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Things to do in New York City: Museum of Natural History - Sleepover for Grownups

nythroughthelens:

There are a few places in New York City that are almost more New York City than New York City itself.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of those places.

Say its name in certain late-night conversations and you are bound to encounter a wide spectrum of responses most of which are accompanied by a starry-eyed look usually reserved for times when people think back to beloved childhood memories.

Even visiting the museum on frequent school trips during my own childhood, the museum seemed to be a portal into an alternate New York City reality tinted by nostalgia.

The museum started having sleepovers for children and their parents around a decade ago. But it wasn’t until last week that the museum decided to host its first ever "sleepover for grownups".

The allure of an adults-only sleepover was strong, of course. The sleepover’s tickets sold out within the first three hours that they were up for sale.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the 150 adults who got to attend the sleepover. It was a fascinating night.

Here is some of what transpired…

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Sleepover guests were greeted by live jazz music inside of the museum courtesy of the 12th Night Jazz Ensemble

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The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life was the setting for the actual sleeping part of the sleepover. Guests were guided to the hall to pick a cot under the 94 foot blue whale or away from it (I met quite a few people over the course of the night who seemed to share a fear of having the giant whale fall on them in their sleep).

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There was also a champagne reception followed by a three course meal where sleepover guests nervously contemplated how the evening’s adventures would unfold.

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find that there was an in-depth itinerary provided for us:

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All 45 museum halls and the entire Rose Center for Earth and Space were open for free exploration. Some of the hallways were completely empty.

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I took an empty elevator up to the 4th floor. I knew what I wanted to see most of all.

The dinosaurs, of course.

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It was a stellar moment when I realized that the dinosaurs were lit up in a special way at night.

I had T-Rex all to myself for a good 10 minutes.

It was *spectacular*.

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This night was also the first night I got to use the Sony A7S which has insane low-light capability. You can basically shoot up to 50,000 ISO with little noise. For those who don’t know what ISO is, ISO is the measure of how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. For reference, my first DSLR could only ever really shoot up to around 800 ISO. Anything greater than that and the photos would be extremely noisy.

This next photo was taken at 25,600 ISO with the A7S. It’s straight out of camera. If you want to view it really large, here it is: T-Rex at 25,600 ISO

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I can’t wait to take this camera out on the dark streets of New York City at night.

Back to the sleepover though.

There were a lot of events on the itinerary. I took a break from the dinosaurs to go and attend a presentation about toxicology in the Power of Poison exhibit.

The exhibit was fun to walk through. Here is a representation of the witches from Macbeth.

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This is the table at the presentation with all sorts of ominous things like a giant cell display, a tea kettle, a skull, and Arsenic.

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And here is the curator of the Power of Poison exhibit who is an author and one of the world’s top leech experts, Dr. Mark Siddall. He is demonstrating the effects of Arsenic. :)

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Before the next event on the itinerary, I ran back to the 4th floor to gawk at the dinosaurs again for a few minutes. If this is what the kids at the sleepovers have been experiencing for years, I am supremely jealous. I love these exhibits even more at night.

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I also took a little detour and visited a new exhibit called Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. There is a simulation game where you can flap your arms to fly like a pterosaur on the screen in front of you. You can then fly over the ocean and try to catch fish, or fly through a forest and try to catch bugs. It is surprisingly (or not surprisingly) hard to catch fish or bugs while flying around with an enormous prehistoric wingspan.

This is another museum guest attempting to fly like a pterosaur.

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My dinosaur visit was short-lived since I had to book it to get to the Live Animal presentation. No one really knew what live animals would be featured but the speculation was quite amusing over dinner. My dinner table guests nearly lost it when someone suggested that there would be sloths. Sloths!

Alas, there were no sloths. But that’s ok because there was an owl:

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…and a lemur eating a banana.

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There was also a bird of prey, an alligator who urinated all over the trainer and the stage, and a Burmese python.

Before the midnight showing of the current space show in the planetarium, I quickly made my way to the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. When I was really little, it was one of my favorite places in all of New York City. It’s really hard to beat. Not too many other places can boast a trio of large dinosaurs in action poses.

I was surprised to find the room totally empty. If you have visited this museum, you will recognize this room as one of the main entrances. It’s usually full of people since it’s one of the places you can enter the museum and purchase tickets to the exhibits. To experience it empty was truly sublime.

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I always thought that the dinosaurs looked a bit like they were dancing.

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That tail…

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The planetarium show ended somewhere between 1 am and 2 am. I had lofty goals of sleeping under the giant whale but I wanted to visit the Lunar Lounge first.

The Lunar Lounge was the name given to the adult-sleepover-decked-out Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. It was a space for those adults who preferred to skip sleep. With non-stop films, electrical outlets to charge devices and dim lighting, it was a pretty cool place to hang out for a bit.

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At around 3 am, I decided to make my way back to the whale.

Decked out in an oversized hoodie and leggings (the instructions were to bring comfortable clothes for sleeping in sleeping bags but no pajamas: one of the most puzzling requests related to the event), I marveled at how eerily beautiful the museum was at night.

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And as I nestled into my sleeping bag under the giant whale, I knew this would be a night I would never forget.

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—-

Some notes about the sleepover:

1. Sleep was but a dream. As I mentioned, I had lofty expectations that I would be able to sleep. In truth, they remained lofty expectations. We were warned that the cots would be extremely uncomfortable. That was an understatement.

But it wasn’t the cot that did me in sleep-wise. And it wasn’t the noise or low-level of light in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. As a travel photographer, I travel with ear plugs and an eye mask and I had both in my possession for this sleepover.

It was the bone-chilling cold.

I guess something that you never really think about when you think of museums is how incredibly cold they get at night. While I had my comfy sleeping bag and I was wearing a hoodie and leggings, I was still uncomfortably freezing for the few futile hours that I attempted to sleep. In retrospect, I should have just kept roaming around the museum. If I were to do the sleepover again, I would actually bank on not sleeping at all.

2. The crowd. I was actually a bit surprised at how restrained the guests were throughout the night. I think I expected that there would be more…revelry. Everything was very, very subdued though which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was shocked when I entered the sleeping hall at around 3:30 in the morning to find many people sleeping soundly (how did they sleep in that cold?!).

There seemed to be many couples and groups of friends. I was solo on this adventure and so perhaps I was just keenly aware of how paired-up everyone else seemed to be. It’s a great event to attend with someone special, that’s for sure.

3. The itinerary. As I mentioned in the photo-set above, I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a planned itinerary with events and presentations. The presentations and events were pretty fantastic. The only thing I think could be improved would be to space the events out a bit more to allow for more free roaming of the museum. If you wanted to attend all of the events, you would have been left with only a little over an hour to explore the museum.

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I hope you enjoyed my museum sleepover recap!

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Looking for these (and more) photos of the museum sleepover for adults to view larger? Here you go (click or tap on each photo to view larger):

Museum of Natural History - Sleepover for Grownups

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P.S. - Information about my New York City photography book which is releasing in stores and online in the autumn of 2014 (including where to order it):

NY Through The Lens: A New York Coffee Table Book

——

View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Paris: Montmartre street view of Sacré-Cœur Basilica

——

And these streets

they falter

under the weight

of it all:

the joy,

the despair,

the endless

striving

for something,

anything

to 

hold onto.

——

Taken on an afternoon in Paris with my Sony A7R while wandering around Montmartre for hours with no particular plan. 

Sometimes those are the best kind of afternoons.


——

View: My travel photography portfolio, My Photography Book Releasing in Autumn, 2014, My NYC Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Paris: Montmartre street view of Sacré-Cœur Basilica

——

And these streets

they falter

under the weight

of it all:

the joy,

the despair,

the endless

striving

for something,

anything

to

hold onto.

——

Taken on an afternoon in Paris with my Sony A7R while wandering around Montmartre for hours with no particular plan.

Sometimes those are the best kind of afternoons.

——

View: My travel photography portfolio, My Photography Book Releasing in Autumn, 2014, My NYC Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Times Square in the Snow - New York City (some updates about my book too!)

nythroughthelens:



I wanted to sincerely thank everyone for such an incredible outpouring of love regarding my New York City coffee table book: NY Through The Lens. I, honestly, was gob-smacked this past weekend  when responding to the comments on my various posts about the book on Facebook, Twitter,  Google +,  Tumblr and  Instagram. 

I feel so spoiled by all of you! Seriously. 

I think a lot about a passage written by E.M. Forster that really resonated with me back when I was a budding Literary Criticism & Theory major:


Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. 
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, 
And human love will be seen at its height. 
Live in fragments no longer. 
Only connect…

—E.M. Forster, Howards End

Forster’s characters are constantly plagued by dilemmas that stunt true connection despite the positive implications of the phrase. While Forster’s usage of the phrase has different meanings colored by the context of the era he was writing about, I have always thought about the phrase in the context of sharing pieces of ourselves in an era of surface sharing on the internet. We share a lot in the hopes of some sort of connection but actual connections seem mired in ambiguity and pretense.

When I started to share my (often) emotional writing and photography, I felt incredibly vulnerable (I still do, to be honest). But every time I get an email or message or comment that indicates that someone else felt the feelings I described in my writing or conveyed with my photography, it’s one of the most beautiful feelings. 

I still close my eyes and click or tap on the Submit button on my blog sometimes because what I write and what I convey with my photography is so intensely personal. But it all feels worthwhile during life moments like this one.

So, thank you for that.

——

Updated info about the book:

I updated my blog post that contains pre-sale links with some edits to answers and updated questions:

New York City Coffee Table Book: NY Through The Lens

Updates include:

1 - The page counts are actually the same for the paperback version and the hardcover version. It’s an Amazon foible that has them listed differently. It will be corrected soon.

2 - There are updated links for the UK version of the book as well as a separate link for those who live in Australia as Booktopia Australia has the book listed which will cut down on shipping costs for those down under!

3 -  I have also answered the number one question I received about purchasing the book in other parts of Europe and Asia:

Answer: Here is the low-down on the book’s release. It is available in the English language on Amazon throughout most of Europe (and parts of Asia).

If you go to your country’s Amazon and search for: NY Through The Lens, my book will show up. This is your own country’s option for purchasing the book. Just remember that the shipping will be local and the currency will be friendly to where you live but the book will be in English.

Hope this helps!

Again, if you missed the flurry of announcements and are totally lost right now. Here is the original announcement about the book along with TONS of info, photos, and answers to questions:

New York City Coffee Table Book: NY Through The Lens

Much love, 

V.

P.S. - I will get back to posting about my South of France, Paris, and Martinique adventures soon! We left off in Nice. I didn’t forget ;). Also, newer NYC photography! I have some exciting NYC adventures coming up.

P.P.S. - I also added a handy link to my book post to my navigation bar over on  my blog. If you are on a laptop or desktop, the navigation bar is under my blog title. If you are on mobile (as I am mainly these days), the navigation bar is nested below the first page of blog content. 

—- 



View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Times Square in the Snow - New York City (some updates about my book too!)

nythroughthelens:

I wanted to sincerely thank everyone for such an incredible outpouring of love regarding my New York City coffee table book: NY Through The Lens. I, honestly, was gob-smacked this past weekend when responding to the comments on my various posts about the book on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Tumblr and Instagram.

I feel so spoiled by all of you! Seriously.

I think a lot about a passage written by E.M. Forster that really resonated with me back when I was a budding Literary Criticism & Theory major:

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.

Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,

And human love will be seen at its height.

Live in fragments no longer.

Only connect…

—E.M. Forster, Howards End

Forster’s characters are constantly plagued by dilemmas that stunt true connection despite the positive implications of the phrase. While Forster’s usage of the phrase has different meanings colored by the context of the era he was writing about, I have always thought about the phrase in the context of sharing pieces of ourselves in an era of surface sharing on the internet. We share a lot in the hopes of some sort of connection but actual connections seem mired in ambiguity and pretense.

When I started to share my (often) emotional writing and photography, I felt incredibly vulnerable (I still do, to be honest). But every time I get an email or message or comment that indicates that someone else felt the feelings I described in my writing or conveyed with my photography, it’s one of the most beautiful feelings.

I still close my eyes and click or tap on the Submit button on my blog sometimes because what I write and what I convey with my photography is so intensely personal. But it all feels worthwhile during life moments like this one.

So, thank you for that.

——

Updated info about the book:

I updated my blog post that contains pre-sale links with some edits to answers and updated questions:

New York City Coffee Table Book: NY Through The Lens

Updates include:

1 - The page counts are actually the same for the paperback version and the hardcover version. It’s an Amazon foible that has them listed differently. It will be corrected soon.

2 - There are updated links for the UK version of the book as well as a separate link for those who live in Australia as Booktopia Australia has the book listed which will cut down on shipping costs for those down under!

3 - I have also answered the number one question I received about purchasing the book in other parts of Europe and Asia:

Answer: Here is the low-down on the book’s release. It is available in the English language on Amazon throughout most of Europe (and parts of Asia).

If you go to your country’s Amazon and search for: NY Through The Lens, my book will show up. This is your own country’s option for purchasing the book. Just remember that the shipping will be local and the currency will be friendly to where you live but the book will be in English.

Hope this helps!

Again, if you missed the flurry of announcements and are totally lost right now. Here is the original announcement about the book along with TONS of info, photos, and answers to questions:

New York City Coffee Table Book: NY Through The Lens

Much love,

V.

P.S. - I will get back to posting about my South of France, Paris, and Martinique adventures soon! We left off in Nice. I didn’t forget ;). Also, newer NYC photography! I have some exciting NYC adventures coming up.

P.P.S. - I also added a handy link to my book post to my navigation bar over on my blog. If you are on a laptop or desktop, the navigation bar is under my blog title. If you are on mobile (as I am mainly these days), the navigation bar is nested below the first page of blog content.

—-

View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Essential reading for lovers of New York City

nythroughthelens:

NY Through The Lens - The Book!

I am super excited to announce this news!

My New York City photography book is currently available for pre-sale on Amazon!

All of the photos in this post are in the book.

Here are some Questions and Answers about the book:

I live in the United States or Canada. What is the link to use to pre-order the book?

Use this link if you have a United States or Canada shipping address:

NY Through the Lens

I live in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand. What is the link to use to pre-order the book?

Use this link if you have a UK, Australia, or New Zealand shipping address:

New York Through the Lens

What are the release dates for the book?

United States and Canada release date: November 24, 2014.

UK, Australia and New Zealand release date: October 13,2014.

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Will the book be releasing in physical stores as well?

Yes! I will have more information about that at a later date. I buy most of my books on Amazon though so I am happy that I have the Amazon information available right now for you.

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Do you have any photos of what the book looks like?

Here is what the cover looks like:

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The cover and physical book together:

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Some sample pages:

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View images of more sample pages and the cover over at this album:

NY Through The Lens Book Images

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How many pages are in the book? What are the formats?

The United States and Canada version of the book is paperback and consists of 256 pages of photography and writing by yours truly.

The UK, Australia, and New Zealand version of the book is hardcover and consists of 192 pages of photography and writing.

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—-

General questions:

What part of NYC did you grow up in? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in a borough of New York City called Queens. More specifically, I grew up in Flushing, Queens. I have lived in Manhattan for the past 11 years. I currently reside on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

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When and how did you start photography? What inspires you?

I started taking photos in a rather stream-of-consciousness manner in the mid-2000s. Since I live in New York City, I don’t drive. Without much in the way of material things or financial prosperity, walking became my way to deal with stress. It also became a way for me to experience the city like I hadn’t before. I would choose a direction and walk as far as my feet would take me; I still do this. As the scenery unfolded before me, I began noticing lines, forms and structures that I‘d previously ignored. To embrace my new-found sense of wonder, I took the only camera I could afford at the time, a simple point-and-shoot costing less than $100, on my walking adventures. I just wanted to capture the moments and experiences that made my heart swell.

In 2010, I decided to finally post the photos I had accumulated along the way online. I knew nothing about posting photography online and had heard that blogs were a great place to post photography. I literally googled the word “blog” and Tumblr came up as the first search result. I I decided to create my blog, NY Through The Lens on Tumblr purely for myself.

Since I had no formal training in photography or in-depth knowledge of the rules and concepts defining the field, it didn’t occur to me that I’d have an audience for my work. I honestly didn’t think that anyone would be interested in what I was posting online to my Tumblr blog. However, within a few months of posting my photos to Tumblr, I amassed thousands of followers and I was both humbled and touched by the messages I would receive on a weekly basis.

Starting out in photography with limited tools enticed me to learn more about light, which in turn, has set me on a lifelong journey attempting to capture something as fleeting and vast as the transient quality of New York City and other places around the world.

That initial leap of posting my photography online to my Tumblr and eventually across social media started an epic adventure and led to photography and writing becoming my career. I am thankful everyday that I get to share my passion with an online audience of over 2.5 million. The ability to connect with people on a regular basis is something I never take for granted.

Currently, I am focused on distilling the essence of New York City and other places around the world into distinctive visual remnants that resonate in a variety of ways.

I am endlessly haunted by a sense of saudade and sehnsucht: a deep longing for a place that is unidentifiable but somehow familiar and indicative of what could be identified as home. I am on a neverending quest to attempt to imbue my photography with this complex notion of nostalgic longing.

Additionally, I am inspired by all of the things that different places symbolize for people and I try to examine and delve into these enduring symbols with my photography.

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Where can I find out more about you?

My About Page

Published Work, Conference and Events, and Media

Social Media Reach and Information about Brands

My Travel Blog

New York City Photography Collection

Travel Photography Collection

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Where else can I find you online?

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

Google Plus

Flickr

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—-

All about cameras:

The most common question I get every day is what camera I shoot with. The photos in the book and the majority of the photos on my blog have been taken with Sony cameras.

I started using Sony cameras when I first began pursuing photography professionally back in 2010 based on the suggestion of a very close friend and a lot of research. I spoke on a blog panel during a photography conference in the summer of 2012. It was because of that amazing speaking opportunity that I became acquainted with Sony since someone from Sony was in the audience during my panel. I partnered with Sony in 2013 and became one of 10 contracted Sony Artisans of Imagery worldwide in April of 2014. The choice to partner with Sony was a natural one for me since I had already been enthusiastically using Sony cameras for my professional photography.

Because this photography book is inclusive of my photographic journey from the start up until now, it also includes photos that I took with my initial no-frills point-and-shoot camera as well as some mobile photos since I am very passionate about mobile photography.

Every photo in the book has a caption that indicates what camera was used as well as the settings used.

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—-

I hope you will enjoy my book. It’s been an enormous labor of love.

I want to thank everyone involved in the process: my UK publisher: Ilex Press, my US publisher: F+W Media, and…

you.

None of this would have been possible without you.

Much love to all of you for inspiring me every day to follow my passion.

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—-

View: My New York City photography photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

South of France: Nice

Nice is a visual feast.

The soft light toys with the entire spectrum of human emotion as if it is a paintbrush joyfully dragging itself through a colorful palette warmed by the Mediterranean sun.

To understand the level of enchantment that Matisse, Chagall, and countless other painters have felt through the decades in Nice, one only has to wander aimlessly through the streets in the summer when the sun is languidly descending in the sky.

—-

Nice is the second largest city on France’s Mediterranean coast. Due to its close proximity to Italy (it is located 20 miles west of Italy’s current border) and its geographic good fortune of being one of the busiest trading ports dating back to around 300 BC, it went through many different periods of ownership until it became a part of France in the 1800s.

The Italian influence is strong especially in the older parts of Nice where the narrow streets wind through rows and rows of ochre, and orange buildings, most of which date back to the 1700s.

The Port of Nice is located in the center of the city. This port serves as a main point of transfer to Corsica as there are ferries that travel to Corsica from the Port of Nice regularly.:

The colors of the walls in Vieux Nice are a stunning backdrop for its many restaurants, shops, and cafes. The South of France, much like many other Mediterranean cities and cultures, possesses a very laid-back attitude which carries over into every aspect of life. It’s almost impossible to feel the anxious rush that tends to hum along the periphery of life in cities like New York City, London, and Paris while in Nice. :

It’s in the quiet moments that Nice really blossoms:

After quiet moments:

(Click on the Read More below to see more photos from the Nice…)

Read more