Sunday, June 29, 2008

SPS: Last Shots from NYC

Here are a few last images from my recent trip to NYC. This first one shows some of the exotic produce for sale at a street market in the Chinatown area. From one street corner you could look north into the red, white, and green of Little Italy, then turn and look south into Chinatown. If I remember correctly, the bright pink fruit selling for $9 a pound was called dragon fruit.

This sculpture is in Battery Park, at the tip of Manhattan. A sign stated that this sculpture stood in the courtyard of the World Trade Center and was damaged (as you can see) in the events of September 11th. It was moved here to serve as a memorial, as its original purpose was to represent the concept of world peace. There is an eternal flame at the base.

From Battery Park, you can see across the harbor to the Statue of Liberty. We did not have time to take the ferry out to the island to visit the Lady up close, but this is the closest I've made it to her yet. The National Park Service owns the property at the tip of Manhattan, and there is a large fort there called Castle Clinton. The fort was turned into an opera house in the 1800s, but later fell into disrepair, and is now restored to its historic state as a fort.

And lastly, here is a shot taken through a window into the Toys R' Us store in Times Square. Each "car" on this ride had a different theme. There was an M&M car and a Monopoly-themed car, for example. Barbie, Mr. Potato Head, Scooby Doo & the Cabbage Patch Kids got some face time, too.
Makes me want to be a kid again :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Familiar Places

While in NYC, one of the things I continually found myself thinking was "Wow ... there's the (insert name of famous building/park/ street/area here) that I've always seen on TV, right here in front of me!" Sometimes I forget that a lot of the things seen on TV actually exist outside the little picture box :)
Here is Rockefeller Center, rising behind a large sculptural piece meant to mimic its shape. Although the artwork is only a small fraction of the size of the original, here it appears just as large. Right next door to this skyscraper is NBC studios, where The Today show broadcasts daily.

Next photo is looking down across a fountain/wall made of reddish brown granite. This feature is inside the lobby of Trump Tower, which is well known to me by watching many seasons of Trump's show The Apprentice.

The main interest for me, in this photo, is the Chrysler Building, seen in the far distance. To me, the Art Deco design is divine. Tourists are allowed to go about fifteen feet into the Chrysler's lobby, before guards start frowning and asking for identification. However, fifteen feet was far enough for me to nab some photos. Over each door, dramatically lit letters announce the street on which the entrance opens:

And I've still got a few more NYC pics up my sleeve for next post ...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SPS: Jersey Birds

I will get back to my NYC pictures in the next post, but I figure some New Jersey parks are the next best thing, especially for a Super Park Saturday. Birds were the theme of this last weekend. We camped in the Pinelands, and went to sleep both nights to the sound of whippoorwills. On Saturday, we went to Island Beach State Park, where there are several beaches for swimming, and a trail that leads to a small bird blind on the bay side of the island.

While in the blind, we thought we saw a Canada goose. But closer inspection revealed what I think is a brant. I have no idea what he's doing in New Jersey at this time of year; the information I read says that brants winter in the area but are not year-round residents. This guy missed the memo, I guess, because I'm not sure what other type of bird he could be.

The blind also enabled us to watch a snowy egret stalking along the edges of the water. Later in the day, we visited Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which has an 8-mile scenic drive through a vast expanse of wetlands and tidal marshes. Here, we saw a flock of black skimmers:

Skimmers feed by flying low along the water, dipping their lower jaw into the surf, and scooping up dinner. I haven't seen a skimmer since an evening in Alabama, when Sandy and I were on our Great Southern Roadtrip of 2005 :)

Also at Forsythe, we saw a Mama swan and three cygnets (I had to look up the word for baby swans) :) These are mute swans, which are an Old World species introduced as decorative birds for parks and farm ponds. But of course some have escaped and live and reproduce in the wild.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Belated Super Parks: Urban Spaces

Yeah, yeah, I know its Wednesday, not Saturday :) But I owe you all a couple of park posts, and I thought maybe a break from national parks would be refreshing. So here are a few shots I took this last Saturday from public spaces in New York City:

This fountain was tucked away among large planters close to Rockefeller Center. I've only been to NYC once before, and I don't know how I failed to notice the many many artistic details that abound. My excuse is that it was dark outside on my first trip :)

I never thought to get the above picture in NYC, but it was easy in Central Park. A wider angle and a glance upward reveals the office buildings of midtown Manhattan.

There are a few water features in Central Park, and they are creatively named. This is The Pond, and there's also The Lake and The Reservoir :)

I hope to have a few more New York posts here soon, but we're going to the beach this weekend, so I might be distracted :)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blue Birds

The last time I was at my parent's house, my Mom told me I should take my camera, go outside, and try to capture a pair of bluebirds nesting in her birdhouse at the end of the driveway. I was up for it, obviously :)

After about ten minutes, I had some shots of small blurry birds. Then, I noticed that Dad had come outside and was getting his tripod out of his truck. "Hmmm, maybe he's going to bring that over here?" I wondered. Yep, here he comes, the tripod attached to his camera, the camera attached to a supermondo lens. But the birds weren't cooperating too well, and it was cold, and Dad grew impatient. I was more than happy to take over the operation from him. This is the only picture I have where both male and female are in the shot at the same time.

Judging by the number of caterpillars going in, and the amount of "waste" carried out, the happy couple's eggs had hatched and hungry mouths were being fed.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

SPS: Zion from the Outside

Zion canyon is beautiful from the inside, but its not too shabby from the outside either :)

One evening we had an hour or two of sunlight left and hated to waste it. So, we decided to go find Grafton, a ghost town about ten miles from our campsite. Grafton turned out to be beautifully situated, and the late evening light was the perfect complement to the red rock surroundings. The tall whitish spires at the top left are the walls of Zion. The land really had the "Old West" feel to it. It's no wonder that western movies are regularly filmed in this area.

This picture is one of my favorites from our stay in Utah.