Once the spring weather comes along, the people of New York City emerge from their collective holes like so many urban groundhogs, squinting in the bright sun and looking around for a little patch of open ground to settle in on for a nice bask. Of course, such spots are relatively rare among the concrete buildings and the paved streets, so the few available are inevitably crammed full of winter-weary New Yorkers, virtually shoulder-to-shoulder and jostling for position like walruses during mating season. This can be rather entertaining to watch, albeit in small doses; too many people in close proximity tend to get on my nerves relatively quickly. But if you want to get the photos, you have to walk amongst the maddening crowds, at least for a little while.
As usual, I was hauling around my Canon P. I had the 35mm Jupiter-12 mounted, a lens I’ve been trying to get used to. I think my inclination is really more toward the 50mm focal length for general purpose use, particularly for street photography, but trying new approaches is the only way to figure out what you prefer, and more importantly, why. So the J-12 and I went for a walk around Bryant Park on a Sunday afternoon.
The observant reader may note that all of the shots in this post are desaturated color photos. The reason for this is simple: in addition to using a lens with which I’m not terribly comfortable yet, I was also shooting a film I’ve only experimented with once before, Fuji Superia 800. And why was a shooting an 800-speed film on a sunny afternoon? Because the plan was to photograph the historic rail equipment assembled for the Parade of Trains at Grand Central, but the line to get in was an hour long (remember my feelings about crowds), so I headed out to save what’s left of my sanity. The Fuji may be rated at 800, but most of my shots were underexposed enough to make me question just how accurate that rating is. I’ve certainly underexposed plenty of frames on my own, but these were pretty consistently dark. I’m going to shoot the next roll at 640, or maybe even 500, and see how it goes.
So why convert to black & white? There are lots of ways to do this, but the GEGL script c2g (used in GIMP, which is my standard post-processing software) works somewhat differently than most (I will not even pretend to understand the technical details), and is extremely useful in bringing up underexposed shots as a result. Thus the first three shots were done this way simply to make them more usable. There’s still a lack of shadow detail, but they’re a lot better than the originals. It can be a bit grainy at times, but it’s not a bad look.
I headed back to Grand Central after the park. The crowds had thinned a good bit after the vintage train exhibit closed, but it was still busy with tourists. Oddly, the one guy at the tourist information booth seemed to be a local, while none of the tourists paid it any attention.
There were also a several couples having wedding pictures taken. It was a fairly ridiculous spectacle, if I’m honest. Striking all these contrived poses in the middle of a public space seemed more an exercise in getting people to look at you than anything else. But the wedding photographers knew how to put their preening subjects in good light, so I took the opportunity to shamelessly leech off of their efforts. This shot was converted with a different script that is supposed to mimic the look of Tri-X, which I think it does reasonably well, but not perfectly.
So I survived another mission into the city. It’s a like-hate relationship: I don’t love it, but I can enjoy the city, and I recognize that it’s a special place in the world, but I can’t take it in more than small doses. Carrying a camera helps to take my attention away from being constantly annoyed by the incessant noise, the frenetic activity, and the masses of idiots.