10 posts tagged new york city travel
Things to do in New York City: Museum of Natural History - Sleepover for Grownups
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 around a decade ago. But it wasn’t until last week that the museum decided to host its first ever .
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…
Sleepover guests were greeted by live jazz music inside of the museum courtesy of the 12th Night Jazz Ensemble
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).
There was also a champagne reception followed by a three course meal where sleepover guests nervously contemplated how the evening’s adventures would unfold.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find that there was an in-depth itinerary provided for us:
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.
I took an empty elevator up to the 4th floor. I knew what I wanted to see most of all.
The dinosaurs, of course.
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*.
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:
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.
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.
And here is the curator of the Power of Poison exhibit who is an author and one of the world’s top leech experts, . He is demonstrating the effects of Arsenic. :)
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.
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.
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:
…and a lemur eating a banana.
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.
I always thought that the dinosaurs looked a bit like they were dancing.
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.
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.
And as I nestled into my sleeping bag under the giant whale, I knew this would be a night I would never forget.
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.
I hope you enjoyed my museum sleepover recap!
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):
Times Square in the Snow - New York City (some updates about my book too!)
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 , , , Tumblr and .
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.
—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:
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:
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.
Essential reading for lovers of New York City
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:
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.
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.
Do you have any photos of what the book looks like?
Here is what the cover looks like:
The cover and physical book together:
Some sample pages:
View images of more sample pages and the cover over at this album:
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.
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.
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.
Where can I find out more about you?
Where else can I find you online?
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 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.
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: , my US publisher: , and…
None of this would have been possible without you.
Much love to all of you for inspiring me every day to follow my passion.
New York City - Times Square Views from the Millennium Broadway Hotel
I had the pleasure of staying overnight and taking photos at the located above Times Square last week. While I grew up here in New York City and live in New York City, I definitely don’t find myself overlooking Times Square very often.
I live in a tiny walk-up on the Lower East Side which is pretty far removed from the neon and spectacle of Times Square. I grew up with an imagination fueled by the neon sci-fi cityscapes in films like Blade-Runner (one of my favorites). I would go to sleep dreaming about Shanghai or Toyko through a Blade-Runner tinted lens.
It’s easy to forget that New York City has its own cinematic sci-fi-esque cityscapes especially when you only ever experience places like Times Square from ground level. Having such an amazing perspective of Times Square from 50 floors above was pretty intense while taking long exposures.
1 - Times Square at night from above. I was obsessed with this view. The top floor rooms of the hotel have this view in common on one side of the hotel. In love.
2 - The rooms are pretty spacious for the Times Square area considering that the hotel is literally right in the middle of Times Square. Many of the the hotels in the area tend to have super small rooms.
3 - A late afternoon view overlooking Times Square from the room.
4 - This is a view of the Lyceum Theatre, New York City’s oldest theatre along with Times Square from above. There are a lot of interesting views in New York City of various landmarks but this was an entirely new view for me. I stayed awake pretty late just watching the lights flicker and the hustle and bustle of crowds through my camera lenses.
5 - A view of the gorgeous original ceiling of the Hudson Theatre. As I mentioned above, the theatre is attached to the Millennium Hotel and the hotel manages it. It was built in 1903. The original owner perished on the Titanic. .
6 - The Hudson Theatre’s stage. While it is currently used for special events, conferences,and weddings, it also has been the site of Comedy Central’s stand-up comedy shows
7 - This is a view from a room in which is managed by the Millennium Hotel as well and is attached to Millennium Broadway.
8 - And finally, another long exposure taken late at night above New York City in Times Square from my hotel room.
***All photos taken with the Sony A99 and Sony a7R
Looking for these photos to view larger? Here you go (click or tap on each photo to view larger):
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New York City Adventure: Take a tour of Grand Central’s Secret Places
New York City - Grand Central - Private Tour
I had the rare opportunity to get a private tour of Grand Central’s unusual and special spots and views today. I got to climb a ladder and explore the inside of Grand Central’s huge clock, traverse a hidden staircase, see the master control room, walk around with a hard-hat on in the secret underground station that hosted secret service agents and presidents. In short, I am not sure how much can top this rare New York City experience.
Gallery Key (corresponds to the order of photos in the photo-set):
1. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor once we entered the super private glass catwalk that runs along the top floor of Grand Central. A few panes of glass were opened so that the best camera angles could be accessed and it was pretty much people-watching photography heaven for about 20 minutes. Having only ever admired Grand Central (for the most part) from the ground looking up, this view looking out and over the entirety of the main concourse is something I will never forget.
2. As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to go inside of the information booth that sits in the center of the main concourse. People who visit Grand Central or pass through daily know the information booth as the ornate booth that sits under the famous four-sided clock. It’s been my main meeting point in Grand Central whenever I meet people in the terminal and it’s been in countless television shows and movies throughout the years.
So you can just imagine how giddy I was that I got to go inside of the information booth today. Not only that but there was a pane of glass missing which was perfect to capture an unusual angle of the clock. I also got to go down the secret staircase in the middle of the information booth which led downstairs and fulfilled my early Nancy Drew-fueled dreams of traversing a secret staircase.
3.The center of Grand Central’s Information Booth also still has quite a few of the original travel advertisements pasted to the inner parts of the structure which was awesome to view. Nothing like gazing upon early 20th century travel ads for early to mid 20th century steamboat and steamship adventures.
4. A classic view overlooking Grand Central’s original light structures. I learned today that the reason that all of the light-bulbs are exposed on all of Grand Central’s chandeliers is due to the grand age of electricity. The Vanderbilt’s were extremely proud that Grand Central was one of the first all-electric powered buildings in the world and celebrated by honoring the light-bulb in all it’s exposed glory.
5. As if the day couldn’t get any better, I was treated to a view inside Grand Central’s clock tower which sits behind the massive Tiffany glass clock (the largest in the world). I happen to be extremely scared of heights which is a fear I am trying to get over. Today was definitely a milestone for me as I climbed the largest ladder I have ever climbed (major achievement) to get inside the clock tower. I am so happy I did! This is the view of Grand Central’s Tiffany Clock from inside the clock! One of the panes of glass opens allowing for some super unique views of the top of Grand Central.
6. And the view looking out towards Park Avenue South was pretty spectacular!
7. These are the massive gears and master controls looking towards the Tiffany glass of the clock from inside the clock.
8. Another view of the streets below as seen while hanging out of the Grand Central’s clock.
9. And if the clock tower and glass catwalks weren’t enough, I also got to see Grand Central’s abandoned Track 61 which I was always told was the stuff of urban legend. However, it turns out to be real! When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in office, he utilized a secret train line that connected Grand Central to the Waldorf-Astoria. The area even has a huge freight elevator that was used to fit his limousine allowing FDR to travel to and from New York City in secrecy during World War II. This was the train he used which still sits on Track 61.
10. And finally, another view of the Main Concourse of Grand Central from high above. I can’t get enough of this view.
I want to thank Grand Central for having me as a guest and giving me the grand tour and for my friend Lexi (check out ) who not only put this VIP tour together but helped me out in the clock tower! For news, cool events, and updates about Grand Central:
View these photos and more of Grand Central Terminal’s unusual views (click on each photo in the set to enlarge):
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