Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Day 10: Top of the World Ma! Top of the World!

Brooklyn Bridge, walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge (ant's eye view)

Brooklyn Bridge, the road below the pedestrian/cyclist bit

Brooklyn Bridge, view of South Street, Lower Manhattan

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, detail

Brooklyn Bridge (pedestrians walk on one side, cyclists pedal on the other - it seems to work pretty well)

Brooklyn Bridge, bronze relief showing buildings on skyline, including the World Trade Center

Brooklyn Bridge, looking towards Manhattan Financial District

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn side

Near 6th Avenue / W.49th Street

Near 6th Avenue / W.49th Street

Corner of 6th Avenue / W.49th Street

Avenue of the Americas (6th)

Rockefeller Plaza (it's not significant in any way, I just liked the dress and the reflections in the window)

Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock), on the way up

Top of the Rock bar area, where live music was soon to be played

Top of the Rock, upper observation deck from the middle

Top of the Rock, middle observation deck

Top of the Rock (this security guard spent more time taking photos for visitors than keeping an eye on security!)

Top of the Rock towards the Empire State Building and downtown

Top of the Rock (I liked the image of this guy photographing his girlfriend)

Top of the Rock, looking downtown towards Financial District

Admiring the view, Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock, upper observation deck

Top of the Rock

Looking towards Central Park, Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

Empire State Building and downtown Manhattan from the Top of the Rock

Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock

There are a number of annoying bits of grobble (Technical Term) on my camera's sensor which I failed to clean off today, since I only spotted them when viewing the images larger on my laptop. Therefore a few of these photos show black spots, and whilst it is totally against my high (some might say, anal) standards, I do not have the necessary software to remove these at present. Sorry!

Yet another late start, again despite waking at 6.45am, but lots of blog to catch up on, and also various emails. Needed to let Mark and George (the Greek cousins) know that I wouldn't be able to meet them again for a drink at McSorleys in the East Village, as suddenly have no time left over and too many things to do :( Was really sorry about that, as it would have been such fun to meet up again, but perhaps next time? Mark emailed back and said if I was ever in Seattle to look him up, and George emailed to wish me a belated happy birthday - thanks to you both :)

The weather looked a bit grey and overcast, but it was warm in the apartment so wore vest and jeans, with Chucks and usual cardi tied around waist in case it got nippy later. What I should have worn was: a dress and sandals, or at the very least, less-tight jeans (was in skinnies) and sandals, and certainly no cardi - god, it was hot and humid! I knew two blocks from the apartment that I should go back and change, but just couldn't be bothered and kept telling self that it may still cool down later as it did look grey in places (delusional woman), so doggedly carried on to the subway. Once there, had to buy a new ticket as my seven-day pass had expired, but to reach the ticket machine found myself having to negotiate a stream of people arriving on an inbound train, akin to crossing a very busy road. Tried to move forward through the flow, to be confronted by a young woman walking forward in an extremely single-minded fashion, saying only "excuse me, excuse me, excuse me" until I had to actually stop in my tracks and let her go. She must've thought I was a typical dithering tourist clogging the arteries of the subway with my bumbling inefficiency, when all I was trying to do was get one metre to the ticket machine. Said "well, excuse you too!" to her departing back, but doubt that she heard, and certainly cared less if she did.

Caught 6 train down to Brooklyn Bridge, found myself stuck on a local train which stops everywhere and therefore takes longer, but at least it was cool, as opposed to the underground platform which was steaming more than than the Amazonian Rainforest (as was I after my walk). Came out at City Hall and walked straight onto the mile long Brooklyn Bridge, tripod on my shoulder, and began taking photographs almost straight away. It is a wonderful bridge, and the views are spectacular, so used a combination of all three lenses (24-70mm, 70-200mm and 16mm fisheye) to try and capture it. Used the tripod quite a few times, but the vibration from the cars passing below and also of cyclists and passers-by made it quite hard to avoid camera shake, especially with the longest lens. Had to do my best to be patient and wait for intervals in all this traffic before pressing the shutter.

A very pretty girl from Brazil asked me if I would mind taking her photograph with her camera, since I was "a photographer", and I happily obliged, and then a short distance after another girl also asked me if I would do the same for her. There were lots of other people with cameras on the bridge, but maybe because most of them were blokes these girls felt more comfortable asking me, which was nice.

At a couple of points on the bridge were bronze engravings of the skyline, showing which building was where on Manhattan. This had obviously not been changed post-9/11, because the twin towers were still there, but someone had etched R.I.P. over the top of them. Tried to capture this on film but not sure that it shows up very clearly, but I hope it can work on an enlargement when I get home and back to Photoshop, as it was a poignant testament to that defining moment in American history.

Once I got to the other side of the bridge, went what I suspected was the longest route to the subway all because I wanted to photograph a sign reading "Welcome to Brooklyn - How Sweet it is!", which then led me on down this seemingly neverending hellish sidewalk inbetween two lanes of traffic right into South Brooklyn. Was very hot in the humidity, needing a sit and some sustenance, and not impressed with the Mighty Traipse I found myself forced to endure. Eventually reached civilisation (an intersection with a map), tried to work out where the nearest subway was from there and set off in that direction praying that I had got it right, but on seeing a traffic cop asked her just to be sure. Just as well I did, since she sent me off in a completely different direction to the one I had been taking, but mercifully the subway was five minutes away and soon I found myself back inside a lovely cool train heading uptown. Planned to get off at Spring and go to the t-shirt shop again, but found self on express train which brutally hurtled through my required stop and deposited me at 14th Street Union Square instead. Oh arse! How come it is that when I want to be somewhere quickly like this morning, I end up on the local train, and when I want to be on the local so that I can get off where I choose I wind up on the express? Had to alter plans (will do t-shirt shop tomorrow) and instead went on up to Lexington/53rd where I changed onto the V train to 47th/50th Street for the Rockefeller Center.

Another of those stations which emerges into a building, this time in the heart of a complex of skyscrapers belonging to publishing houses. Was going to go straight to the Rockefeller Center, but passed a cafe on the way and thought that maybe now was the time to get something to eat - sat outside and had a three cheese and tomato panini, and a cup of delicious amaretto coffee (first discovered with the ABF in Macy's basement cafe/gourmet food section, so delish that I bought a packet of the beans to take home, and I hardly ever even drink coffee). This pit stop was a very good idea, as I felt a lot more energetic afterwards, and headed up the Avenue of the Americas (6th) to get my ticket for the Top of the Rock. Was told I couldn't use my tripod up at the top with all three legs out, but could mount my camera on it and use it monopod style instead, all for "security reasons", so had to agree (but it was frustrating when I got up there, since I had to up the ISO as the light failed, which will inevitably result in unsightly noise on some of the later shots) and went on through the x-ray machine - security is quite tight at all these venues.

There are three observation decks, each progressively higher than the last, and the bottom two were surrounded by thick plate glass with gaps every metre or so which were just large enough to point a camera lens through, but this positioning obviously limited composition somewhat. The top level was definitely the best, with no glass as the drop down was just the level below, so spent longest up there and had a lovely time taking photos as the light faded. Still incredibly hot, even the breeze was warm, and at that height this was quite something. Wanted to stay and have a glass of champagne for my last night, especially as there was live music in the bar and the evening was so glorious, but suddenly remembered I needed to check in for my flight 24 hours in advance, and this wouldn't work on my BlackBerry despite my best efforts. (Later: turns out I should have stayed, since online check-in wouldn't work on the laptop either, being mysteriously greyed out on the BA website. Will probably arrive at JFK tomorrow to find I have crap seat in a bank of four on the aisle, the one where there is no final view of NYC, nothing to lean one's head against, and complete strangers are constantly climbing over one's lap to get to the loo - on a overnight flight, this is not a tempting prospect. Wish I could afford to travel First instead of Cattle!!)

Reluctantly left the Rock observation decks and descended down through the building, after first visiting gift shop for a couple of souveniers, wistfully casting one more glance at the twinkling lights of Manhattan and the surrounding area, looking quite amazing in the inky blue dusk - at that moment I loved New York so much I wanted to cry, knowing that 24 hours from that moment I would be heading back to Blighty. Yes, there are lots of good things to go back for, but I really, REALLY love it here, and if there was ever any opportunity to live and work here I would take it in a hearbeat, I know I would.

Another hot and sticky journey uptown, the camera bag and tripod now feeling really heavy around my neck and shoulder, to finally get back to the apartment around 8.30pm. Fired up laptop immediately and tried disasterous attempt at online flight check-in, then Cecilia came up to give me back my security deposit, and told me that I could stay in the apartment until 3pm tomorrow, which was supremely helpful as it means I can go out for last bits in the morning and then come back and pack them properly. I'm sure that she asked her cleaner to come in later to accomodate this, so thanks very much C, your help is greatly appreciated :) She said to keep in touch via email now and then, and if she didn't see me tomorrow then to have a safe journey back home .... but don't want to think about home just yet .....

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