New York State
December 19-27, 1999
Albany & New York City

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Winter is the best time to visit New York City.  The omnipresent smell of garbage that plagues the city in August is replaced in December with a winter crispness, and the people and city seem to take more pride in their appearance.  We visit Rockefeller Center, and see New Yorkers lining up for the skating rink beneath the Christmas Tree.  The scene creates a small-town feeling in Manhattan that could never quite be captured in LA.
   
I pocket the camera in my parka for most of the day in the City.  As dusk falls, we are in Battery Park.  I shoot the distant Statue of Liberty, bracing the camera on the top of a sign.
A steady camera is the key to great night photography.  As my father begins driving us home to Albany, my car window shots of the George Washington Bridge come out somewhat more impressionistic than I intended.
It is disappointing - I have flown from California to spend Christmas in New York state, and despite the extremely cold weather, there is no sign of snow.  When a light dusting falls overnight, I run out in the morning and to shoot the slightly-whitened walk in front of the house.  I grew up in this house - my bedroom is on the upper right.
The house is in the suburbs outside of Albany, NY, but I drive downtown several times.  State Street, the main street in Albany's downtown, has an old-fashioned quality to it.
Contrary to popular belief, Albany is the capital of New York state (since public schools stopped drilling students on this kind of trivia, everyone assumes that the capital of New York State must be New York City.) Demonstrating that Albany is the capital, I walk to the top of State Street and photograph the Capitol building.
 
Yesterday, in New York City, we saw other people ice skating.  I haven't tried ice skating since I was about 7, but have related experience from recent Rollerblading, so I am anxious to try again.  There is a rink (much less crowded than the one in Manhattan) in the plaza across from the Capitol, and I meet my sister there and try skating a bit.  The building in the background of the second picture is one of the unusual features of Albany's skyline - known as "The Egg," it houses theaters, with seating inside sloped down towards the stages at the center.
   
My dog Simon's glowing eyes truly make him look like the Spawn of Satan, and the horns attached by my sister (in right picture) don't make him look any less devilish.  I try the "red-eye reduction" feature, but the pre-flashes only hurt his cataracts. (NOTE: These are not trick shots or digital effects - the shots really come out this way using the built-in flash of my Nikon Coolpix 950 camera.)
In the light of my flash, Simon's hypnotic glare outshines the Christmas tree.
 
Simon never flies to California, so my week in Albany is a once-a-year visit with Simon, and he follows me whereever I go in the house.  I stop flashing and let him rest in a sunbeam.
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All pictures copyright ©1999 Jeremy Birn.