11 Photos - Dec 28, 2011
Photo: Last contribution to #topphotos2011, curated by +Levi Moore, for the evening. This is one of the four photos from my #photodeathmatch with +Teresa Stover, set up by the sinister +Samir Osman and +Tamara Pruessner. This is one of those shots that came out completely different from how I'd imagined, and is probably better for it. I was originally going to work with the full moonlight, along with some carefully gelled lights and painting, to create a serene scene in blues and greens. But the clouds rolled in, creating a sky of toxic orange NYC light pollution. So I quickly adapted my strategy to work with this, constructing some new "gels" on the fly for my flashlight, light panel, and LED lantern I floated inside the glacial pothole. Several attempts at 6 minute exposures, 10 lbs of dry ice, and a near-miss with frostbite later, and I had this - which I think I like better than what I'd originally envisioned.Photo: Coming at you from somewhere in New Jersey, in a motel that I'd be ashamed to take a hooker to, which for some inscrutable reason has wifi - my fifth pick for #topphotos2011, a brilliant idea from +Levi Moore. This shot, taken during civil twilight, was just one of those moments when I knew I'd nailed the shot halfway through the two-minute exposure. I love that feeling - previsualizing it, falling in love with it, and then officially having your love confirmed when the exposure pops up on the little chimp screen on the back. I shot film exclusively until 2008, and it wasn't often that I'd just know that I'd nailed it - but there were times, and they were perhaps even more rewarding than with digital. But times - and finances - have changed. In any case, a fleeting glimpse of a building on the table in the current New Jersey budget for demolition in 2012, from a trip with my absolute favorite partner in crime, +Amy Heiden.Photo: Well, I just got to Rochester after another obnoxious drive. Staying in that fleabag motel played hell on my allergies; no matter, it's time for my next posting for +Levi Moore's #topphotos2011! So this is another shot from my #photographydeathmatch with +Teresa Stover; the theme was "Earth", and I envisioned a safe haven next to a yawning chasm at the edge of the world. Fortunately, I knew just where I might find an ancient, fallen tree that had pulled a great deal of earth up when it overturned earlier this year. I recruited Ilyse to model for me - no mean feat, since it involved holding a pose for almost a second in 30s (pre-wind-chill) temperatures! The lighting is mostly full-moon, with a 200 w/s softbox pop and a quick paint with my flashlight thrown in for good measure.Photo: Another for Levi's #topphotos2011, since I'll be on the road again tomorrow and unable to post. People often get annoyed at me when we travel abandoned buildings together, and possibly with good reason - I'm slow, in terms of setting up and executing a shot. Thankfully, +Amy Heiden is not one of these people. When we were poking around the Naval Air Warfare Center a few weeks back, I tried to photograph these turbines. I decided I didn't like the light, and wanted to wait an hour. An hour later, I still didn't like the light. We went and checked out a few more buildings, then I noticed that the lighting was probably what I wanted, and we rushed back. Finally, I liked the light.Photo: How could I not include my "High Priest of Cthulhu" selfy in my #topphotos2011? A contribution for Selfy Sunday - co-curated by +Levi Moore & +Jeff Smith - this one really forced me to get creative, as I was working with my dad's camera gear and one 200 w/s strobe I had lying around, just after getting over a month-long viral infection. Brilliantly lampooned by +Teresa Stover, for which I shall have my revenge, this is easily among my favorite shots from 2011.Photo: Imagine walking up a switchback staircase to the top floor of an early 19th century building and coming across a gem like this wooden spiral staircase - this was a magical experience if ever there was one! Unfortunately, when I first got to this landing, there was harsh, direct sunlight spoiling the scene (as much as a scene such as this can be spoiled). A few hours later, I was down a few floors in a wing of the building when a wisp of cloud crossed the sun - I rushed back here, set up, and exposed this shot, and less than a minute later the cloud was gone - none more would come this day. Definitely one of my favorite shots from the year, and thus my second-to-last submission to #topphotos2011 from +Levi Moore.Photo: One more tonight for +Levi Moore's #topphotos2011. This shot of the "Little Red Lighthouse" - actually the Jeffrey's Hook Light - and the underbelly of the George Washington bridge was taken on a pleasant September night when the rarest of conditions was present in New York City - the view was clear for miles. I don't know whether some gust of wind just blew the smog elsewhere for long enough to take a couple of exposures of this scene and in other parts of the park, but for whatever reason, there's no light pollution, no haze, and everything from that evening came out brilliantly.Photo: #topphotos2011

Well, I've finally got a day off from traveling and holiday fraternizing, so I'd best get started on my top photo's for +Levi Moore's Top Photos 2011 theme. This one makes the list for a number of reasons, first and foremost because it's a photo I've been wanting to take since my first trip to North Brother Island in 2008. However, I've never been able to go so early as mid-September, and the overgrowth has always started to diminish by the time we make our first trip of the year. Depicted is the general state of the island - kudzu is overtaking the nesting habitats of the herons which call the space home, and the NYC Parks Department is doing their best to fight it - to little avail, as each year it grows back thicker. I was lucky enough to get some great light here, and am really happy with the result.Photo: For my next contribution to +Levi Moore's #topphotos2011, I offer this shot of the small chapel in the Abbey building at the Convent of St. Mary. This was one of those amazing and serendipitous finds that just brought joy to my heart. I was driving up the East bank of the Hudson River with (who else?) +Amy Heiden, in search of interesting historic buildings, but generally aiming to get up to some buildings I knew to do night photography. As we drove, we spotted a cluster of ornate-looking buildings on top of a mountain. We discussed it, and decided to take a detour - and found our way through looping roads to the top of the mountain, to discover an old convent - some of which had been converted into condos, but the abbey of which was clearly abandoned. Finding a way in, we were at first disappointed - the place seemed to be entirely gutted. Then I walked into this chapel, and it was nearly a variety of religious experience (pun intended). Further research - a phone call to the nuns who used to live here - revealed that after the construction of the larger chapel nearby, the chapel in the abbey was used to provide services for aging or infirm Sisters who lived there. The paintwork dates to the late 19th or early 20th century. Seeing places like this is always a treat; finding them quite out of the blue even moreso!Photo: In early September I was struck ill with some obnoxious virus that lasted for weeks until I had to be admitted to the emergency room; running fevers of up to 103, I had all sorts of fevered delusions - including some with tentacled creatures right out of Lovecraft. After the docs got me stable, and I spent a week resting in bed to regain my strength, I finally felt well enough to take a trip out to the grocery store, where I purchased a bunch of things I could shoot around the house - including an octopus. I learned how to use my father's Nikon (ewwww!) camera, and came up with a bunch of shots - including this ode to Van Gogh's sunflowers - with bonus octopus! Taking this shot wore me out - I was still recuperating - but I love the results, and hence include it in my #topphotos2011, curated by +Levi Moore.Photo: I've come across scenes like this several times in my journeys through abandoned insane asylums over the years; when a patient died and nobody claimed their possessions, they were warehoused in a basement or an attic, and left to rot. Sometimes the contents were eventually donated to charity, sometimes the suitcases were left intact. I always find such scenes heartwrenching - in many cases, when a family member was sent off to the asylum, they were written out of the family history and forgotten. Bodies were often unclaimed as well as possessions; they became cadavers for medical study or were simply interred or incinerated. Here, suitcases were carelessly thrown into piles after apparently being emptied of their contents - nearby, there were bins of clothes and other possessions slowly mouldering away, as if the project of donating the belongings was abandoned along with the building. This is my final contribution to #topphotos2011 curated by +Levi Moore.