Friday, February 26, 2016

Reservoir Reflections

My ankle has been messed up lately so I haven't gone running. I'm trying to rest it. But I had to get out of the house tonight. I went for a walk in the freezing cold (it's colder when you're not running!) over to the Reservoir. I always love the midtown skyline.

I left the shutter open for a minute to get these shots, which apparently is too long because the stars moved. It was quite the challenge to time it so I didn't get any planes or helicopters in the shot. Most of the pictures looked like this:

I don't like the streaks through the picture.

This was also the first time I noticed how pretty the Upper East Side looks across the Reservoir. I'm always so mesmerized by midtown that I never really pay attention to the east side. But I should...

Can you see the Guggenheim? It's just right of center.

And that's about all my hands could take because it got even colder. So I walked home. Good night! :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

North Meadow Central Park #EveryPath

I started out in the 90's and ran around the Tennis Courts for a while. Oddly enough, I don't have a single picture of the tennis courts though. Some other time. Here's a path to the north of the Tennis Center though:

These are some of the least frequently used paths, as it's really just a cut-through from East Drive to West Drive just below the 97th Street Transverse. And most people would rather take the more scenic path along the reservoir just below here or the more popular path above 97th. Or just bus it across 97th.

It's paths like the one below that make running every path kinda humorous to anybody paying attention. To get them all, I have to run down one path, up the next, and down the third. Fortunately, nobody really pays attention in New York.

There's another section down between the zoo and the pond and there are 5 or 6 paths side by side. That's fun.

The North Meadow is home to a dozen softball fields (literally, 12). I play soccer on these fields in the Fall.

It also has a rec center with basketball and handball courts in the center. And bathrooms, if you need them while you're up here.

Off to the north side of the meadow is a small trail that ducks down to a little arch.

The arch is one of the smallest and least known in the Park, mostly because it's almost entirely hidden from the North Meadow, and on the other side is the much less-travelled Loch.

The Loch is one of those places in the Park that very few tourists wander because you can't see the City and they get scared because they don't know where they are or if it's safe.

It's safe. At least in the day time. There are no lights in here at night. And although I've never felt scared running through here at night, I wouldn't recommend it.

There are two main paved trails paralleling the Loch...

...and then the side trails are all wood chips.

The Loch begins at the Pool (the body of water - not a swimming pool, although confusingly enough the Loch ends at Lasker Pool - the swimming pool on the north side of the Park). So that paved path I mentioned before runs alongside the Loch through Glen Span Arch. I'm standing next to a waterfall fed by the Pool to take this picture.

The sun was setting, and don't tell Central Park but I cheated on her and ran over to Riverside Park to watch the sunset over there. Sometimes I just want to check in on the Hudson River and see how she's doing.

She's good.

It's amazing how many people run and bike along Riverside Park. You can go for miles.

It was a good day. Which I'm glad because my left achilles feels like it's strained so I'm gonna have to lay off the running for a few days and let it rest back to normal.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Central Park at Night

Sometimes I work late. Ok, it's more often than that. And since I work from home, it's not uncommon that at 7pm I've taken less than 300 steps. And my daily step counter on my phone gets mad at me if it's under 10,000. So I have to go running at night.

Fortunately, Central Park stays open until 1am.

If you ever want to see Central Park completely empty, just go on a cold winter night.

The pictures on this post are from three separate nights. The first one was freezing. Like crazy cold. February 13 had a high of 22 and a low of 6, with a windchill in the negatives.

And if you think I just waited until it was really late and there was nobody around, this picture was taken at 7:30pm on the West side. I ran through the park for about 20 minutes and then walked for another 10 or 15. The entire time, I saw 5 people. Two dog walkers, a couple, and one other runner.

This one was taken around 5:40pm on the East side a few days later.

I'm telling you, you'll find more people in a frozen yogurt place on a winter's night than you will in Central Park.

If you're concerned about running in the Park at night, rest your fears aside. Most of the paths are really well lit. And with the exception of cold winter nights, it's still pretty busy until around 10 or 11, even up here on the north end of the Park.

There are a few paths devoid of light, like the dreaded Bridle Path. Never run the Bridle Path at night. And honestly, it's my least favorite path to run in the daytime too.

Run through that tunnel if you want to get your adrenaline going. I did. I don't recommend it. Hopefully Isa won't read this part of the post. :) With good reason, she likes me to be safe when I run at night. So normally I stick to the main paths.

So the first freezing night I ran with the Olympus - it's freeze-proof. The Canon only works to about 30 degrees. Isa and I took it out during the blizzard and it started having some issues once it got too cold. But this second night (2/17) got up to 35 degrees, so I ran with the Canon. It takes much clearer pictures at night.

On my quest to run every path in Central Park again, I felt like I've been neglecting the south part of the Park. I also love the midtown skyline at night, so I wanted to photograph it. I ran just under 4 miles.

From Columbus Circle, I cut across the Park to the Pond. The workers were taking the ice down at Wollman Rink. Winter is over (although it didn't feel like it).

The rink and the pond are really well lit. Since the south part of the Park is where the tourists usually are, this whole section is really safe to run at night - lots of people and plenty of patrol cars cruising around.

There's no flash on that picture. It's just that bright. Here's the view from the other side.

I tried my best to lean my camera on something stable so the long exposures came out clearly.

When I was taking these skyline pictures, I noticed the stars and I seriously went a little crazy. You don't see stars in Manhattan. Especially not in midtown. But you can actually see Orion here!

The pond was still recovering from the frozen week we just went through.

I ran up through the Mall, but it's wide open so I had nothing to rest my camera on and all the pictures turned out blurry, so I decided to come back with the tripod later. This was the best I could get.

From the Mall, I ran up through the Ramble to the Belvedere Castle.

And then cut through to one of my favorite views of the midtown skyline.

I liked it tonight, but I like it better without the ice. I'll get it later in the season.

So two days later (2/19) it was borderline too cold to use the Canon, but I went for it anyway. And I brought the tripod so I could set up pictures wherever I felt like it.

This was the first picture I took and immediately I noticed I had forgotten something important. My camera battery was blinking red. :(

So I ran straight over to the Mall to get what I came for. I was afraid that there'd be people around, so I waited until 11:30pm to go. And it was empty for the entire 20 minutes I was there. This is what the Mall looks like at night from Bethesda Terrace.

Not a single soul as far as you can see. I moved up to get it from a few vantage points.

I loved that the night was so still. The branches didn't move at all throughout the 20-second exposure. The camera died after the third shot, so I waited for a minute and took a shot facing north.

I'll have to take the tripod out another night (with a full battery) and get some more shots around the park. For now, if you want to see more night shots from Central Park, check out my run around the Harlem Meer:

Click the picture to go to the Harlem Meer in Winter run.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Leaving Las Vegas

After our less than stellar experience in the Neon Boneyard, we needed to do something else to make this day more worthwhile.

Immediately following the boneyard, we walked down Las Vegas Boulevard in the really shady part of town that the museum is in because Isa saw a cool looking building.

We went home for dinner with the family and then headed out to the Mirage to watch the volcano show.

It scared MJ so bad though, from the very first eruption. She cried and asked Christy to make it stop for the rest of the 10-minute show. :(

After the Bellagio's water show, it's the best free show on the Strip (now that the Siren's show is closed at Treasure Island next door).

And we finally got a brothers pic! That's me (Brian), Jason, and then Christopher. Crazy how we all look alike, huh? /jk

We're all pink because it's across the street from a giant red Walgreens sign.

From the Strip, we drove back up to Fremont Street so Chris and Maryellen could do the zipline/zoomline. When we were here on Saturday, the first opening was at 1:40am, so they reserved spots for 8pm tonight.

Although their ticket said 8pm, there was an hour-long wait to ride still. Not sure how that works. So Isa and I wandered Fremont Street while we waited.

And when we had seen it all (it's only a few blocks long), we went in and played the slots. We each chose a machine and put in a dollar. Isa lost the entire thing straight away without ever winning any of it back. This is how she feels about gambling in Vegas.

I won 20 cents.

But then lost it all a few seconds later.

Finally, Chris and Maryellen flew overhead.

On the way home, we stopped at the iconic Fabulous Las Vegas sign.

And the we got our stuff, said goodbye to Jason and his family, and headed to the airport. Such a fun Vegas trip. Somehow I wasn't tired when we left at 1:30am, so I played around in Final Cut Pro and put this to music.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Las Vegas Neon Boneyard Review and Pictures

After work today, we went out to the Neon Graveyard. It's been on our bucket list and it was the only touristy thing we wanted to accomplish on this trip. I also found out it's actually called the Neon Boneyard.

Our experience was not great. Which is very disappointing. This place has so much potential! Here's how it plays out.

They treat it like a museum. The tickets actually call it the "Neon Museum." But you're not allowed to wander or explore like a normal museum. You're required to go with a tour guide...

...and you're not allowed to stray from the group or even lag behind to take pictures. Right. Like I'm going to allow a ton of people to be every one of my pictures. Needless to say, I lagged behind as much as I could.

I wasn't alone though. Isa stayed back with me too. :) Oh, did I mention it was crazy hot and sunny? It was.

Sadly, absolutely no video. :(

The tour guide's cadence was jarring, so it wasn't pleasant to listen to. She would ask questions, but not really play off the answers very well. It was like a recording that asks questions and then keeps going regardless of what you said. It was extremely informative though. We learned a lot.

Like that when the government was doing atomic bomb testing in the Mojave desert, a lot of casinos would sell "Atomic Vacation Packages" and they'd bus people up to the top of a mountain to watch the bombs explode in the distance.

We also learned about the different "periods" of Las Vegas. First there was the "sawdust on the floor" old-western casinos. Then there was a big push to clean up Vegas and bring more families out, so hotels and casinos started doing "themes." The Mirage was the first one to have a loose theme - Polynesian. But Caesar's Palace was the first to make the theme the central part of everything they did.

The Stardust was "outer-space" themed. Eventually they ran into financial troubles and changed their font to Helvetica and it's said that was the nail in the coffin because they strayed from their theme.

Obviously, we took the daytime tour. It's less expensive than at night, but they told us that only 7 of the signs actually work. The rest are lit up by strobes along the path.

And there are so many smaller signs and random letters strewn about that I feel like you'd miss a lot if you came at night, since they would be in the shadows of the larger signs.

They also don't let you bring tripods or monopods or even different lenses if you have an SLR. You get one camera. Not even a phone and a camera. One.

So unless you have a REALLY good camera that can pretty much see in the dark or has really good image stabilization, I'd say go in the daytime. Because look at this scene, with only one light to light up this entire section, I doubt it'd be very easy to shoot at night.

They arranged the letters in "Moulin Rouge" to spell "in love." Except it's actually "in loue." She made it sound like it was a coincidence. Right. I'm pretty sure those are bolted in place. That was on purpose.

The only sign in the entire park to actually say Las Vegas is the Las Vegas Club sign.

Overall, it was definitely worth seeing, but not quite worth $18. We wish they would have given options, like $10 to just walk around and take pictures. Then $6 for an audio guide. Put a placard by the major signs with a little blurb (like paintings in a museum) and a number to enter on the audio guide to learn more about the history. Then they don't have to pay for a tour guide and if they're really worried about people touching stuff, just put a few guards around the park like a real museum.

And then you can allow video because you won't have to stress about people recording the tour guide. I'm seriously really bummed that I couldn't make a YouTube video out of this. :(

This day's not over yet! Keep reading here: Leaving Las Vegas


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