Most folks would think that dreary, overcast or rainy weather is time to put their cameras to sleep. But, if you know what to look for, you would be surprised at the awesome images you can take by waking that camera up and taking it out for a walk. Obviously, I am not endorsing going out in pouring rain where you will not only get soaked, but your camera equipment’s weather resistance may be put to the test. That kind of experiment may end up a very expensive one if you don’t have pro level equipment. Better yet, let me describe the weather I was faced with in Manhattan last Monday when I flew in. The forecast was of 50% precipitation with an overcast day. It was pretty dreary, and yes, it did rain on and off, but it was a very light series of showers that I was able to wait out under overhangs or in assorted shops while pretending to be a shopper. The sky was completely gray and it made everything look colorless.
I would have thought like a great deal of you to just stay in the hotel room and rest up for the week-long marathon of meetings, but I was determined to take advantage of my being in Manhattan while a few hours with an open schedule. Then, I remembered a few years ago reading an article somewhere that said that dreary and overcast weather is the perfect opportunity to photograph in black and white. So, with this in mind, I headed out of the hotel with a small umbrella in hand ready to take on that colorful world with a black and white mentality.
My camera has a black and white preset, but I chose to shoot in color to see what would happen and later adjust the image to black and white in post processing using Photoshop or something of the sort. I did a fair amount of walking around all of Midtown Manhattan, but focused most of my efforts around the mile or so area surrounding the hotel to make a quick getaway back to the sanctuary of my room if it got to wet outside. I visited Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, The Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
I photographed Grand Central Station inside and out, and featured a few of the indoor shots earlier this week. The Chrysler Building has been one of my favorite buildings for a very long time, probably since I became aware of architecture and how it can be the artistic expression of an engineering and structural masterpiece. I don’t care that it’s not the tallest building in the city or the country. I fell in love with the art deco styling that makes it one of the architectural wonders of this country.
What I do care is that it no longer has an observation deck, and hasn’t had one in my lifetime. From what I’ve been able to find on the internet, the last time the Chrysler building had an observation deck was back in the 40’s. I can only imagine that the Empire State Building being much taller, offered visitors a higher view that left the Chrysler Building in the shadows. What surprises me is that today’s inhabitants of the upper floors of the building haven’t thought of opening it back up and charging admission for a glance out of that iconic building. Hell, I would pay $40 to $50 to hang out for 1/2 and hour on one of the upper floors that have the Chrysler eagles on the sides just for the photo opportunity. That building oozes BADASSNESS!!!
I have a funny story that I’ll share with you. Later in the week, I had dinner open to myself, so I thought I would get out there and see what trouble I could get myself into. Then I thought that it would be pretty cool to find a restaurant that was close by to the Chrysler building, possibly get a window seat that faced it and take the camera along for a good meal and some great up close pics. I had seen in my room that the hotel featured a top floor restaurant that boasted great views. It was a little pricey, but I figured I’d call to get a little more detail.
My first call was to the front desk. I’ll keep my part in standard text and will italicize their responses. I kinda went like this: Front desk. Hi, I was thinking of having dinner at the restaurant on the top floor and was curious if you knew what kind of view I would have. Well, you would see all of Manhattan. Okay, well, from the pictures on the brochure here in the room it looks like all I would see is Queens. No, sir, you could ask for a view of Manhattan. Okay, do you know if we can see the Chrysler Building from here? Absolutely; would you like me to make you a reservation? Nah, I think I’ll hold off a bit and think about it. Then I hung up. It was pretty weird, so I thought to call the restaurant itself. Here is that conversation.
Blah blah blah restaurant, may I help you? Hi, I am a guest at the hotel and was just asking the front desk if you guys would happen to have a view of the Chrysler Building from any one of your tables. Well, sir, we haven’t seen the Chrysler Building in about 15 years. Do you mean that you haven’t been allowed to leave the building in 15 years?? No, sir, I mean that in the last 15 years another building has obstructed our view of the Chrysler Building. Oh, the way you said it sounded weird. Well, if you’d like to come up for dinner, I can sit you at a table that gives a view of a building that resembles the Chrysler Building. But it wouldn’t be the Chrysler Building?? No, but most people can’t tell the difference at night. Well, I can and wouldn’t want to be staring at a building that looks like the Chrysler Building if it isn’t the Chrysler Building. (At this point, the conversation starts to get testy by both parties…) At what time would you like to make your reservation? Well, I don’t want a reservation if I can’t have a view of something interesting. Do you have a view of anything else? Well, the Empire State Building is further away, but I can offer a corner table by the window that would give you a partial view. Partial view? What’s that? Well, it means that if you lean a little towards the window, you are able to catch the corner of the Empire State Building. Oh, well I once sat through the Phantom of the Opera in a “partially obstructed view” seat and it really sucked. I would venture to say that this might suck as well. You may be right, sir. Is there anything else I can help you with? Nah, thanks for your time, you were very helpful. Click…
I ended up going out for pizza down the street from the Empire State building, but that was just one of many odd conversations I had while in NYC…
Going back to my photos, the color renditions of the following photos I am sharing with you came out very bland and flat due to the dark and gray sky. They almost looked to be black and white, even though they were taken in color format, because of the weather. I converted all of these to black and white using Photoshop and enhanced the sky a bit by bringing out the contrast in the angry and rolling clouds. I added a little sharpness and away we go…
After photographing the Chrysler Building, I made my way over towards Rockefeller Center. I stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral only to find it covered in scaffolding on one entire side. I did have a very enjoyable photo session inside that I will share with you guys tomorrow. After leaving the cathedral, I went over to Rockefeller Center and decided to spring for the admission ticket to the observation deck. It was totally worth it, even if the admission ticket gal warned me that the observation deck wasn’t offering a clear view of much of the city that day. I decided to go up anyway and still enjoyed myself. The pic of the Empire State Building with the city all around was taken from the Rockefeller Observation Deck.
The black and white photo of the Brooklyn Bridge that I featured yesterday was thrown in just to give an example of what can be done with pictures even on the clearest days in black and white. It is simply a classic medium that will never go out of style and adds class to just about any image if contrasted well. Enjoy!!