International Typographical Union.

NYC:Queens: Big Six tower 00

NYC:Queens: Frozen slide

Apart from the usual photo-geekery, I had also taken along the Bokeh masters kit so I could continue testing it:

NYC:Queens: Briony bokeh