City

Is Buenos Aires My Least Favorite Destination?

Time to look back on my trip to Buenos Aires a few weeks ago and what I thought of the city, the title may spoil my overall thoughts on the trip, but let’s jump into the details.



From the moment I stepped off the Turkish Airlines flight, I’d have to say that this trip ranks somewhere in the bottom of all the destinations I’ve visited to date. After clearing customs, you walk through an area with a bunch of taxi companies who immediately badger you to come make use of their company over the guy next to them. This was a hint to how I would be treated for much of the trip. After passing through into the main part of the arrivals area, I quickly located my taxi company.

Hitting up the ATM, I took out some money to pay for the taxi. The taxi is all pre-paid and can only be done in cash. Right after this, I was led out to the taxi and jumped into a really crappy car, Taxi Ezezia, and the man stood with his hand out waiting for me to tip him… I’ve never experienced this any other place. It’s this odd situation of trying to make you feel awkward enough to pay him for his service of grabbing my luggage out of my hands and walking me 50ft to the taxi stand. The entire interchange was uncomfortable, but at least my driver was good. The same cannot be said about the insane driver I had on the return to the airport.

After and evening in the hotel, the next day was rainy and I limited my walking around for some time. When I did go out, it immediately struck me that sidewalks were poorly maintained, buildings were old and run down. The entire city had a feeling or uncomfort for me. I can’t place it since Seoul was similary run down in certain areas but I never felt uncomfortable in Seoul. The only conclusion I could come to was the difference in how people treat you.

As an example, while walking through a downtown shopping area, I stopped in a store to look at some post cards. As you may recall, I get a postcard in every city I visit for my niece. As I was looking, a woman approached me and said something to me in Spanish. I removed my headphones and she repeated it. At that time I tried to explain that I don’t speak Spanish. At the point she was really annoyed and repeated it again. At that point I just turned around and walked out feeling like I was no longer welcome there.

This exchange in a little shop, this exemplified how I felt the entire trip, just like people were not happy, they weren’t willing to work with me, and were just generally rude. I can’t say everyone is that way, hotel staff were fantastic, but outside of that I felt like everyone was annoyed with me everywhere I went. An odd feeling to have, and one that ruins the entire experience.

There are some nice areas of Buenos Aires, but I really must say that the city attempting to tout itself as the Paris of South America is roughly equivalent to me calling my apartment the Taj Mahal of North America, it’s a huge stretch. Buenos Aires does have the European feel, if you focus on really small sections of the city, a block or two here, but turn onto the huge main road through the center of the city and you run into 90% of the buildings being run down. Roads are lined by little convenience store, not the shopping you see in France. As much time as I spend in France, I can definitively say that Buenos Aires does not feel like France.

On my way back to the airport I was with a crazy driver in start of rush hour traffic and he was not a good driver. Fast driving, shoving into small spaces, and going really really fast. Once I arrived at the airport, that was a relief and finally it was time to leave the city. I’ve never before wanted to leave a place like I did with Buenos Aires. My suggestion to avoid the city, while I did find some minor gems, the overall experience was unappealing. Avoid if you can.

Papaldelphia

Those who don't know, I live just outside of Philadelphia, and my significant other lives in Philadelphia itself. Due to job situations, I spend most of my time in Philadelphia.



If you aren't aware yet, the Pope is visiting Philadelphia today and tomorrow. The city is expected to host over 1 million visitors this weekend as people flock to the city to get a chance to see and meet the pope. It is a bit difficult for me to gauge what the news cycle is like outside of Philadelphia, but in the city it is all anyone is talking about... and the locals aren't happy.

Preparations for the visit have been ongoing for months now, preparing plans, organizing everything, and paying out lots and lots of money. Majority of folks will be traveling in from outside the city and spending no more than 2 days in the city. For those of us who live in the city, the impact goes far beyond a 2 day weekend, and that is what has the city in a bad mood.

Starting Monday, all parking in Center City began to shut down. This includes where I usually park overnight. So I quite literally had to park on the complete opposite side of the city and traverse the entire downtown section of the city, every morning. This alone added 30 minutes to an already long 1 hour commute.

Streets are completely shut down all weekend. Cars can leave downtown, but not enter. As such, I am stuck at my apartment, and my girlfriend at her apartment in the city since she has to work. I can't stay in the city since I need to get out of the city and on a flight in morning on Monday.

All this week, we've seen police activity increase. Major roads close, this means I have to find a different way to the airport to avoid closures. Random road closures have been happening all week, while workers set up human corrals in an attempt to keep people on the sidewalk. The army has been brought in, and almost all businesses have shut down at the end of the week.

This has triggered a mass exodus to the Jersey Shore for residents of the city. No one wants to be here when we are essentially prisoners of our own homes. Companies offering food cannot get shipments into the city, major highways are closed to all traffic.

This is just a taste of what has been happening in preparation for one person. Religious or not, this is an extreme impact to the local population for a single man to visit. I'm not sure I quite understand it, but it's hard for me to justify the expenditure of $12 million to host a single person.

More over, this significantly impacts my Monday flight. Higher levels of security are expected, people will be starting to travel home on Monday and I am not sure whether or not to expect a madhouse. So I guess that my point here is that when you travel to a special event like this, be aware how negatively it may be impacting the local population. Please be respectful of the locals you meet, they are not happy, they may not want to talk to you and they may have been dealing with this for far longer than you think. So give the waitresses and waiters a little leeway this weekend.

 

Behind The Shot: Looking Over Manhattan

This past Saturday night I was in the middle of my first trip to New York City. During the long weekend, there was a lot to see and do around the city. One thing was at the top of the list; visiting the observation decks on top of the Rockefeller Center at night.



Preparing for this trip, I knew that I wanted to get some great photos. Looking through a few websites that offer tickets to different attractions, the Rockefeller Center came up. Known as the “Top of the Rock,” the view of the city at night from the observation deck was one that could not be passed up.

You arrive at the Rockefeller Center, the NBC studios location, and walk inside to be greeted by a complete lack of any signage directing you to where to go. NBC seems really interested in advertising the Top of the Rock, but not how to get to it… seems rather self-defeating, but the lines to get in suggest other-wards, or maybe they didn't anticipate me entering through one of the other 45 doors on the building beside the front plaza. Either way, I did eventually find my way to the tickets, the elevator and to the top of the building.

When arriving at the 67th floor, I quickly made my way up the stairs toward the 70th floor where I knew I could secure my tripod and take some photos. My excitement was destroyed when the 70th floor was said to be closed for “your safety.” This left me with some not so great options for getting the photo I wanted. Since the 69th floor did not give the options for my tripod that I needed, I was forced to up the ISO setting in the camera and shoot free hand… at night. I knew this would potentially destroy my photos, luckily it did not, but I had no other option.

I tried to do what I could for the skyline, and got the photos I wanted, enjoyed the amazing view and then moved downstairs to exit the building. Luckily for me, needing to bump the ISO on the camera actually had me set up for the shot at the beginning of this post. As I walked around the 67th floor I came across a couple sitting in the window, they would have been an amazing shot, but the reflections in the window made the photos unusable, as I figured they would be.

Standing there for a moment, a women made her way to the other window. When I saw that shot, immediately I could tell that this would be a great black and white photo if I could nail the shot. Luckily the bad lighting upstairs had already prepped my camera for the low light inside. I took the shot before she moved away.

Rarely do you ever have those moments in photography that you know you have a great shot on your hands if you don’t screw it up. Many of my shots come from a number of photos all over the place and seeing how well you composed them later in post processing. For every photo that gets posted, there are many that never see the light of day. This was one of those rare times when you knew, this is a great photo, just get it right. I’m fairly happy with the outcome, the light coming through the window is amazing and the backdrop is great too. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I do.

Until next time…

 

New York City

 

As promised, I took a trip to New York City last weekend. This was my first time visiting NYC, despite growing up in New York State. Since Monday was a holiday, it allotted me an extra day during the weekend to get to pretty much everything I wanted to do. While I definitely need to go back and spend more time in each of the museums there, I was able to at least dedicate a short time to many of the major places around the city.



Friday night began with my normal long drive home and a quick turnaround to get to the Amtrak station. The train took me up to Penn Station in NYC. I looked around outside Madison Square Garden for a few minutes before catching the 2 train to Wall Street where I stayed for the weekend. NYC has an amazing public transit system. I will warn you; however, if you have never been before, the subway system can be confusing if you don’t plan a little in advance. Google Maps is a life saver if you make unscheduled trips in the system. Make sure to check your stop for which train services that area, otherwise you may get on an express that bypasses your stop. Once you learn the subway system, it’s one of the best public transit systems I’ve used, rivaling Washington DC’s Metro which I also dearly love.

Saturday started with a scenic walk around Lower Manhattan as I slowly made my way over to the 9-11 Memorial. Just north of Battery Park, at the Hudson River Park, I took this photo of Freedom Tower. Freedom Tower is in the World Trade Center Plaza where the memorial now stands. Freedom Tower is almost completely finished externally now, but is still being finished inside, and it is a beautiful and impressive building.

 

After visiting the 9-11 Memorial I moved on to the International Center of Photography, which was interesting stop and a bit small, but there are some genuinely great photographs there, just don’t expect landscapes. Then I made my way to the Met, an incredible collection of art and artifacts, highly recommended if you are ever in the city. There is a great collection of Van Gogh paintings in the Met.

As night fell and the city lit up, I took a trip over to the NBC building, 30 Rockefeller Center. There you can get tickets to ride the elevator up to the top floors where there are multiple observation decks. My small tripod was with me to help with the nighttime photos I planned to take of the skyline. The night ended up being perfect for photos. The top most observation deck was closed though, and my plans were thrown off because of this.

 On top of the Rockefeller Center there are 3 observation levels, the first two have huge panes of glass which are always a bad idea to take photos through. My plan had been to use the top most observation deck which uses wrought iron railing instead of the glass panes. Originally, the idea was to use these to secure my gorilla pod tripod, but this deck was closed. The only way to get the photos with the equipment I had with me was to shoot really high ISO through the cracks in the glass panes. Using the glass panes as a brace, I tried to move as little as possible.  In the end the photos came out fairly well, but the noise level is a bit beyond what I wanted, and the focus could have been better. As you can see in this picture, also displayed in the gallery section of the website, the night was beautiful and skyline almost perfect. Next time I go, I’ll have to bring my full tripod.

 

Sunday was my last full day in NYC and was comprised of the Hayden Planetarium, Central Park, and MOMA. The Hayden is a pretty incredible place to visit, though my deep interest in astrophysics may leave me a tad bit biased on the subject. There are some amazing scale of the universe analogs shown around the planetarium that really give a perspective on how absolutely huge our universe is.

MOMA was an interesting place to visit. The museum was absolutely packed with visitors. My art interest is focused a lot on painters like Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, and Picasso. Making my way to the fifth floor, the crowds were almost too much to actually enjoy the art. I would suggest going during the week, as Sunday left it difficult to even stand in front of any of the paintings. Despite the crowds, the collection at the MOMA was amazing. The Monets’ and Picassos’ they had were worth the trip alone, do not miss this museum if you are in NYC.

As a mini vacation goes, this was well worth the trip. NYC is someplace I could live myself, and will definitely become a frequent destination for short occasional trips. There are more pictures to come from this trip and I will add them here as they are edited over the next week or two. Remember that Instagram is always a great place to catch quick photos I take and post while I’m on trips, or just around town. Until next time…