Friday, December 23, 2005

Transit Strike, Bridge Views and One Dumb Photographer (i.e. me)

Something a little different today - more like a real blog post, but laden with photo goodness. You may have heard about the NYC transit strike that just ended today, and I, like all New Yorkers, was stranded by it. I normally take the N or W train from Queens into Manhattan to go to work, but with no service I was forced to walk across the 59th St. bridge in the bitter cold - around 5 miles each way. This is not the first time I've had to do this - I also did it during the Northeast blackout a couple of years ago, in temperature conditions at the opposite extreme. But that was an emergency situation and there was little time to stop and look around.

I stayed at home the first day of the strike, unprepared to walk and too late to make it to work anyway. My first time across the bridge on day two, I realized that I could make something good out of the situation by bringing my camera with me the next time. The views are some of the best in the city. So the next day, there I was, lugging my heavy camera bag on a ten mile round trip... but it was worth it. My night shots aren't perfect - even if I'd had a tripod, there'd have been no way to get a steady shot on this bridge because of the constant vibration - but I still like them.

Here we go:

Wasn't too crowded that day. The media almost always focuses on the Brooklyn Bridge whenever anything like this happens, I think because there's only one walkway (on the Queensboro/59th St. Bridge there are two) so there's a greater concentration of people, which makes for better TV. But it was a pretty pleasant walk at this time of day on the Queensboro. (The day earlier was a lot more crowded; I think a lot of people did just take the second and third days of the strike off.)

I thought this photo worked better in black and white because of the geometric shapes; I didn't want what little color there was to take away from the line composition.

Another shot across the bridge to show the light traffic that day. It was actually pretty surprising to me; I did hit some pretty bad traffic (both on foot and in vehicles) in Manhattan, but the bridge was empty. Even the Roosevelt Island tram was carrying a pretty light load.

Again, black and white because of the flat color that day. I like silhouettes in black and white anyway.

Part of the view from the bridge, looking south. That's the Williamsburg Bridge down there. You can tell how cold it was that day - look at that steam billowing up!

Ok, now the night commute, which was a little more crowded:

Strike traffic. It was like this all the way up and down as far as the eye could see, on every Avenue. The east-west streets were a little better, but not much.

This was the crowd getting onto the bridge at night. A few more people than I saw that morning.

The view from the bridge. I have a ton of these - I took similar pictures all the way across - but this one was as good as any, so I'm just posting one. Look at the line of lights along the edge of the coast of Manhattan - that's traffic on the FDR Drive that's backed up for miles. If you open this up and see the lights in the sky off in the distance, those are helicopters - most likely watching the Brooklyn Bridge foot traffic. If you're unfamiliar with NYC and wondering why there's no traffic on the street directly below me, that's Roosevelt Island - it's an enclosed island that basically just terminates in a dead-end at the end of that street.

More people walking. Some camera shake here but I still kinda like this photo.

At around this time my gloved hands were fumbling for the LCD backlight button on my camera and instead mistakenly hit the button to turn on the timer. From this point on I was convinced my camera had literally frozen. Unable to hear the beeping, all I knew was nothing was happening when I pressed the shutter button. So I had more photo opportunities after this point, but they were all missed through my own idiocy. I finally realized my mistake just before reaching home (thankfully in time to get the one final shot I wanted below, though I did blow the highlights).

You won't notice it after my processing, but all of my earlier daylight shots were also shot in the wrong shooting mode. I had the camera stuck on Av mode with an f/3.5 aperture - several of my shots were blown out, others lacking depth of field. I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on until I was more than halfway across the bridge, when I finally saw it and literally slapped my head and let out a "d'oh!"

Any decent photos I got on this day were despite my skills, not because of them.

This is not something you normally see in New York, where our subways run 24 hours a day. I hope to never see it again.

It was fun walking across the bridge the first time, and it was fun taking these photos - but two days of it was enough to completely wear me out. I've got blisters on my feet, I've got probably a dozen strained muscles in my legs; I can barely walk. It was just another New York experience, though... we seem to have some sort of calamity every few years. At least they usually make good stories.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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