Exploring NYC, Part 2: A Day in the Snow

Few things are as magical as a visit to New York City during the holidays, when stores put on extravagant displays, Santa is available for a visit, and holiday markets pop-up across the city. Add a fresh heavy snowfall into the equation, and you have a truly memorable winter wonderland in the city.

A New York City Police Officer prepares this police horse for a ride in the snow

A New York City Police Officer prepares this police horse for a ride in the snow

A couple seeks refuge underneath an umbrella during the snowfall

A couple seeks refuge underneath an umbrella during the snowfall

Photographing snow can be a bit of a challenge. Bad weather always makes for a great photograph, but it's not as easy as just stepping outside, taking a quick image, and having success. I walked over 10 miles in the heavy snow to get these images, and faced several technical challenges along the way.

Snowfall blankets a quiet New York City intersection

Snowfall blankets a quiet New York City intersection

A man strolls through the snow in Central Park

A man strolls through the snow in Central Park

First was the challenge of keeping the camera dry enough. The Leica M10 is technically not weather sealed, but it is pretty hardy. Unfortunately the temperature outside was just warm enough that the snow melted almost instantly when it made contact with my body and the camera, making my hands and the camera very wet (never mind that it also made me very cold!). After several hours, this caused the viewfinder to fog completely.

During periodic breaks indoors, I wrapped the camera in a dry shirt with the hopes that it would help dry out the camera's viewfinder. That worked to an extent, but the remaining moisture would condense anytime I subjected it to a temperature change stepping between the outdoors and indoors. 

A man emerges from the 14th street subway station

A man emerges from the 14th street subway station

Steam rising from street vents adds to the dramatic effect of the snowfall on this New York street

Steam rising from street vents adds to the dramatic effect of the snowfall on this New York street

Second to keeping the camera dry is the challenge of keeping the lens dry. I was far more successful in this endeavor because I kept the camera oriented in my hand so that the lens was either facing downward, or facing downwind of the snow. I never - EVER - use a lens cap when out taking photographs, and certainly was not about to miss a shot because I had covered the lens. 

Taxi cabs lined up on the streets of Times Square during a late evening snowfall

Taxi cabs lined up on the streets of Times Square during a late evening snowfall

A streetsign covered with snow outside Times Square

A streetsign covered with snow outside Times Square

Finally, capturing snow can be a challenge. In a close-up photograph, snow can appear like a blur, rather than a snowflake. The trick was for enough of those blur's to be present in the photograph that the viewer would understand it was not a mistake, but that it was a snowflake.

I don't know how much snow fell in New York on this particular day as it never accumulated beyond a slush on the streets, but it certainly made for a beautiful day of photography.

Two women - presumably en route to a holiday party - stop for food from a street vendor in the late evening snow

Two women - presumably en route to a holiday party - stop for food from a street vendor in the late evening snow

The Importance of Storytelling

I've said it before - storytelling is everything as a photographer. There are lots of stories to tell, and each story requires a different presentation to share that story with the eventual viewer of the image.

Some stories tell themselves. Others need help. As a photographer, I need to use the tools at my disposal - namely the camera and lens - to capture that story, and to aid in conveyance. If we fail as storytellers, we fail as photographers. 

This image was a particularly fun story. The man peeking up from the ground is actually a bronze statue titled "Man at Work" on the streets of Bratislava, Slovakia. Tourists from around the world flock to kneel next to him and have their photo taken. Some rub the top of his hat for good luck (though after watching a few dogs pee on the statue, presumably for good luck, I opted out of the good luck charm). The photo everyone takes of him is one posing next to the statue. Yawn.

I stood about 20 feet away and got the camera low to the ground. Using the Leica f/0.95 Noctilux lens (which is wonderful for storytelling), I focused on the statue with a shallow depth of field. With the Leica Monochrom producing the black and white image, I just needed to wait and time my shot when there were a bunch of legs in the scene. I wanted the final product to feel a bit weird - to give the viewer goosebumps. 

The locals joke that his job is to look up the skirts of women passing by. I don't know about that, but I hope that my photograph told a similar story!

Quick Shot: Down the Alley

One of my favorite parts of living in Europe for the past two years has been exploring the pedestrian areas of old cities and finding hidden alleyways that split off the main routes. It's quite common to find side streets paved in stones, with intricate architecture and geometry in Europe's streets, and it's unlike anything you'll find in the United States.

Last week my friend and I travelled through Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and Germany, and we saw a LOT of beautiful and picturesque alleyways. Of course, I had to photograph them all! I saved only the best, and I'm excited to present the alleys as my first set of images from this travel.

I primarily used my Leica M Monochrom on this trip, opting to focus on making beautiful black and white images. Europe is beautiful in color, but I like it in black and white too! All of the images were made using the Leica M f/0.95 Noctilux lens as well.

Click on any image for a full size preview.

A tunnel on a stone street in Durnstein, Austria.

I absolutely love this street, mostly because of the perspective as it falls away from the viewer. Photographed in Germany

A residential side street in Austria

The side street of a monastery in Melk

Triple arches on this side alley street in Germany

Vanishing street in Regensburg, Germany

Bike parking on a side street in Germany

Quick Shots: Bike Culture

Europe loves the bicycle. And I love photographing Europeans on their bicycles, often at the risk of being run over. Amsterdam takes the bike culture to a whole new level; you are constantly dodging cars, mopeds, bikes, and pedestrians walking through the city, but if you manage to not be squished, then you are rewarded with a bounty of photographic opportunities.

It was important to me to capture the bike culture of Amsterdam in a way that was distinctly Amsterdam. So I shot a series of images to tell the story of Amsterdam's bike culture. Photographed with the Leica SL and Leica Q and converted to black and white in Nik Silver Efex.

"Ironic Bike"

"Cobblestone Bike"

"Multi-tasking"

"Resting Bike"

"Parked Bike"