Day 2 - New York  
    The Flatiron Building - A New York City Icon.    
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra 400UC

Dawn opened on New York and I awoke feeling a little seedy after the night spent with Bernard at Bar 55. After showering and getting dressed I set about correcting that problem with some fresh OJ and a large black coffee - I wasn't yet ready to face breakfast.

The previous day I had arranged to meet Fran at 10.30 to commence my second day's walking tour, so given it was only about 7.30 I had some time to myself first. I decided to go for a walk and see for the first time what was probably my favourite building in New York City - the Flatiron Building.


Detail from the Top of the Flatiron Building.


Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra 400UC


The Flatiron Building was built in 1902, and is considered to be the oldest remaining skyscraper in New York. At 87 metres or 285 feet tall, it must have been very imposing at the time. It is still a striking building, mainly for it's amazing shape. The shape is dictated by the fact that it is situated at the three way intersection of Broadway, 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

It was now about 8.00 am on a Sunday morning, and the city was just beginning to stir. After breakfast at a restaurant across the road from the Flatiron Building I finally started to feel human again, and started walking up Fifth Avenue to my next destination, the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building was built in 1931, constructed of steel with stone cladding in the Art Deco style. After many years as New York's highest building it now once again holds that privilige, and every year over 3.5 million people visit its observatory deck on the 86th floor 1,050 feet (320 metres) above street level. The building itself has 102 floors and is 1252 feet or 381 metres high.

Empire State Building from Fifth Avenue.
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC, Desaturated

I arrived at the building just as it was opening at 9.00 am and I still had to queue for about 20 minutes to get a ticket. After getting your ticket you then queue for an elevator. I strongly suggest that if you plan on visiting the Empire State Building that you purchase your tickets online in advance - it will save you a lot of time.

After reaching the observation deck I realised that I was exceptionally lucky - it was a day with unlimited visibility (which I understand is a rarity in New York), and the view was amazing.

NYC Looking Southwest towards the Financial District
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

A shot like the one above, while absolutely amazing as a large 20x30 print, loses some of it's impact in a web presentation. I actually took this shot several times, by coincidence once with each of the three films I was using for daylight photography. As a result, it provides an interesting indication of the performance of all of the films. The films I used were all professional emulsions, and were generally regarded as the finest of their various speeds for photographers seeking vibrant colour. They were Fuji Velvia (a 50 ASA slide film with a legendary reputation), Fuji Superia Reala (a 100 ASA negative film with exceptional sharpness and colour) and Kodak Portra 400UC (a new 400 speed film from Kodak with excellent grain and vibrant colour).

This trip was the first time I had extensively used the Portra 400UC, and I was interested in seeing how it would compare to the slower films. I normally shoot only Reala when shooting negatives, but I considered that I would need flexibility to use a faster film on occasion, hence the selection of the Portra 400UC. In order to demonstrate the differences between the resolution characteristics of the films I have taken 100% crops at 5400 dpi of the image above from each of the films, without utilisation of any grain management technology. The image is a crop from the roof of the large white building from the centre of the shot.

Fuji Velvia
Fuji Superia Reala
Kodak Portra 400UC

What the images show is that the grain of Velvia is considerably smaller than the negative films, and in fact is virtually non existent. The Reala shows some grain but excellent sharpness, and the Portra has noticeable grain, but it is in fact very good for a 400 speed film. Given the degree of magnification here I was very impressed by the Portra's resolution. I'm not sure why the Velvia looks less sharp than the negative film, possibly I was using a different aperture, or had some camera shake.

Anyway, enough talking about film etc, and on with the journal. I took dozens of shots from the observation deck, and had a great time. It is virtually impossible to set up a tripod, but there are plenty of points where a photographer can get support from the railings to steady your shots. This is important when using telephotos.

A different view of NYC. Rooftops in Greenwich Village.
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Tele Rokkor. Film: Kodak Portra UC 400
When faced with something as all-encompassing as the unhindered view from the Empire State Building, one is often inclined to go as wide as possible to try to fit it all in. While this does give the viewer an indication of the grandeur of the scene, it can also swallow up the detail. I have a lot of shots of the view from the top of the building, but I think I prefer the ones where I took a little time to identify certain aspects of the scene, as I did with the image above.
Northeast up Manhattan Island.
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The image above really provides the viewer with an understanding of the size of Central Park. It is simply enormous, and dominates Upper Manhattan.

The one thing that these photos do not give is an understanding of exactly how crowded the observation deck actually is. As I described, I was there at 9.00 am on the Sunday morning of a holiday weekend (when many New Yorkers are away) and it was still incredibly busy. Anyway, after about an hour of shooting I decided I needed to get a move on. I had arranged to meet Fran outside B & H Photo at the corner of 9th Avenue and West 34th Street at 10.30 am. That was four crosstown blocks away, which was over a mile of walking. It was time to say goodbye to the magnificent Empire State Building, and see what the rest of New York had to offer.

New York, August 31 2003.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra UC 400, Desaturated.

Apologies for the quality of the images this week - It is hard to take images that don't scream "mediocre tourist photo" in a place as well photographed as the Empire State Building. To see the rest of what I did on day two in New York, simply click on the link below.

New York Day 2 - (Continued)
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