Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Jersey City WaterFront

Its difficult to find an Indian living in the US who has never been to Jersey City. If you are a US NRI, you probably know someone who lives here and have visited him-that is if you don´t live here yourself. The reason for Jersey City's popularity lies across the Hudson river: New York.

Seen here is the lower Manhattan skyline is made up of the buildings from the Financial District . The delicate gem-stone like colours reflected from the buildings made this sunset a rare and special one. I loved the warm glow of the lamps against the cool blue of the water and the sky.

The Empire State in the evening light
The famed Wall Street employs vast numbers of Indians to drive itś IT systems. This is the secret of the NRI love for Jersey City. The city is a natural choice for the 20-something college graduate starting out as an IB analyst, or the 30-something newly married manager looking for a ćlassy´apartment within commuting distance. With its wide range of housing options, Jersey City has something for everyone. Besides having a huge Indian community, it has the lower taxes of New Jersey, a lower cost of living (although that is now fast catching up with Manhattan), an almost seemless connectivity to Manhattan, and and a conveniently located airport of its own.

The waterfront here is perhaps the best part of the city. With extensive views of Manhattan, apartments on the waterfront charge a heavy premium. The boardwalk serves as a park, as well place to relax and socialize. It is always an interesting place in the evenings. Grandmas and Grandpas come out for walks with their grandchildren in strollers. Some tenacious souls with fishing lines try to get something out of the dirty Hudson. Pretty young things in little pink clothes walk their (quite ugly) toy dogs. Joggers whiz by with iPods strapped to their arms. The office worker in full formal attire and a briefcase tries to get in his daily exercise by walking along the waterfront to the train station. It is very entertaining even to just sit on a bench and watch the whole cross section of the community walk past you. 

Young Asia
This Asian brother-sister pair was down for Sunday evening dinner at the waterfront with their dad. Its amazing how innocent kids can look, and it can be quite humbling to realise that losing this magical quality is a trade-off of growing up.

An evening catch up

These two Spanish grandmas were also out for the evening walk and perhaps a catch-up session on the day's gossip. Both these photos were possible only because of the a zoom lens that lets you get right in the middle of the action without getting physically close and disturbing your subjects.

Sunsets can be quite beautiful here, with Manhattan glittering pink and purple at times, and looking like gilded gold at other times. That Manhattan has one of the most well known and well loved skylines in the world helps make the view special. Up until a few years ago, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre stool tall and imposing, completely dominating the lower Manhattan skyline. 9/11 irrevocably changed the skyline, and so will the Freedom Tower that will replace the twin Towers.

Manhattan Skyline at dusk

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Last Great Wilderness

Yellowstone National Park  is one of the last remaining pieces of large untouched temperate wildernesses. Windswept moors, steep broken cliffs, vast stands of dark conifers and swift frothing rivers, all make up Yellowstone.
The park has been blessed with a rich variety of wild life, including elk,bison,brown bear,grizzlies, wolves and coyotes. This magnificent bull elk in the photo had settled down to chewing the cud right next to the road, and refused to move inspite of us photographers. His unmoving countenance allowed me to shoot him at a low shutter speed in the fading light of the twilight. I could even avoid the flash and prevent a red-eye.

Yellowstone however has some unique geological features thanks to its location on a hotbed of volcanic activity. The core of the park sits on a 28-47 mile caldera or basin, that had collapsed during the last volcanic eruption here about 600,000 years ago. The boiling hot magma under the earthś crust is unusually close to the surface here, and is responsible for the unique geothermal features of this region.
Yellowstone has geysers (pronounced ´guy-sers´ in American English), hot water springs and pools, often with brilliantly coloured deposits around their rims, steam vents and mud volcanoes. In addition to Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the world, Yellowstone has many more.Hereś an image of a geyser about to erupt, taken at high speed in the blazing afternoon sun.

We had the perfect spring weather on our trip to the Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks. Unpredicatable though the weather was, the spring air was refreshingly clear and crisp when the sun did come out. The Nissan Altima we drove was a driving pleasure, and the magnificent vistas meant that my camera was spoilt for choice. This picture of the Idaho river with the montains of Yellowstone as the backdrop was taken enroute the park.

Yellowstone has a huge lake, made up of a portion of the caldera which is now submerged. The lake too has many underground vents releasing hot water close to the shore. This prevents patches along the coast of the lake from freezing over, while the rest is covered by thick ice for most of the winter. In this photo you see one such volcanic vent, seen against the calm and brilliant blue waters of the lake.

A surreal feel envelopes this photograph taken from some distance along the shore of the lake. The picture was clicked from a high point, and you can clearly see the unfrozen coastline of the lake, followed by miles of frozen ice stretching to the mountains in the horizon. It was a brilliant sunny day and the blues of the sky and the water were incredible.

Winter lingers much longer here than the rest of the country, and while the east coast was well into summer, parts of Yellowstone still looked as if in the dead of winter. This black-and-white picture taken at the Lewis river enroute Grand Teton might well pass off as a winter scape.

The highways in Yellowstone are often the best places to watch wildlife. As we were travelling along an open moor, we spotted a pair of grizzlies in the distance. Unfortunately, they were too far away for me to get them on the camera, but I did capture this father and son duo watching the bears.

Yellowstone is a photographer's paradise, just as it is a nature lover's eden. It keeps you on your toes all the time, you never know what surprises might turn up round the next bend in the road. The greatest moment for us on this trip was when we locked eyes with a wolf. This was a little after we photographed that elk in the brush at twilight. As I was driving, my friend practically jumped out of his seat (and the car) and made me come to a screeching halt a few hundred metres up ahead. We walked back the road, four guys unarmed guys, alone on a huge grassland, with the night closing in fast, knowing that there were wolves out there, and we weren't at our bravest. We neared the spot where we thought we had seen it, and were stopped in our tracks by a huge head appearing out of the bushes.
To look straight into the yellow eyes of a wolf in the wild does make your blood curdle.Especially when your are on his terrain, his kingdom, where he is in his element. That moment is pretty much frozen in our memories.
I guess he was pretty averse to our company as well, because the huge head slowly retracted back into the bushes, and we saw him cross the road a few yards futher down, scattering a herd of elk on the other side as he went through the brush.

The Frangipani

The heady scent of the frangipani wafting over the warm summer air has mellowed the harshness of many an Indian summer for me...

The dark glossy green leaves cast a cool shadow underneath its boughs twisted like aged wrinkled hands. The flowers themselves look so dewy fresh even under a blazing sun, they can make you forget the heat for a few moments.

The Frangipani, better known in India as ´champa´ in north India and ´chapha´ in Maharashtra is a tropical plant native to Asia and the Americas. It has a great many species producing exquisitely coloured flowers in many hues and shades.
Moreover these flowers often have an irresistible sweet fragrance.

Little surprise that these flowers have found their way into love songs and symbolise beauty, romance and love in many eastern cultures.

A famous marathi song talks of a maiden whoś hiding her feelings for her lover. Her friends compare her hidden love to the fragrance of the green champa flower hidden under her drape, try as she might to hide the flower, its fragrance still surrounds her.

The picture here was taken at Lalbaug in Bangalore, on an overcast day in late July.

I sign off this first post with a beautiful piece on the Frangipani by Rabindranath Tagore. 

The Champa Flower
Rabindranath Tagore

Supposing I became a champa flower, just for fun, and grew on a branch high up that tree, and shook in the wind with laughter and danced upon the newly budded leaves, would you know me, mother?
You would call, "Baby, where are you?" and I should laugh to myself and keep quite quiet.
I should slyly open my petals and watch you at your work.
When after your bath, with wet hair spread on your shoulders, you walked through the shadow of the champa tree to the little court where you say your prayers, you would notice the scent of the flower, but not know that it came from me.
When after the midday meal you sat at the window reading Ramayana, and the tree's shadow fell over your hair and your lap, I should fling my wee little shadow on to the page of your book, just where you were reading.
But would you guess that it was the tiny shadow of your little child?
When in the evening you went to the cow-shed with the lighted lamp in your hand, I should suddenly drop on to the earth again and be your own baby once more, and beg you to tell me a story.
"Where have you been, you naughty child?"
"I won't tell you, mother." That's what you and I would say then.