Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Mission Inn Festival of Lights

     The Mission Inn Festival of Lights is an annual tradition where you can feel all the warm festivities of the holiday season in the heart of Riverside.  The Mission Inn Hotel is dressed up in 5 million dazzling lights, and the street directly in front of the hotel is shut down for pedestrians.  I was looking for something to shoot at blue hour and remembered that this was still an active event.  Knowing that it would be crazy traffic, I had the sense to get there early to get some street metered parking for $1.50 an hour.  I highly recommend getting there early if you can.  A few years back, I recall it being a little bit crazy as the evening progressed.

     Christmas tree inside the Mission Inn 

     They've gotten a lot stricter about access to the rotunda.  This was mainly why I wanted to go.  I don't know if it was always this way, but they only allow hotel guests to access the rotunda area now.  If there was one thing I learned on this day, it is that persistence really does pay off.  I approached several hotel staff, each telling me that I couldn't go to the rotunda just to take a picture.  Some of them wanted to tell me but couldn't, and some hinted at other ways I could get into this area.  One particular person told me that if I went to the Italian restaurant adjacent to the hotel, there is a door that directly leads into the small courtyard where the fountain is on the ground floor.  The hostess there told me that if I could find the manager, she might be able to let me in.  After one more failed attempt asking a hotel employee, I decided to try the restaurant.  I found the manager and she let me in to take my pictures!  I felt like I had won a contest!  I had to shoot really fast, so once she let me in, I walked nonstop to the top floor (and yes, I am sore from doing that still).  It wasn't a clean shot, as there were many events going on at the hotel that day, and on top of this, I also didn't have my widest lens with me.  Nevertheless, I was still ecstatic I was granted access to this area.

      Once the lights come on, there are TONS of people waking in front of the hotel.  My aspirations to do a long exposure were dwindling.   I decided to do it anyway since I had gone through so much trouble of getting to the rotunda.

     Even a 25 second exposure couldn't get rid of the people taking photos and walking by continuously in front of the hotel. 

     This side of the hotel was completely calm.  It's not as picturesque as the front, but you definitely can get some people-free shots on this side.

     There are a bunch of food vendors, and a lot of photo ops here.  The event is busy, yet not overly crowded.  If you want to do a walk through of the Mission Inn decorations, there is a line that forms in front of the hotel, and they let people do a walk through of the hotel decorations.  I'm pretty sure they do it this way to prevent random people from just wandering the hotel.  
     I liked the purple light in this alley.  I wish the guy smoking on the right would've stayed in the frame more.  I think he thought he was doing me a favor by getting out of the photo, but I think it would've been cool to have him smoking in the frame a little more.

     The almonds and cashews from this stand are pretty good. 😋

     There is this place called the Hideaway Cafe where you can get hot cocoa for $1.  It's located underground, below this huge antique shop (that you could peruse for hours by the way).  There are a bunch of signs advertising this $1 hot cocoa.  Be careful though.  When you walk down the stairs that lead to this, it's very dark and I almost faceplanted with my camera. 😬

     If you're looking for a place to get into the Christmas spirit, the Festival of Lights will definitely get you there.  The Festival continues until the first week of January, so there's still time to check it out.  It's very family friendly, and plenty of parking is available in nearby structures.  Merry Christmas, everyone! 😊

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Photographing New York City in the Fall

     One of my bucket list items has always been to see New York City in the fall.  With all the bloggers, instagrammers, and vloggers that I follow, it just seems to be the perfect time to be there.  The weather is cool, but not freezing, and the leaves turn perfect shades of red, orange, brown, and yellow.  I had been researching when the optimal time to visit would be in 2018, and everything I read pointed to early November.  I could only get away for the long Veteran's Day weekend, which meant I would have to cram a lot into a little bit of time.  My new Canon EOS R arrived a few days before takeoff and I was excited to shoot with this camera.  Even though I've been to New York City many times, I've never felt I made taking photos a priority, so I had three must do items I wanted to check off on this trip:  1) shoot fall colors in Central Park  2)  take a helicopter ride around Manhattan (in another post!) and 3)  Do more general photo walking 

*All photos in this post were taken with my Canon EOS R

     First up - the obligatory picture from the plane.

     I had some trouble getting into the city from JFK.  They were doing some work on the AirTrain, so I had to take a bus to another station, and get into the city that way.  It was easy enough to do, but put me about an hour behind schedule.  That's right, I had a schedule.  

     The last time I actually walked through Central Park was during the winter in 2016.  It was covered in snow and beautiful.  Walking through it this time, it occurred to me that I've never seen this mosaic in Strawberry Fields *cue John Lennon song*.

     There weren't fluffy white clouds in the sky like I'd hoped for, but the fall colors didn't disappoint.  There is such a peacefulness in the park during this time of year - no wonder everyone loves it so much! 

     If you're a dog lover, then Central Park is where it's at.  Look at this cutie!

     Another thing to check off my list is the Loeb Boathouse.  By the way, I just looked up the spelling of the boathouse to make sure it was correct, and discovered that the average cost of a wedding here is $45,000!!! 😲😲😲

     Lots of these little critters all over the park.  They make for good subjects though, don't they?

     After some photo walking, it was time for tea at the Plaza Hotel.  Then we made our way to Manhattan Bridge to get a shot of Jane's Carousel against the backdrop of the New York City skyline.

     One of the problems with shooting from Manhattan Bridge is that a train goes by and causes a lot of shaking, making for some blurry photos.  You pretty much have to time it so you're shooting when the train isn't going by.  To top it off, it turns out it IS freezing in New York City in the fall - especially when you're on a bridge and it's windy.  I had no gloves on, and it felt like my fingers were going to fall off. 

     Afterwards, we went to Washington Square Park to take some photos before dinner. 

     Dinner was at this place called Totto Ramen.  OMG, the space is so small.  However, I will say that the broth of the ramen was some of the best I've ever had, so it was worth the wait.  I definitely recommend checking this out if you're a ramen fan. 


     The next morning, I decided to shoot in Times Square for blue hour.  Turns out, it wasn't that blue, and there were actually tons of people there despite it being early.  Most of them were on their way to work, but it definitely wasn't the emptiness I was hoping for. 

     Next up, I wanted to check out the Occulus downtown.  It was nice and empty.  I felt like I had the place all to myself.  It's such a beautiful space and I love what they did with the walls along the platform at this station.

     I met up with one of my friends at Russ & Daughters which I've been wanting to try for a while now.  I didn't know they had a few locations.  The one we went to had such a cute design.

     This isn't mine, but this matzo ball soup looked a lot more appetizing than the one I had at Katz Deli a few years ago.

     So this was my first time having a bagel with cream cheese and lox.  I've had bagels with cream cheese, but this lox business was new to me.  It's more familiar to me as smoked salmon, and honestly, it has never appealed to me.  It always looked slimy and gross.  I was open to trying something new, so I slathered on the cream cheese, threw on some lox, tomatoes, onions, and capers and OMG - so delicious.  I need to find a good place in SoCal to get this.  It was also my first time having capers.  They're like little pellets of salt!


     I loved the wallpaper in the bathroom.

     ... and the free postcard they give you.

     We decided to do some more photo walking before heading to New Jersey for the helicopter ride.

     We planned to take the PATH train to New Jersey, and from there an Uber or Lyft to the FlyNYON hangar.  This gave us some time to chill at the Occulus.  There are some pretty fancy stores at this place!  

     This is the cute stuff I imagine myself wearing when in New York - not the dull clothes, sneakers, and 20 lb. backpack I was actually sporting. 

     After the helicopter ride, I wanted to hit up my favorite pizza place in New York - Prince Street Pizza.  It turns out that this place was featured in some top <fill in with a number> places to eat in New York City lists, and now Prince Street Pizza was everyone else's favorite pizza place, too.  There was a super long line (that we waited in - because it's THAT good).

     Check out those perfect little slices of pepperoni!  They taste like bacon to me - SO GOOD.

     The next morning, I decided to go back to Central Park.  I was not doing very well with the timing of sunrise.  It just seemed that once a certain time hit, it was instantly bright outside.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed strolling through the park in the early hours of Veteran's Day.  

     I love Bow Bridge!  

     I've always wanted to shoot this, and glad I finally got to!  It was hard for me not to imagine every episode of SVU that "took place" here though LOL.

     I stopped for breakfast, went back to my hotel room to get cleaned up and check out, and then did a little shopping.

     Picking up some birthday gifts. 😃

     I couldn't leave without having my cereal milk soft serve from Momofuku Milkbar.  I didn't care how cold it was - it was still good! 😋

     Henri Bendel is such a gorgeous store on 5th Avenue.  I'm sad that they're closing up shop.  I went to pick up a Christmas ornament and just take it in one last time before the end of an era.

     This photo isn't representative of how beautiful this store is.  There's a grand staircase that takes you up to the second floor. 

     The last time I was in New York, this was just a building.  Now it's a building with a ton of barricades and heavily armed people in front of it.

     I made a last minute decision to head over to Brooklyn and check out the area around DUMBO.  The subway system in NYC is just amazing.  I'll forever be in awe of it.  If you ever get the chance, there's a Transit Museum in Brooklyn that is worth checking out.  It also makes for a great photo op!

     I've walked by this street so many times, and I never thought to take a photo of it.  I'm not sure why people find this view so fascinating.  I guess it just never appealed to me.  I am in the minority though, because there were a TON of people here taking photos.

     The fluffy white clouds I'd hoped for never made an appearance all weekend, but I still love this view of the skyline from Brooklyn.  I could sit here all day!

     I wasn't about to leave New York with my Shake Shack fix.  This one by Brooklyn Bridge Park is my favorite location.

     Are you tired of this post yet?  I was tired by the time I took this photo.  I spent a little less than 72 hours in New York, running around like I was in shape, and let me tell ya, it took me a good week to recover from this.  I think I did more walking and running around in this one weekend than I had in the previous months combined. 😐😐😐  By the end, I was in pain and was ready to go back home.  Still worth it though.  I'll be back for you again, New York! 💗