Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three Canadians Cities in 3 Days.

Decided to drive to Canada in the winter time... plenty of cold, rain and a bit of snow; not disappointed.  Drove to Montreal first and in the way there, stopped at Montmorency Falls (above), had the whole place to myself. It was a trying day to photograph due to the mists and the frozen fingers.

I found the city full of energy with lots renovations downtown, no doubt is undergoing a revival…the sad thing, I was there 30 years ago and did not recognize anything except from areas in the waterfront and the Notre Dame Cathedral.  They have great graffiti such as the giant cock stepping in the top of a car and a giant genie.

There is a great  degree of sophistication in the city as depicted by the images above.  The citizens have taste as expressed by the statue of the snobbish women with a dog, the image in a glass door as well as the architectural design that took advantage of the glass walled building reflecting the image of a neighboring hotel.  Montreal has a lot to offer but have to go to Quebec (below).

Quebec is the most European city I have encountered in North America. Very historical when it comes to the wars between the British and French Empires…one may have won the battle but the culture wars  has not been settle yet…hope it stays that way.  Where can one see the whole history in a spread no longer than 4 feet or is it 1.2 meters?

The streets in the old town are not much different than those in a French or Dutch small town in Europe. But unfortunately all the all houses first floors are tourists traps ready to take your Yankee dollars that most merchants were willing to accept.  And there is always a one-horsepower cabbie waiting around the corner.

Since there it was a low tourist season, I had the privilege to get a private tour of Parliament and rub elbows the bored Quebec Press and the accosted politicians.  The live of a photo journalist is one of hurry up and wait.  The building was impressive with its own private restaurant and everyone is allowed to eat there; very democratic.

There is a lot the city has to offer to all ages as well as old landmarks as the Frontenac Hotel to a more contemporary waterfront building, a great place.  On my way to Ottawa next.

Ottawa is no competition for either Montreal or Quebec; wonder why the capital is here?  There was a surprise; Maman, the cosmopolitan spider was here in front of the National Gallery of Canada.  She travels wide; I previously photographed it in Bilbao, Spain (second image above).  Wonder is she gets to fly first class?By the way, this is an outstanding museum and I spent most of the day there neglecting the rest of the rainy cold city.  In the way back to the USA, visited Niagara Falls, they are spectacular in the winter.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The High Line in NYC

 After leaving the elevator that took me to the High Line Park proper, the first sight at the street level below was a bicycle rental post.  These are common in Europe but I believe something new in the USA.

 This park was built in the abandoned West Side Line spur of the New York Central Railroad facing the Hudson River.  Whoever came up with this recycling idea is a genius.  Walking the line it was so quiet that I felt removed for activities in the streets below but still connected to it.

The elevated railroad tracks were converted into a green park with a concrete walkway including benches, and yes, with trees, grasses and monuments an even a sun deck. Construction began in 2006 and the first section opened in 2009, and the second section in 2011 and it is still an ongoing project. A hotel was built with the park going through and opening in the structures as it crosses in 13th Street W.

This elevated park is an unlimited source of photographic opportunities for amateurs, hobbyists and professionals too.  There are lots of architectural photo opps particularly at sunset when the sun settles above the skyline in New Jersey for silhouettes as well as for the buildings in Manhattan that will be backlighted at sunset, the time that I was there.  This may be the best time to take opportunity of the light and of the citizens just enjoying the open space after a busy day.

And the people, such a variety of personalities and mostly, all agreeable to being photographed when asked…those not asked because they were at a distance had their souls robbed too. 

There are some cultural items along the walk as artists displaying their creations, children parks with colorful game sets, and sophisticated graffiti that get a higher level of provenance by being called murals.  One of the iconic photograph of the Sailor kissing the girl in Times Square at the end of WWII.
And there are also occasions for peeping thru the windows of the various office and residential building that form like brick, glass and steel canyons along the High Line…one really gets a view of a pigeon flying among the buildings… what a treat!!!  There is a website for the park at http://www.thehighline.org/about/park-information worth visiting.  If you give me a choice between a day a Central Park or the High Line, I select the later.
At the end of the walk, there are new buildings been constructed and it appears that work goes on 24 hours a day.  I took another elevator here and descended to street level and when walking to an Italian Restaurant for dinner, passed this Martial Arts center...great kick; glad I was not the target.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Great Falls to Glacier Park and Back.

This is the first time that I get to visit Montana by starting in Great Falls and driving NW via Rt.89 towards Glacier National Park thru mostly an agricultural area that has been better economic times, most of the towns showed significant signs of neglect.  At Fairchild, I ran into an enormous conglomerate of silver silos.  They are owned by Anheuser-Busch brewery…imagine the millions of gallons of beer that will be brewed from the grain stored in this silos.
Continuing in Rt. 89 I ran into Bynum, kind of a mecca for dinosaurs lovers.  There is a museum and a store that sells rocks and fossilized bones.  And of course lots of dilapidated buildings that were probably there when Tyrannosaurus rex roamed the streets chasing humans.

The landscape past the above town turns wheat fields as far as the eye can see and soon found myself in Indian lands. If you don’t behave the braves will chase your car in horseback and get it full of arrows as if were a buffalo.

At the town of Browning, I turned into Route 2 going west and soon found myself in a mountain road bordered by a thick forest, this roads parallel the railroad tracks built back in the 1930’s in the  Marias Pass to cross Rocky Mountains in Essex. Nearby is the Izaak Walton Hotel, built in 1939 as a concession from the Great Northern Railway. It was originally used to house the crews who cleaned the snow off the railroad tracks at the Marias Pass.  Now it is working hotel and railroad museum. It was built by 12 carpenters in 3 months; what an accomplishment. Behind the hotel is a large railroad yard still in use. The red caboose is now a guest room; notice the wheel detail and the two belts used to rotate the dynamo in the upper right.  It generated electricity for the car when moving. Further down the road, there is a park celebrating the Lewis and Clark Expedition and President Roosevelt.  The statue is that of John F Stevens, the engineer who mapped the pass in 1899 and twho designed and constructed the railroad tracks to cross the Continental Divide.

Finally arrived at Glacier National Park.  As all parks out west in the summer time, it was crowded with traffic jams made worst by the highways repairs that were taken place at the time. Drove up to Logan Pass, located at an elevation of 6653 feet where a large Tourist Center is located.  From here you can walk through the meadows where the ground squirrels and marmots are habituated to the tourists and are easy to photograph.

The place was overwhelmed by nature lovers and wanabee wildlife photographers that would abandon the trails to get a closer view or shot of some flowers by trampling other… and the ever vigilant Park Ranger, Mr. Douglas Follett chasing the trespassers back into the trail.  He is approximately 87 years old and started working for the Glacier National Park Service in 1942… that is a long time.  He is sharp like a tack and can tell you the name of all the flowers, animal and birds in the park; he also claims to have climbed all the mountains in the park back in his younger years.  Quiet a personality and a National Treasure.

I traveled the main road within the park between the West Glacier Gate and the St. Mary Visitor Center twice and the most exciting thing to be seen where the glacier carved valleys and a multitude of waterfalls.  Unfortunately the glaciers are mostly gone or basically non-existing, and I really did not see any major wildlife other than some mountain goats at a distance; there are bears and moose these were not seen.  Overall, the visit to this park was disappointing and a better bet will be to just to drive to Yellowstone that I find more rewarding.

Continuing West in Rt. 2, I passed a corral with the most peculiar horses; they appeared to be low maintenance ones since they need not attention; just like plastic flowers.  I spent the night at Kalispell, another small Montana town but this one was busy and alive.  It has a beautiful Courthouse and the Conrad Mansion, built by the richest man of the town back in the late 1800’s.  Mr. Charles E. Conrad founded the city and was an Indian trader and fighter and made his money as a Missouri River freighter. The old high school was a very impressive structure.

Continuing south in Rt. 93, I ran into a Duck and a family of bears in the town of Polson, located in the shores of Flathead Lake. Farther down the road, I took a right into Rt. 212 and drove into Charlo, where I only saw a dog walking the street…where have all the people gone?  A closed seed store and an abandoned silo by the railroad tracks are reminder of a more prosperous past.

Past Charlo, is the National Bison Range, there was no a bison to be seen that day.  I did into the Range and at one of the scenery stops; you could see a valley that at one time was the bottom of a pre-historical Lake Missoula (the name is derived from and Indian word meaning “place of frozen water).  It existed about 15,000 years and flooded an area of approximately 200 miles in western Montana to a depth of 2000 feet in some areas.  The city of Missoula about 60 miles south of the pre-historic lake; is the home of the University of Montana and has more micro-breweries/capita than any other city in the USA.  Moose Drool is probably the best known beer brewed here. The wall with the sculpture is in one of the buildings in the University and the last image, is that of the city’s courthouse.  Although I started in Great Falls and ended there; I never took a photo of the place…too busy arriving and departing from the airport; maybe next time.