Nothing brings in the summer quite like Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade. Now celebrating its 34 year, it just keeps getting bigger. Thanks to the parade organizers’ decision to let photographers roam the staging area for a small fee, I got up close access to all the participants. Shooting the staging area of the Mermaid Parade is not without its difficulties. One of the downsides is there are just as many photographers as there are participants in the staging area. We are in effect the “mermaid paparazzi” vying for the attentions of all the mermaids. I have to acknowledge and thank the participants for being patient with all the photogs, especially the rude ones(you know who your are!). Weather is always a big challenge especially full blown, high noon, bright sunlight. My goal this year was to capture some portraits and limit the harsh shadows across the face produced by these weather conditions. Below is the equipment list I used for this shoot.
Nikon D810 w/ 24-70
SB-910 speed light
SD-9 battery pack
Nikon SC-29 TTL Coiled Sync Cord
Pro Media Boomerang Flash Bracket
Small Rogue Flash Bender
If you were a participant and I captured your photo below, feel free to contact me and I’ll gladly send you a copy.
…since I last wrote on this blog. Much has happened in the past several months, that I’m just trying to play catch up with myself! So long story short, I was laid off from my job of 12 years, became a father to a beautiful baby girl, and now I’m about to (figuratively) launch my photography business into the stratosphere! Putting my passion into action has been an incredible process so far and I’m looking forward to this new career and new phase of my life.
Now onto today’s photo: I don’t fancy myself as a newborn photographer and I have to give it up to those that shoot newborns for a living. It’s hard work! You have to shoot them while they’re sleeping, naked or with clothes on, but no diaper and pray that they don’t pee or poop on your clothes and props. Then you have to curl them in all sorts of weird positions on props, pillows and blankets. Having never had any experience handling or posing a newborn, I took a crash course in newborn photography in preparation for the birth of my daughter. The below photo is the result, “Little Maya”.
I have to admit. I’m a lazy ass New Yorker. On June 22nd, I attended my first Mermaid Parade ever and it’s been around since 1983! After seeing some pics from my photographer friends of previous parades, I realized I had to get in on the action. Getting there early was a real treat for photographers and hopefully the participants. With the purchase of a wristband, Photographers were allowed in the staging area before the parade. Unfortunately, the parade organizers did not limit the amount of wristbands sold so It seemed like there were just as many photographers as there were participants. This led some folks to engage “paparazzo mode”… In some instances, there would be a gaggle of photographers trying to shoot a participant, stepping on one another, shouting directions, calling out vying for a subject’s attention. I even heard one guy say “hey, turn around and show me those tits!”. I understand the need to nail the perfect shot and all, but c’mon, it’s the freaking Mermaid Parade not a porn shoot! Rude photographers aside, I managed to get some cool portraits.
Soon after the parade started, I got a text from “King Neptune” to have a drink at the Freak Show Bar. I convinced myself that it was too hot to continue shooting and spent the remainder of my day hydrating with the King, brother Stone and friends. Special thanks to “The Dark Mermaid” for sharing her sunblock and accompanying me on my very first ride on the Cyclone.
A few weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege to shoot at the exclusive National Arts Club located in the historic Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park. The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by Charles DeKay, an art and literary critic of the New York Times to “stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts.” It’s also one of the first organizations to embrace and promote new media art forms such as photography, film and digital media. As a native New Yorker with humble roots, it gave me a minor glimpse of old New York wealth and splendor that I often forget exists.
The photos here are part of an ongoing web project for acclaimed Argentine tango instructor Jon Tariq and his partner Della Lam. Shooting at the NAC was a pleasure for all of us, but it was not without some challenges. The first was shooting in a space that was sight unseen. Scouting a venue is essential before a shoot because you can measure up the place and think about composition, lighting, etc. However due to the exclusive nature of the club, we couldn’t have access until the day of the shoot. Another challenge was setting up my 2 speed lights without the luxury of light stands. Stands and tripods were absolutely prohibited. Fortunately, my wife assisted me and became a human light stand for one speed light and left arm for the other.
Challenges aside, we captured some pretty cool photos that evoke tango in its old time glory. More pictures can be seen at the Tango With Jon website
This photo was taken after the very first NYC google+ photo walk back in September 2011. After spending the better part of the evening shooting in the west village, a few of us went out for dinner and drinks at “El Cantinero” on university place. Our waiter noticed that everyone in our party was wielding a camera so he changed into the Mexican ranchero outfit and hammed it up for the photographers. I snapped this while he was taking our order. It reminds me of a fun night reconnecting with an old friend and meeting some new ones with whom I still shoot with on a regular basis. The photo walk proved to be a success with more people joining in on subsequent walks. My other photos from The G+ photo walks can be seen here.
Before departing Gondal for Rajkot, we had one last thing to do. We went to see an ascetic(sadhu) in residence at the temple dormitory. He was a distant relative to a woman in our party. Since the sadhu was unable to see or talk to her because she is a woman and a relative, my friends were chosen to visit with him and I was fortunate to tag along. For those of you who don’t know, the sadhus undergo years of intense spiritual grooming before donning their saffron colored robes. Part of this is learning and living by the “Panch Vartman” or the five principal vows. They must be detached from or without lust, greed, taste, pride and affection. Therefore they cannot look upon or speak to women, attain wealth, touch or handle money, eat food mixed with water so it is tasteless, be humble and completely detach themselves from their relatives. It is believed that through meditation and these detachments, one can achieve enlightenment.
Three of us entered the dormitory and were ushered into a small makeshift office under a staircase where we met the sadhu. He recognized that I was not Indian, so he spoke to us in English. After we introduced ourselves, he knew that we were there to check up on him on behalf of his family back home. Out of respect to him and his vows, my friends did not mention anything about his former friends or relatives. He was gracious, a little surprised and amused that my wife and I were surviving well with the food in India as first time visitors. The chit chat turned into a spiritual talk. He encouraged us to focus on our “Atma”(soul or higher self), to meditate and see God in all things. He advised us to avoid distractions such as technology,alcohol, music, eating meat, etc., pretty much all things I thoroughly enjoy. Even though everything he said made sense to me, I find it extremely difficult to follow his advice. I know one day I will have to try.
After the talk, we thanked him for the words of wisdom and received his blessing. I asked him if i could take his picture and he obliged. He in turn offered me some postcards of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the present Guru of BAPS, writing on a blackboard in Gujarati. I had the writing in the postcards translated later and saw that it was a summary of the spiritual talk he had with us. My friend tried offering him a few rupees but he deferred to his assistant (not a sadhu) who collected the offering for the temple. The below photo is one of my favorite memories of India.
After experiencing the Aarti, We proceeded to a chamber below the Mandir where the cremation shrine of Gunatitand Swami is located. Known as the Akshar Deri, it is a popular site for pilgrims to come and pray. In this photo, pilgrims are praying while circling the shrine in a clockwise direction.