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Tag: New York City

How to Improve your Street Photography by Ignoring the Details

Usually there’s not enough time to focus on setup when capturing a photographic moment. So don’t. Here’s what to do instead.

When you walk about in the city, do you sometimes see moments that would make for a perfect photo, if only you had a camera in your hand? Yes, me too. In fact… all of the time.

Sure, my iPhone is always right there in my pocket as I move throughout New York City, and I often grab for it to capture a fleeting image right in front of me. It’s all about how fast you can get off a couple shots before the scene shifts and the opportunity evaporates. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve missed over the years that were taken just a few seconds too late.

Use a Camera Strap to Speed Up your Response
Wearing your camera around your neck can trim away critical seconds, as you don’t have pull out your camera.

I recently bought a strap made by Peak Design (Slide Lite) for my Panasonic Lumix LX10. I got it for my family’s trip to Grand Canyon and the famous mule ride we took along the rim.

The strap was originally a one-use purchase. Why would I ever want to ruin the small form factor of my compact camera by attaching a bulky strap to it? But then I tried an experiment and wore the camera during one of my trips into New York City. And I quickly realized that strap was my ticket to better street photography.

Be Ready for the Photo
Discarding the concern that I would look like a tourist, I’ve now worn my camera several times walking uptown from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to visit my father. And let me tell you, having my camera right there near my hand is a game changer.

If you wonder why you may see any number of people walking about the city with cameras in their hands or about their necks, I think they’re all waiting for the next photo to appear. And they intend to be ready!

Point and Press
In my ongoing exploration of street photography, I’ve also been trying out an alternate shooting strategy. It’s simply to proactively point my camera at a potential scene as I walk by. Before I actually see anything worth capturing, I press the shutter a few times, move on and hope for the best. It’s all about playing the odds that the camera captured an image I didn’t have time to spot and process.

It’s about meeting a moment and reviewing it later to see if there’s actually any visual interest in it.

Happily, this technique has yielded unexpected success.

Photo Finish at the Track
My father likes to tell a story from the 1970’s when he practiced his own amateur photography with his old SLR camera. He was at Yonkers Raceway and had a seat up close near the finish line. As the horses crossed by in a flash, he simply squeezed his shutter button to burst through his 36-photo film roll.

Later, when he picked up his developed pictures from the photo store, he quickly sifted through the group. He saw a bunch of useless mushy blurs… all except for the last photo. It was perfect. It was like a shot you’d see on the sports page of the New York Post.

My father met the moment, pointed in the right direction, and his camera did the rest.

Your Speed Factor
Whether you see a moment or anticipate one, snapping your photo as quickly as possible is the key factor to better street photography. Plus, it really doesn’t matter what you see. It’s what your camera captures.

So, you might want to ignore more of the details and focus most of your attention on getting your camera going and its general position. Keep it simple. There’s often not more time for much else. You probably won’t know if you got ‘the shot’ until you review it later.

I’m still very much a student of this art form. That said, here are a few examples from my recent walks in Manhattan.

My Childhood Diner is Gone

Nothing is forever. Especially not restaurants. Last week, I lost the diner I grew up with. Here’s my homage to the end of this 91-year-old institution.

For my entire life, the Green Kitchen was the local diner down the street from where I grew up in New York City. It was a fixture on the corner of 77th and First Avenue in Manhattan. The decades passed, and it went through ownership changes. But it always remained.

I remember it when I was a young child, and my parents took me out for dinner there. That was always so much fun. And until last month, I would order take-out from the Green Kitchen to have lunch at home with my 89-year-old father.

Even during the years when the upstart 3-Star Diner across the street competed for customers (and yes, we ate there often), the Green Kitchen’s sign always glowed strong.

Then, right before the pandemic, the 3-Star Diner closed. (Talk about timing.) But the Green Kitchen stuck it out, and eventually reopened. There was nothing stopping it. Year after year. Decades meant nothing.

My Final Visit to the Green Kitchen
Last week, I called and ordered lunch for take-out when I was visiting my father. I went downstairs and around the corner. I walked up and pulled the diner’s door like I must have done hundreds of times. It didn’t open.

I looked up and read the sign on the door stating that the Green Kitchen had closed forever.

What?! It took a moment to register. I felt like I had slipped into an alternate universe. I had just called and ordered the sandwiches. I know I had spoken to someone! (Was he a ghost?)

Then, reality snapped back into place. I remembered that the Green Kitchen had a sister location on 84th and 2nd Avenue. My call had obviously been routed there.

So, I schlepped over to pick up our lunch, and as I walked the extra distance, I pondered this shakeup in my world order.

It’s not like restaurants don’t close all the time. But this place had been around my entire life. And the 84th Street location wasn’t going to be close enough to really replace the loss.

Sharing the News with My Father
When I finally got back to my father’s apartment, I told him the bad news. I was a bit worried how he would take it. It’s been a constant for him as well.

But he brushed it off like I was giving him a mediocre weather report.

My dad has always been about appearances. So perhaps he wasn’t revealing his true feelings. Or maybe it just hadn’t sunk in yet. And just perhaps, he’d gone through enough shake-ups in his life that this one really wasn’t that significant. (If so, it’s nice to see that my father can still teach me a thing or two.)

The good news is New York City is filled with restaurants and diners. So I think it’s just a matter of choosing a new one. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

Thanks for the Memories
Yes, I’m feeling nostalgic. Another fixture from my childhood is gone. I know it’s just a place. But it held a lot of happy memories.

Thank you, Green Kitchen.

Now, it’s time to move on.

Why Face Masks and AirPods can Make a Dangerous Pair

If you’ve returned to your commute, you may need to consider how to properly arrange what you wear on your face and ears. Here’s why.

I’ve been enjoying my new AirPods 3 on my Metro North commute to Grand Central Terminal.

Not only am I a new AirPods user, but I’m also a new subscriber to Apple Music. (I took advantage of the six-month free trial membership offer I received as part of my AirPods purchase.)

So as you might imagine, my commute has become a more immersive experience of motion with music.

Walking with AirPods
That said, I’ve been a real baby about walking through the streets of New York City while wearing my AirPods. Why? I’m worried that one of my wireless wonders will drop out as I weave my way to work.

I know that’s silly, especially as I pass hundreds of people every day happily sporting their own AirPods.

If you’re wondering, I deliberately did not buy the more securely-fitting AirPods Pro, because I didn’t like the way they felt when I tried on a test pair at the Apple Store a couple years back.

But I’ve been studying the faces I pass, and plenty are not wearing the Pro model.

And I don’t believe there’s an epidemic of people dropping their AirPods on New York sidewalks and lunging about to rescue them.

So, after a couple of weeks on training wheels, I decided it was finally time to do a proper test drive.

Losing my Left AirPod
Of course walking with them in my ears was fine. Until it wasn’t. That’s because there’s one variable that AirPods were not designed to handle.

Face masks.

When I arrived to work and walked out of the elevator, I simultaneously reached up to remove my mask. It’s become something of an automatic gesture that I don’t think about anymore. Plus, I was rushing.

And that’s a mistake.

An AirPod didn’t just drop out. I did better than that. I literally launched one out of my left ear.

My mask’s cord caught the AirPod and transformed into a rubber band catapult.

My AirPod became a little projectile and ricocheted like a pinball onto the marble floor of the elevator hallway. The sound was excruciating.

I lunged after my AirPod as another elevator door was about to open… possibly releasing a crowd of crushing feet. (I had a flashback to that “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” scene where the little antidote bottle was kicked about the dance floor.)

I finally caught up with my AirPod and jammed it back in my ear. (No, I didn’t consider the hygienic consequences.)

I stood up and looked around. The elevator hallway was still vacant.

Nothing to see here.

And then I walked away.

Damaging my AirPod
Of course I tested my naughty AirPod when I arrived at my desk. Thankfully, it worked fine.

But the next morning on my commute, it was completely silent. Yes, it had juice. Was it dead?

In a bit of panic, I researched the problem on my iPhone, and Apple suggested I reconnect my AirPods and charging case to my iPhone. So, I quickly did that Bluetooth reset.

…and my left AirPod came back to life.

Hmmm.

So did I damage my left AirPod? It can’t be a coincidence that it needed to be reconnected the very next day following the ‘incident.’

Well, it’s been working fine for the past couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s out of the woods.

AppleCare to the Rescue
If you sometimes wonder if you need to buy the extended warrantee on your tech, my advice is to always get it when it comes to Apple products. That’s because they’re mostly moving about with you. And life happens.

Yes, of course I bought AppleCare for my new AirPods. I may be clumsy, but I’m not oblivious.

Learning to Adapt
And that’s my cautionary tale. File it under ‘the art of wearing your face mask.’

Sure, it’s a no brainer being more careful when removing a mask while wearing AirPods. Clearly, I just have to master that little maneuver.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the need to wear face masks is going away any time soon.

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