WhereaboutsPhoto

Seeing more by making the world stand still.

Hanging Out In SoHo

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If there is a place where everyone seems to be totally cool, it must be the Soho neighborhood in New York.

If there is a place where everyone seems to be totally cool, it must be the SoHo neighborhood in New York.

In a very unique way, Soho has the feeling of small town living in the middle of a major metropolis.

In a very unique way, SoHo has the feeling of small town living in the middle of a major metropolis.

Want to be a fashionista?  Then Soho, with its eclectic fashion houses and chic atmosphere is the place for you.

Want to be a fashionista? Then SoHo, with its eclectic boutiques and chic atmosphere is definitely the place for you.

The adjacent Washington Square Park is a famous hangout for NYU students and all sorts of TV and movie filmmakers.

The adjacent Washington Square Park is a famous hangout for couples, NYU students, and all sorts of filmmakers.

The early hours of the morning, before the crowds show up, are a great time to catch elegant people on their way to work.

The early hours of the morning, before the crowds show up, are a great time to catch elegant people on their way to work.

Elegant, yet quaint, restaurants like the Hundred Acres are what give SoHo much of its hip character.

Elegant, yet quaint, restaurants like the Hundred Acres are what give SoHo much of its much-deserved hip character.

Yes, we can all dream about finding the perfect loft in SoHo, but be forewarned that it won't come cheap.

Yes, we can all dream about finding the perfect loft in SoHo, but be forewarned that it won’t come cheap.

Ever feel that you got to a place a few decades too late?  Well, I do, and that place is indeed the SoHo neighborhood in New York City.  Not that I could hang out with the local fashionistas that strut the local streets looking “mahvelous,” but rather that upon setting foot on the place I had that all-too-common feeling of having arrived late to a party.  I’ve been hearing about SoHo for far too long now, but for some reason or another (OK, like most tourists) I have primarily limited myself to mid-Manhattan and other “have been” attractions like Little Italy and Chinatown during previous visits.  This was a serious mistake that I do not intend to repeat, though.  In fact, several years ago I made the decision to leave most tourist places to time-starved tourist and just head out to the neighborhoods where no tourist buses are to be found.  But this I applied mostly to cities abroad like Paris, Rome, and Berlin.  One day in SoHo has made me realize that I need to do the same at home.

But I just didn’t just wake up one day and decided to go to SoHo.  I was there to spend the day with the great folks of The Leica Meet group, who were being graciously hosted by the Leica store at 460 West Broadway.  The people at the Leica store simply hit it out of the park with their great support for this event.  Not only did they allowed the group to use their store facilities for the day, but they also coordinated a wonderful group lunch at the Hundred Acres Restaurant & Bar, followed by a visit with various great Leica photographers like Ralph Gibson and Adam Marelli.  This sense of community is something that other camera manufacturers can only dream of, and SoHo was just the perfect setting for the event.  It’s definitely great to discover a few more good reasons to visit the city that never sleeps more often – like taking a creativity vitamin, which I dare say, we all could use from time to time.  I know I do.

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April 17th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Imagining A Photo Before You Take It

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For those who consider life as a journey, each step along the way will always be in between things.

If life is indeed a journey, each step along the way will always fall between where we have been and where we are headed.

What can I say, sometimes the unexpected turn leads you down the path of the unexpected photograph.  Such was the case with this particular photo, which required me to stand in the middle a busy downtown street in order to get the best composition possible for the shot.  Of course, this would not have been necessary if I were using other than a Leica rangefinder, but in the world of rangefinders zooming with your feet is all you’ve got if you want to get closer to your subject.  Not that this whole movement was done in a hurry, mind you, as when I first took my position in the middle of the street there was no one between the tires.  However, I was convinced that sometime before I got run over by a speeding DC bureaucrat, someone will walk right into the scene and make the shot I was imagining in my head possible.  Perhaps there’s something to George Lucas’ famous quote: “You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.”  I’m certainly not going to argue with that.

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April 10th, 2014 at 10:39 pm

The Charming Secret Garden Cafe

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Simple elegance is the best way of describing The Secret Garden Cafe in the community of Accoquan.

Simple elegance is the best way of describing The Secret Garden Cafe in the community of Accoquan.

Bright and spacious, the Cafe is where you are going to find many of the locals socializing at lunchtime.

Bright and spacious, the Cafe is where you are going to find many of the locals socializing at lunchtime.

The simple lunch fare at The Secret Fountain Cafe includes some creative takes on traditional sandwiches.

The simple lunch fare at The Secret Fountain Cafe includes some creative takes on traditional sandwiches.

When the weather is good, the garden, multi-layered patio dining area is the place to hang out.

When the weather is good, the garden, multi-layered patio dining area is the place to hang out.

Once in a while you come across a restaurant where all the elements seem to click.  I’m not referring to some drain-the-bank-account type of place, mind you, but rather to a restaurant that seems to seamlessly combine those little things like good service, elegance, and basic good food with a little flair.  One such place is the Secret Garden Cafe in Accoquan, Virginia.  Not that I knew about this place before today, or that I would have found it without my good friend Mark suggesting I check the place out (the entrance is down a short alleyway and the restaurant is at the back of a local business).  What I discovered at the end of that short alleyway was one of the most quaint and charming places I’ve seen in a long time.  The white-linen tablecloths and the soft, pastel colors inside set the tone for the type of clientele that is always looking for that little extra in a place.  And when you consider that you can have a two-course lunch with enough freshly squeezed lemonade to kill a horse for less than $20, the place becomes even more attractive, specially for someone used to DC restaurant prices.  Next time I’m in Accoquan, I know exactly where I’m going for lunch.

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April 8th, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Spring Is Finally Here

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You can barely tell that a couple of weeks ago temperatures were at the freezing level and it was snowing in the Mid-Atlantic region.

You can barely tell that a couple of weeks ago temperatures were at the freezing level and it was snowing in the Mid-Atlantic region.

What a difference a couple of weeks make.  As April started in the Mid-Atlantic region, freezing temperatures and a couple of inches of snow would have led you to believe that winter would never end.  Instead of birds singing in the morning all you could hear was the unmistakable raspy sound of ice scrapers chiseling away windshields before the dreaded morning commute to work got started.  Gladly, all that appears to be behind us now and those dreaded ice scrappers have been put away for good.  This coming week should also be the peak bloom period for the famous cherry trees lining the Tidal Basin in DC.  The annual Cherry Blossom Festival is in full force and the weather could not be more perfect.  Time to get out and see the world waking up from its long, winter slumber.  See you out there.

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April 5th, 2014 at 11:55 am

Working Out With A Camera

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The Ricoh GR, with its small size and incredible capability, is the perfect camera to carry with you when working out.

The Ricoh GR, with its small size and incredible capabilities, is the perfect camera to carry with you when working out.

I have started working out.  Well, not working out as an olympic hopeful would work out, but rather something more like going for a walk with the intent of detecting any degree of perspiration.  I even get to look the part, with my Pearl Izumi jacket, my New Balance walking shoes, my long-distance runner’s cap, and a great Timex triathlon sports watch.   I’m definitely all decked-out, if you know what I mean.  But while all of this is fine, what really makes my workouts so valuable is that I get to carry a camera with me to  capture the unexpected photo.  Of course, stoping to photograph every interesting scene I come up to does break my exercise rhythm (what rhythm?), but it is crucial that I try to avoid the post-exercise depression that could ensue if I miss the infamous photo every photographer misses when they don’t have a camera with them.  My choice of camera for these cardio outings: the legendary Ricoh GR (read about this little wonder here).  The problem is that even after a couple of times out on my way to becoming a mean, lean, fighting machine, I have kind of forgotten about the exercise part.  Photography is just that enticing for me.  Light, bracketing, composition, and all things photographic seem to conspire against muscle tone development.  Definitely a tough going, but I guess no one ever said that this exercise thing would be easy.

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April 1st, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Creativity And Location

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The locations at which people unleash their inner creativity are as diverse as the different forms of art.

The locations at which people unleash their inner creativity are as diverse as the different forms of art.

Don’t ask me why, but lately I’ve been pondering how much our environment affects our creativity.  After all, painters gravitate to the south of France in search of the perfect light, creative writing courses travel to Paris in search of inspiration, and photographers don’t seem to be able to stop talking about the lonely pursuit that their craft demands.  Remember Georgia O’Keeffe?  Her artistic peak came about during the period in her life when she made the wide, open spaces of the New Mexico dessert her home.  And how about the irrepressible Salvador Dalí and his incredible imagination that traced its roots to the small Spanish towns of his youth, Figueres and Cadaqués.  And famous writers are all over the place, but invariably alone when practicing their craft.  So what am I to conclude from all this?  Perhaps that for solo creatives, solitude during the creative process seems to be a lot more important than any particular location.  After all, the proverbial creative block doesn’t seem to care much about place.  It is the simple act of “disconnecting” from the everyday that seems to be at the root of our creativity.  What is must give way to what’s possible in our consciousness.  And if getting there takes us to a faraway land, or just as far as the kitchen table, so be it.  Our eyes and our hearts will tell us when we’ve arrived there, wherever there happens to be.

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March 30th, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Tiffany Windows Survived The Wrecking Ball

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The Arlington Arts Center is home to beautiful Tiffany windows that miraculously survived the wrecking ball in 2000.

The Arlington Arts Center is home to beautiful Tiffany windows that miraculously survived the wrecking ball in 2000.

Originally ornamenting the Abbey Mausoleum near Arlington Cementery, the windows survived the neglect that ensued with the Abbey Mausoleum Corporation financial problems.

Originally ornamenting the Abbey Mausoleum near Arlington Cementery, the windows had been boarded over and survived many years of neglect.

Light splashing through the Tiffany glass windows completely submerges the entire gallery in a golden glow.

The afternoon light splashing through the Tiffany glass windows completely transforms the entire gallery into a golden masterpiece.

The Arlington Arts Center plays a leading role in Arlington's artistic and cultural life.

The Arlington Arts Center plays a leading role in Arlington’s artistic and cultural life by promoting the work of regional artists.

Royally holding court in a back room at the elegant Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia is one of the most incredible pieces of art in the entire DC Metro Region.  Can’t blame you if you have driven past the historical Maury School building without realizing what treasures lie inside.  After all, the imposing galleries and monuments down the road in Washington, DC are a much bigger magnet for area visitors short on vacation time.  But if there’s anything that demands a separate road trip on its own merits, the golden Tiffany glass windows at the Arlington Arts Center must be it.  Not that a photographer can claim any degree of poetic justice in describing such a magnificent piece of art, but as a hopeless romantic with a camera I found it impossible to enter this sun-bathed room without being transported to the elegant world of New York high society during the late 19th Century.  There, covered by the glowing yellow light of an afternoon sun, I couldn’t help but feel a little underdressed.  Shouldn’t I be wearing a tuxedo while waiting to waltz the night away with my beautiful companion?  Have the cocktails been served yet?  Will the horse-drawn carriages be on time outside to slowly carry us back home after the most marvelous of nights?  I swear that all these thoughts crossed my mind before I had to swap memory cards on my camera, so maybe there’s really something to all those time-travel rumors we keep hearing about.

Incredibly, though, these Tiffany masterpieces, which are now part of the Arlington Public Art Collection, were almost lost to the wrecking ball fourteen years ago.  After many years of neglect and disrepair, in 2000 the U.S. Navy took over the building, and before tearing it down, allowed Arlington County to salvage anything of historical value at the site.  As described at the Arlington Arts Center Blog, the windows were finally discovered after having “been boarded over and long forgotten” in the long-neglected mausoleum.   I can just imagine the faces of those tearing down the wooden planks hiding such incredible treasure.  So much for a day’s work.  So if you are in the area any time soon, pay the great folks at the Arlington Arts Center a visit.  Who knows, you too may be transported to a world long since gone, but not yet forgotten.  And in case you’re wondering, your carriage will be waiting for you outside.

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March 22nd, 2014 at 1:57 pm

OK, I’ve Had Enough Of Winter

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The long, cold winter in the Washington, DC area has taken its toll on the local food truck industry.

The long, cold winter in the Washington, DC area has taken its toll on the local food truck industry.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that we’ve had enough of this winter.  Not that the DC Metro area can compare with the likes of Norway or Hokkaido, but rather that we are just not used to this long, wintry seasons any more.  Sure, they show up every three or four years, but this lack of consistency is not enough for anyone to justify those big winter purchases, if you know what I mean.  Proof of this is the fact that a single inch of snow is enough to close all area schools and the Federal government (do they still get paid if they stay home?).  Small businesses are affected as well when area customers gravitate to shopping malls and large retailers in order to stay warm while overcoming cabin fever syndrome.  So, if by any chance Pope Francis happens to be reading this blog (I know, a long shot, but I’m going to take it anyway), I would like to ask him to do a little lobbying above his pay grade to see if this endless winter can finally be put to rest.  And just in case, a million thank-you’s in advance.

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March 6th, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I Swear I’m Innocent

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Photographing in public spaces is a well-recognize right, but don't expect everyone to be happy about it.

Photographing in public spaces is a well-recognized right, but don’t expect everyone to be happy about it.

Photographers are constantly reminding each other that taking pictures in public places is generally a legally-protected right.  Like anything else, there are limits, and many cases where photographers have been arrested for exercising this right have been documented in the press.  Bottom line: it’s a risky business no matter how you look at it.  Of course, most people taking photographs out in the open are innocently recording everyday life, with their photos destined for their personal blog (like the case here).  But to fully ignore, or disreguard for that matter, privacy and propriety considerations out there could be a risky business.  The law is somewhat murky and perhaps designed so that a visit to the local courthouse is all but inevitable if you are not careful.  This also gets a lot more complicated when you travel abroad, as different countries have different interpretations of what is permissible and what is not.  Bottom line: best to do a little research and never leave common sense behind when stepping out with a camera.  And when in doubt, don’t.  Then again, that may take all the fun out of photography.

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March 3rd, 2014 at 12:58 pm

A Winter Day Along The Virginia Countryside

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Even in winter, horses roam freely along the rolling meadows of the Virginia countryside near Middleburg.

Even in winter, horses roam freely along the rolling meadows of the Virginia countryside near Middleburg.

While relatively close to Washington, DC, the stables and farmhouses of the Virginia countryside appear to be worlds apart on a winter day.

While adjacent to Washington, DC, the stables and farmhouses along Route 50 are worlds apart from the Nation’s capital.

The ever-changing Virginia weather can go from intense snow to idyllic weather in the course of a morning.

The ever-changing Virginia weather can go from intense snow to idyllic weather within the course of a single morning.

The incredible beauty of the Virginia countryside near the community of Middleburg is intensified during winter months.

Some of the most beautiful farmhouses in America are only an hour away from Washington, DC.

Adjacent to the million dollar properties and vineyards along Route 50, old Virginia continues to be alive and well.

Adjacent to the million dollar properties and vineyards along Route 50, old Virginia continues to be alive and well.

It is virtually impossible to get tired of the Virginia countryside, specially if you are a photographer.  Even in winter, when local weather services constantly struggle to get their predictions right, a slow journey along the rolling landscape near Middleburg will reward you in ways that are hard to describe.  Manicured horse farms with dark wooden fences, historical dwellings side by side with million dollar mansions, gorgeous horses lazily wandering along undulating meadows, and tree-covered country roads gently disappearing into the horizon.  It is an incredible landscape constantly displaying the rich heritage of the state.  During the snowy, winter months the city-slicker crowds with their late-model BMW’s are gone and the place finally slows down to its more characteristic, rhythmic crawl.  It is the slowness, surrounded by incredible beauty, that nourishes your photographic soul.

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February 26th, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Winter Calm

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A serene atmosphere sets in by the river banks during cold, winter days when the crowds disappear won't dare to venture outside.

A serene atmosphere sets in by the river banks during cold, winter days when crowds disappear and life seems to slow down to a crawl.

Something good always happens in our national capital region when a snow storms forces most of the government to shut down for a few days.  For starters, the entire region’s stress level comes down a notch or two.  Bureaucrats get to enjoy a paid day off courtesy of the taxpayers and the environment gets a bit cleaner thanks to tens of thousands of commuters staying home for the day.  What’s more, a sort of calm sets into the area with the falling snow, giving people a chance to reconnect with themselves and the place where they live.  It may not be quite enough for advocates of the Slow Movement to label Washington, DC as a Slow City, but it’s nice to experience for a day or two what all that slow stuff is all about.  I’m digging it.

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February 16th, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Escaping The Modern Workplace Ecosystem

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In crowded cities people go to great lengths to find a little personal space away from the work environment.

In crowded cities people go to great lengths to find a little personal space away from the work environment.

No space is small or desolate enough when you are trying to get away from everyone for a moment.

No space is small or desolate enough when you are trying to get away from everyone for a moment.

Lady relaxes at the National Building Museum during her lunchtime break.

Lady relaxes at the National Building Museum during her lunchtime break.

These days workers appear to be clamoring for a little space away from their overcrowded, communal offices.  What’s more, it appears that in order to find a little peace and quiet, any space will do, even if it means planting themselves behind a column, or on a chair that is totally out of place with its surroundings.  It doesn’t seem to matter, as long as the result is that level of temporary solitude that today’s office environment seems to deny them on a daily basis.  As most of you know by now, modern office design, with its overemphasis on team work, is typically designed to promote constant human interaction and contact.  While noble, this traditional approach has led to an interruption-driven ecosystem where most forms of solitude and introspection have become virtually impossible, if not outright frowned upon.  Luckily, people are not totally surrendering to the always-on office syndrome, as my most recent lunchtime stroll with my camera revealed.  So, I am pleased to report that escapism, even if mostly limited to lunchtime hours, is alive and well in today’s office jungle environment.

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February 13th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Shall We Fly?

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Skateboarding in Washington, DC seems to be concentrated around the Penn Quarters neighborhood.

Skateboarding in Washington, DC seems to be concentrated around the Penn Quarters neighborhood.

Only those who can heal overnight would ever dare to perform these acrobatic moves.

Only those who can heal overnight would ever dare to perform these acrobatic moves.

Ever come to the realization that there are just some things that only the young can do?  Or should do?  Well, I have.  And while I would prefer to think of it in terms of growing older and wiser, I hate to admit that this jumping over trash cans and concrete steps was never “my thing.”  Not that I could not think of the mechanics involved in such daredevil acts, mind you, but rather that pain (or the possibility of pain) has never been something I willingly accepted as part of growing up.  These folks downtown Washington, DC didn’t seem to be too concerned with such mundane things as crashing, smashing your face against a trash can, breaking bones, or painting some of the pavement with their epidermis.  Nope, all they seemed to care about was speed and landing on that skateboard after soaring in the sky for a few seconds.  And they were pretty good at it too.  That they gave me the opportunity to try out a manual-focus camera on a fast-moving sport like skateboarding was even better.  Thank you guys!

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February 7th, 2014 at 5:18 pm

The Young Make Their Mark During Chinese New Year Celebrations

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Chinese Americans kicked off local celebrations for the year 4711, known as The Year of the Horse.

Chinese Americans kicked off local celebrations for the year 4711, otherwise known as The Year of the Horse.

The colorful celebrations in the Chinatown section of Washington, DC included traditional costumes and a local parade.

The colorful celebrations in the Chinatown section of Washington, DC included traditional costumes and a local parade.

Young Chinese Americans continue to celebrate their culture while the older generation becomes a lot less visible at these events.

Young Chinese Americans continue to celebrate their culture while the older generation becomes a lot less visible at these events.

Cultural changes were readily evident at the parade, as a younger generation communicated in English while the elderly population spoke only in Chinese.

Cultural changes were readily evident at the parade, as a younger generation communicated in English while the elderly population spoke only in Chinese.

A young woman wears the so-called paddie straw hat that is so common in rural parts of Asia.

A young woman wears the so-called paddie straw hat that is so common in rural parts of Asia.

A young, vibrant, new generation of Chinese Americans are beginning to make their presence known in the Washington, DC area.

A young, vibrant, new generation of Chinese Americans are beginning to make their presence known in the Washington, DC area.

You wouldn’t know from the young, vibrant faces of a new generation of Chinese Americans that this past weekend they were actually celebrating 4711 years of Chinese cultural history.  As the Year of the Horse dawned on us all, a small but proud Chinese American community in the Penn Quarters district of Washington, DC took to the streets to celebrate the cultural traditions that the elders surely experienced back in the old country many years ago.  In spite of the fact that DC’s Chinatown is a mere shadow of what it once was (the 2010 DC census shows 24.84% of the local Asian population as ethnic Chinese), year-after-year the dwindling community goes through great efforts to keep this colorful event alive.  With the relentless encroachment of the business community in the area, it is hard to say what the future holds for these types of events, specially as the ranks of the older generation continue to dwindle and a new generation looks to the suburbs to plant their roots.  Even local newspapers have a tendency to point you in the direction of the Virginia suburbs and Maryland if authentic Chinese food is what you are after.  That’s a pity, but perhaps somewhat typical of the realities being faced by similar communities around the country.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that notwithstanding this reality, as long as we keep supporting events like these in the various ethnic communities around the country, something very precious will be preserved for future generations.  And that, my friend, would be a good thing.

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February 3rd, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Who Was That Man?

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Sometimes someone catches your eye by the way they walk, by the way they dress, or by the way they contrast with the scene around them.

Sometimes someone catches your eye by the way they walk, by the way they dress, or by the way they fit into a scene.

I was headed to a museum today to photograph old, Oriental relics for a change.  But as it happens in far too many occasions on my way to a photographic interest, something catches my eye that turns out to be a little bit more interesting (from a photographic perspective) than what I had originally intended to photograph.  It is the proverbial “seeing of a photograph before you actually get to take it.”  So here I was today, standing in the middle of the street while cars maneuvered around me, waiting for this gentleman to fill a little more of my 50mm lens frame.  A quick three-frame burst later I was done and the subject of my photographic inspiration simply continued on his merry way.  Maybe this city is not as hostile to photographers as I once thought, or maybe it was because I was using a Leica instead of a bulky, in-your-face DSLR.  Who knows.  I guess only this “international man of mystery” would know.

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January 31st, 2014 at 8:08 pm