Aug 30, 2007

Brooklyn Heights Barge Pool To Float In Another Borough Next Summer

This weekend is your last chance to take in a dazzling view of the lower Manhattan skyline while floating in the barge pool docked in Brooklyn Heights. Next year’s port of call will be in another borough and the Bronx looks like the top contender, according to New York’s Daily News.

More than 63,000 people took a dip in the Floating Pool Lady this summer. You’ll find more information and another photo of the pool here.

Stop by next week for inside info on an archaeological wonder in India you won’t find in any guide books and more on Shanghai, one of Asia’s must visit cities.

Aug 28, 2007

Coney Island Landmarks To Survive Redevelopment

With the summer season coming to a close this weekend and the future of Coney Island in flux due to the major makeover it will undergo in the coming years, I thought I’d post a photographic round up of landmark protected icons that will survive redevelopment.

The Parachute Jump, referred to by locals as the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn, was built for the 1939-40 World’s Fair and moved to Coney Island in 1941. It ceased operation as a ride in the late 1960s and received landmark status in 1988.

The Cyclone rollercoaster opened in 1927 and was designated a New York City Landmark in 1988.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel was built in 1920, is 155 feet high and gained landmark status in 1989.

Aug 27, 2007

Moroccan Blue

If Morocco has a signature color it is likely cobalt blue. A very particular cobalt known as Majorelle Blue named after French expatriate artist Jacques Majorelle who lived in Marrakesh from 1922-62. He built a villa and studio surrounded by a garden in which he incorporated this shade of blue.

It is easy to see why he was inspired by this particular hue, the intensity of which radiates a glowing warmth complements of the exquisite light of the North African sun.

You can see Majorelle Blue all over Morocco in textiles, pottery and architecture like the photograph of this door taken in the medina or old city of Essaouira.

After Majorelle’s death following a car accident, the garden was neglected for years until it was purchased in 1980 and restored by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge.

Open to the public Jardin Majorelle also houses the museum of Modern of Islamic Art.

Aug 24, 2007

Travel Season Begins

Fall is the busy season for me and travel plans for the rest of the year are shaping up with several hopelessly photogenic destinations on the horizon. I am off to Tucson, Arizona Labor Day weekend, a part of the country I’ve haven’t been to yet. Looking forward to photographing all the desert has to offer and driving a car. It’s been almost a year since I’ve sat behind a wheel which is typical of Manhattan dwellers, most of whom don’t own cars. Which reminds me, I need to book a rental.

Mexico is on the docket for October. I have a friend in Mexico City who knows all the great places to travel and the best way to get there. One could spend a lifetime exploring Mexico. My visit will coincide with the Day of The Dead festival, which I will write more about in a later post. I experienced it two years ago in Oaxaca and it’s something not to be missed if you have the opportunity. This trip to Mexico will include Real de Catorce, a ghost town in the desert, and the charming colonial town of San Miguel de Allende.

November looks like it will bring a trip to Kenya’s Masai Mara. I was last there about six years ago. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with my husband, a wildlife buff who loves all creatures big and small. It will also be a great time to be completely removed from all and take it easy.

And of course I’ll see what else I can squeeze in before the end of the year. Perhaps a few days in Los Angeles of which I need a dose. One of my homes away from home (the others are India and the U.K.), it’s been more than a year since my last visit and I’m suffering from withdrawal.

Aug 23, 2007

South Gate Entrance Angkor Thom Angkor Wat Cambodia

The god and demon guardians of the south gate to Angkor Thom have stood sentry for more than 800 years. The gate is one of five entrances to the royal city of Angkor Thom, one of the many satellite temple complexes of Angkor Wat Cambodia.

I can still hear the roar of the cicadas perched in the surrounding jungle.

Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer Empire. How long do you think the glass and steel kingdoms of today will survive? Or will they be demolished and replaced with something “bigger and better” before time has a chance to tell?

Aug 16, 2007

Night Photography Nanjing Road Shanghai China

The neon forests of Asia’s metropolises are a night photographer’s dream. Hong Kong’s Nathan Road, Tokyo’s Shinjuku district and Shanghai’s Nanjing Road, shown in this photograph, are some of the classic Asian urban landscapes to photograph at night. These densely populated cities are also high energy so regardless of how exhausted you are from a full day of pounding the pavement a second wind easily kicks in.

I’ve often stayed until the lights have been shut off on Nanjing Road. A few miles long it is the main and busiest shopping street in Shanghai, part of which is pedestrianized. It’s also a great place to people watch---families gather, couples canoodle and Shanghai’s fashion conscious strut their stuff.

The above photo was taken in November of last year.

Aug 15, 2007

Coney Island End Of An Era

Continuing with the summer New York City beach theme from earlier this week here is a photograph of Coney Island, the landscape of which is to change dramatically in the coming years. This could be the last summer for Coney Island as we know it.

Developers have been buying up land to build hotels, shopping malls and new amusement rides ala Vegas style. The plans, which keep changing, are wrought with controversy and drama that will likely drag on for years. For the tangled low down check out Kinetic Carnival.

But for now it is still urban Americana personified—Nathan’s Hot Dogs, The Cyclone and Sideshows By the Seashore—to name a few. It’s a great place to spend a day photographing.

Coney Island’s lifecycle so far has seen it go from the glory resort days of early last century, the urban decay and gangs depicted in the cult classic The Warriors and a revitalization that started in the 1990s. Whatever transition comes next, I hope that its unique personality isn’t completely wiped out.

Aug 14, 2007

Dentist Djemma el Fna Marrakesh Morocco

I was going to post something else tonight but I’ve been distracted by a bit of a toothache. The man in the baseball cap is a dentist in Djemma el Fna, the legendary square in Marrakesh Morocco. He certainly would have prescribed a remedy and perhaps on further inspection added one of my teeth to the pile on his table. But not before negotiating a price of course. No appointment necessary.

He took time out from haggling with a future patient, who was holding his swollen jaw in pain, to pose for this photograph and showcase a tooth with a pair of pliers. Said patient is the unhappy looking man on the right.

Do you think the dentures are one size fits all?

Aug 12, 2007

Floating Pool Brooklyn Bridge Park Beach

Here’s a new way to take in the Manhattan skyline and New York City Harbor, in a swimming pool floating on the East River. The pool is on a barge dubbed the Floating Pool Lady. It arrived in New York City from New Orleans last fall and opened in July. It’s anchored off Brooklyn Heights between piers 4 and 5, where the future Brooklyn Bridge Park will reside. A makeshift beach has been set up complete with sand, volleyball nets, umbrellas and concessions.

Not a bad way to spend a few hours during the dog days of summer. It wasn’t an over crowded madhouse, surprising for a public city pool on a blazing hot Sunday. It’s free of charge and will float away after Labor Day. For more information check out Brooklyn Heights Blog.

Aug 8, 2007

Taiwan’s Taipei 101 Tower

You are looking at the world’s tallest occupied building, Taiwan’s Taipei 101 Tower. It was the world’s tallest building until last month when it was surpassed by the Burj Dubai or Dubai Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates which is still under construction. At the moment the Burj Dubai is about 13 feet taller than Taipei 101, which scrapes the sky at 1,667 feet. Developers are playing their cards close to the vest by not divulging the final height when it is completed next year. They have told news outlets it will be higher than 2,275 feet.

Burj Dubai already has competition in its own back yard. Al Burj, a skyscraper proposed by developers that will reach up to 3,937 feet, is expected to start construction in Dubai later this year, according to reports.

Taipei 101, which held the crown since 2004, was built to withstand typhoons and earthquakes which are common on the island nation. Genius engineering not withstanding, I wouldn’t want to be on the 90th floor of Taipei 101 during a tremor. The 17th floor of the hotel I stayed at was enough when a small quake hit for a few seconds one night. I heard a rumbling noise, the curtains began to sway and fortunately before there was time to get alarmed it was over.

Aug 6, 2007

Beijing Summer Olympics Countdown

This week marks the one year countdown to the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Building and renovation is proceeding at break-neck speed to meet the deadline. The city is undergoing a major facelift in addition to the massive construction projects underway for the facilities that will house the games.

All the major sites were already getting a makeover when I was there almost two years ago. Parts of the Forbidden City and almost all of the Temple of Heaven were under scaffolding, the bane of a travel photographer.

The last day of my trip coincided with National Day, a time when China pretty much shuts down and millions take a vacation and travel in the country. Tiananmen Square was packed, with a reported one million people descending on it in one day. It sure felt that way. The streets of New York City seemed empty for a long while after I returned.

The above photo is of the Museum of Chinese History with the countdown clock to the opening ceremonies.

Aug 3, 2007

How To Buy A Carpet In Morocco - Top Bargaining Tips

In the medinas of Morocco’s Marrakesh and Fez, business is still conducted like it has been for centuries and an integral of part of that is bargaining. While a way of life in many cultures where price tags are non existent, haggling can be intimidating for the uninitiated.

Marrakesh is hardcore and one of the worst places in Morocco to buy a carpet. It’s a tourist mecca, resulting in a higher price to fleecing ratio. But since most first time visitors go to Marrakesh during some point of their trip I’ll focus on it. It’s the extreme. If you can haggle successfully there you can haggle anywhere.

Upon entering any carpet shop you will be offered a warm welcome and asked a series of questions, disguised as small talk, which are used to calculate how high your starting price will be. The carpet merchant, like any good salesman, is qualifying your spending potential. Here are some of the typical questions and a translation of their underlying meaning:

Where are you from? If you are from North America, Japan, Western Europe, The U.K. and Australia the starting price will be higher.

Have you been to Morocco/Marrakesh before? If you say no, the price goes up.

How long have you been in Marrakesh? The less time the higher the price.

How long have you been in Morocco? Same as above.

Haggling is a dance that requires time, patience and humor. You can easily spend a few hours from start to finish buying a carpet. During this time a plethora will be deftly unfolded and placed before you on the floor. There will be mint tea to drink. After a significant array has been displayed the process of elimination begins. Naturally don’t be overly enthusiastic when you’ve found something you like. While carpets you have given the thumbs down to are taken away expect to hear, “ Tell me which one you like, you are my first customer of the day so I’ll give you a special price and it will bring me good luck,” and similar variations.

When the elimination is complete it’s time for the grand finale--the big price reveal of your potential purchase. An outrageously high figure will be quoted. Exasperation and anger will get you nowhere. Offer a fraction of that price, a quarter perhaps, but do so with humility. Your offer will be met like an insult, with incredulous looks and a song and dance about the fine quality of the workmanship, the woman who worked six months weaving and other psychological warfare ploys to tap your guilt vault. It’s all part of the game. Keep your poker face and cool and smile periodically while the dramatics continue. They will be followed by a better price, at which point you up your ante a bit. This process is repeated until a price is agreed.

If , however, you reach an impasse on price there is one last move. Thank the merchant for his time, the good tea, apologize for not being able to afford his goods and walk to the door. About 99% of the time he will come after you asking your “final” best price or lowering his.

The big question of course is what is a fair price? What you are willing to pay is the right price. Keep a figure in mind and stick to it. To get an idea of prices I suggest visiting government run artist cooperatives, which are typically listed in the usual suspects of guide books. They have fixed prices and the quality is consistently good but the prices will be higher than if you successfully bargain. And of course you miss out on the experience.

Top Bargaining Tips:

-During the initial screening don’t say you just got to town
-If you like something don’t show it
-Keep your cool no matter how hard
-Be polite
-Don’t let the guilt ploys tug at your purse strings
-If you are quoted an overly outrageous price come back with an outrageously low counter offer to give you some leverage
-Prepare to spend a few hours
-Check out artists cooperatives to get an idea of price
-Know what your budget is and don’t exceed it
-Finally, if you really don’t want to purchase something don’t no matter what dramatics ensue

Aug 1, 2007

Essaouira Morocco -- Gnaoua World Music Festival

Sometimes the best photo opportunities catch you by surprise. But you need to be prepared for the unexpected or it’s a gift squandered.

While in Morocco last June I spent part of the time in Essaouira. Located on the Atlantic Coast, Essaouira is a beautiful laid back ancient port city. It was part of the hippie trail in the 1960s and 1970s and is popular with tourists. Its signature colors are white and cobalt blue painted on the buildings in the medina, or old walled city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

My trip coincided with the Gnaoua World Music Festival. The festival doesn’t start for a few more hours and I decide to head out of the old city to photograph the beach. It’s late in the day and shadows have descended on the narrow lanes of the Medina. I turn a corner and there is a mini parade, Mardi Gras style, of musicians and giant puppets. I’m already in the middle of the lane and the procession, surrounded by hundreds of spectators being pushed to the side by police, is rapidly coming straight towards me. I have about 20 seconds to make the most of it.

The photograph of the musician above was the last one taken before I jumped into a doorway where a shopkeeper subsequently offers refuge so I don’t get crushed by the crowd.