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Riverside Park, first day of spring, Mar 2011 – 10
best picture of new york city
Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: this photo was published in an undated (Mar 20, 2011) Everyblock NYC zipcodes blog titled "10024."

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What a difference a year makes: on the first day of spring in 2010, I noted (in this Flickr set that "all 8 million New Yorkers were ready to take advantage of [spring]. The sun was out, the temperature was in the 70s, the sky was blue, and the clouds had disappeared to some other part of the country. There was no way a sane person could stay indoors…"

This year, spring arrived about 6 hours earlier (1:32 PM, as compared to last year’s 7:21 PM), and while the sun was out, the temperature was in the low 40s rather than the 70s. Like last year, I decided to celebrate the arrival of spring by walking in Riverside Park, and began my usual stroll at the entrance on 72nd Street. I walked a couple blocks south, to the newly-constructed pier that juts halfway out into the Hudson River (or so it seems, anyway), and saw that the outdoor cafe at the base of the pier, where one can usually find a tasty hamburger and a cold beer, was still completely shut down. So I began walking north — eventually past the 79th Street boat basin, where the Boat Basin Cafe (which you can see more about in this Flickr set ) was open, though protected by gas heaters and wind baffles.

Like last year, there was bright sunshine, blue skies, and no wind — so people were indeed outside. But because the temperature was about 30 degrees colder, there weren’t any picnics and there wasn’t any sunbathing. Instead of finding people sprawled out on park benches, enjoying the Sunday newspaper in the sunshine, about the only activities I noticed were bicycling, jogging, brisk walking, and skating.

I was frustrated by the lack of the usual springtime "photo-ops," but then remembered the old adage: if life hands you lemons, then make lemonade. Since there was a steady stream of joggers, cyclists, and skaters, I decided that I might as well photograph them. So I situated myself on a bench near a spot where the walkway along the river splits in two directions: you can turn east and pass under the West Side Highway, up some stone steps and into a playground and elevated section of the park at 82nd Street; or you can continue straight along the river, and follow a newly-constructed narrow two-bike-lane path that connects the "lower" section of Riverside Park (i.e., below 82nd Street) with the "upper" section (starting at roughly 94th Street).

People were coming and going in all directions, so I situated myself with the sun behind me, facing north towards the George Washington Bridge in the far background, and basically ignored everyone coming up the walkway from behind me. There were plenty of people heading south, with the bright springtime sun shining directly on them, and I sat there for about an hour, until I had collected some 500 images with my new Sony SLT a55 camera …

At that point, I decided I had gotten enough, so I strolled over to Broadway, and took a bus uptown to my own neighborhood. Only a few of the images that I uploaded to my computer were complete disasters — e.g., out of focus, or missing a head, arm or leg because the subjects were moving so quickly past me. But I had to reject quite a few because they were a little too ordinary … i.e., your reaction would have been something like, "Oh. There’s a guy on a bike. Just like the last guy on a bike, and the one before that." So I ended up with about 70 "keepers" that I felt were sufficiently interesting to warrant uploading to Flickr.

And so that’s it for Riverside Park in March, at least this year. Indeed, I may well wait until May before returning — by which time I hope it will be warm enough that I’ll see the sights and scenes that I more commonly associate with springtime in New York City.

NYC Feb. 2006 – King of Cheesecake
best picture of new york city
Image by OliverN5
Juniors in Brooklyn – best cheesecake ever!

Hair in the wind
best picture of new york city
Image by Ed Yourdon
This photo violates one of my cardinal rules of street photography: if you can’t see the subject’s face, the photo isn’t worth keeping.

But I just couldn’t stop looking at this woman’s hair. She eventually walked on up the street, and I’ve never seen her again. But I’ll never forget that hair…

Note: this photo was published in an Apr 2, 2012 issue of Everyblock NYC zipcodes blog titled "10025."

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This is the continuation of a photo-project that I began in the summer of 2008 (which you can see in this Flickr set), and continued throughout 2009, 2010, and 2011 (as shown in this Flickr set, this Flickr set, and this Flickr set): a random collection of "interesting" people in a broad stretch of the Upper West Side of Manhattan — between 72nd Street and 104th Street, especially along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. These are the people in my neighborhood, aka "peeps in the ‘hood."

As I indicated when I first started this project nearly four years ago, I don’t like to intrude on people’s privacy, so I normally use a zoom telephoto lens in order to photograph them while they’re still 50-100 feet away from me; but that means I have to continue focusing my attention on the people and activities half a block away, rather than on what’s right in front of me. Sometimes I find an empty bench on a busy street corner, and just sit quietly for an hour, watching people hustling past on the other side of the street; they’re almost always so busy listening to their iPod, or talking on their cellphone, or daydreaming about something, that they never look up and see me aiming my camera in their direction.

I’ve also learned that, in many cases, the opportunities for an interesting picture are very fleeting — literally a matter of a couple of seconds, before the person(s) in question move on, turn away, or stop doing whatever was interesting. So I’ve learned to keep my camera switched on, and not worry so much about zooming in for a perfectly-framed picture … after all, once the digital image is uploaded to my computer, it’s pretty trivial to crop out the parts unrelated to the main subject. Indeed, some of my most interesting photos have been so-called "hip shots," where I don’t even bother to raise the camera up to my eye; I just keep the zoom lens set to the maximum wide-angle aperture, point in the general direction of the subject, and take several shots. As long as I can keep the shutter speed fairly high (which sometimes requires a fairly high ISO setting), I can usually get some fairly crisp shots — even if the subject is walking in one direction, and I’m walking in the other direction, while I’m snapping the photos.

With only a few exceptions, I’ve generally avoided photographing bums, drunks, crazies, and homeless people. There are plenty of them around, and they would certainly create some dramatic pictures; but they generally don’t want to be photographed, and I don’t want to feel like I’m taking advantage of them. There have been a few opportunities to take some "sympathetic" pictures of such people, which might inspire others to reach out and help them. This is one example, and here is another example.

The other thing I’ve noticed, while carrying on this project for the past four years, is that while there are lots of interesting people to photograph, there are far, far, far more people who are not so interesting. They’re probably fine people, and they might even be more interesting than the ones I’ve photographed … unfortunately, there was just nothing memorable about them. They’re all part of this big, crowded city; but for better or worse, there are an awful lot that you won’t see in these Flickr sets of mine…

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