New York City at Christmas. Everyone says there's nothing like it. I thought I knew it all, having been to the city many times over the years during the month of December. I knew what made it so magical. The tree, the stores, I got it. Or at least I thought I did. Really, I had no idea. It really hit me on Thanksgiving Day, when Rob and I were walking around our neighborhood and came across a hot dog vendor who had a pan of roasted chestnuts for sale. Then we passed another who had Christmas lights strung across the top of his cart. They were things I had never noticed before. Maybe I was too busy rushing to see the tree or see the windows at Saks to take note of all the other smaller details that really add to the NYC experience. I had never stopped and listened, heard the bells ringing or stood on a street corner and heard four different languages being spoken while people hold up maps and try to find their way to Rockefeller Center. Never paid attention to how nice people were to one another, helping those tourists find their way or taking the arm of an old lady as she crossed the streets. These were not just city urban myths, these were things that actually happen, even more so at Christmas
So I decided that this year, having the unique opportunity of living here and really seeing all of the things that make the city so special, that I wouldn't simply watch or listen, I would quite literally take note of it all. On December 1, I started making a list of my 25 favorite things about New York at Christmastime. Some of them were completely easy (like the big Holiday must-do's) and other ones caught me completely by surprise (like when I saw a family of four walking down a street in Chelsea carrying their Christmas tree back home - the mom and dad each holding an end of the tree, their son on a skateboard and their daughter walking beside him.). And as the list really started to come together I fell in love with city all over again. It made me realize not just the holiday things I had never noticed, but all of the other wonderful, unique things this city has to offer - so I'm sure I'll be sharing even more things like this in 2011.
I hope you all enjoy reading all of these as much I enjoyed putting them all together. And a lot of the things on this list are still going to be going on or on display in the month of January, be sure to make a trip in to check them out - if, for no other reason, than to see all of the things that might otherwise go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of city life.
(Those of you that follow me on Twitter and Facebook have already seen all these, but I thought I'd share them with you all in one place in case you wanted a list of fun things to do.)
1. Christmas lights on the hot dog stands. They just make me smile.
2. Ice skating in Bryant Park. It's free (you just have to buy the skates) and there's nothing quite like skating surrounded by the high-rises in midtown.
3. Seeing everyone carrying around the bright red Macy's "Believe" bags. Macy's was even open 24 hours the last three days before Christmas.
4. Department store window displays. Bergdorf's and Macy's are my favorites.
5. The outdoor holiday shopping stalls at Columbus Circle. All the stalls are even in shades of red, white and green.
6. The Holiday Light Show in Grand Central Station. It goes off every 30 minutes, a great way to keep you entertained while waiting for your train. Plus it gives you a reason to look up at the ceiling, which is pretty incredible even without a light show.
7. Kids visiting the city for the 1st time. I love seeing their eyes light up. We were lucky enough to experience my godchildren Aidan & Keira''s first trip to the city and bring them to the Macy's windows.
8. Christmas trees for sale on the street, right next to skyscrapers & high-rises.
9. You can get roasted chestnuts on the street just as fast & easy as a hot dog and, in some cases, from the very same vendor carts.
Living in a city like New York is by far a play ground of photo opportunities. There is always something going on and always something to capture. There is certainly no shortage of moments, textures and events going on at any given moment... and never is there a moment that we can say to ourselves: "I wish we had something to photograph." We simply take the elevator down or up or look out the windows and there is a world to capture.
For me, when I heard that there was a blizzard coming, I got very excited. Of course we have seen the city with snow on the ground but never have we actually been in the city when a big storm hit. To say that it was cool experience would be an understatement. Skyscrapers on the streets right across from us disappeared because the snow and the wind were so heavy. And the thunder and lighting in the middle of it, especially from 25 stories up was quite a sight to see.
Kathleen and I for the most part stayed inside during the actual storm as it was really REALLY cold and we wanted to enjoy a couple of movies and TV shows on DVD. I did however grab a couple of shots during the storm with one of our regular cameras as well as some with my iPhone. In addition, yesterday I ventured outside and photographed quite a bit more of the aftermath. I thought it would be fun to share some of the photos I captured both from my iPhone as well as regular camera.
As a side note I sent in a bunch of my photos to the New York Times and was pretty pumped to see that they used them on their website (see below). Just a small thing I know but it made me pretty happy.
The intersection of 37th Street and 9th Avenue as the snow began to get heavy, taken from our living room.
The buildings starting to disappear as the snow and wind really picked up.
iPhone photo of 9th Avenue, the Lincoln Tunnel and The Port Authority Bridges.
This is almost the same angle as the previous photo but just a couple of hours later. We saw complete whiteout for most of the storm. It was incredible.
Yesterday I headed out to shoot some of the aftermath and cleanup. The wind was so heavy at times it looked like it was still snowing.
Seriously, I don't know how this guy was riding a bike - I could barely walk.
I guess this cab is "Off Duty".
A store owner shovels off part of the street in front of his store on 9th Avenue.
iPhone photo of a bike that probably isn't going anywhere soon.
Snow covered and plowed in... yikes.
iPhone photo of 9th Avenue.
Drivers figuring out how to get across 8th Avenue right after a plow went by.
Macy's was still open. :)
No parking at this lot for a little while.
The roof top of our building. Some of the snow drifts went up past the wall of the roof.
I absolutely love photographing rooftops (no matter the weather) or location. This is one of my new favorites.
Lincoln Tunnel from our roof.
And here are just a few of the shots that made it onto the New York Times Website.
It's not surprising that Nancy and Jake become friends while they were attending Colgate University together. Both star athletes, they had a lot in common. Drive, determination, and the unique ability to balance athletics and academics while still finding time for a social life. As any college athlete can tell you, this is no small task. But Nancy and Jake were good at it, creating a tight circle of friends that thankfully included one another. They were friends freshman and sophomore year, but junior year something clicked. They started to spend more time together, becoming even closer friends.
When senior year came along, they both could tell something was different. They would go out of their way to see each other more often, the friendly conversations hinting at the possibility of something more. But neither of them said anything, neither of them willing, just yet, to take the chance and confess how they were feeling for fear of risking the friendship. Finally, Jake bit the bullet Valentine's Day of their senior year. A delivery of flowers came to the door of her apartment and Nancy was positive that there was no way they were for her. All of her roommates had boyfriends, surely they must be for one of them. But the card said otherwise. It was from Jake, a dozen roses and a message "Happy Valentine's Day, Nancy and good luck in your game this weekend, I will be there cheering." It's all the hint Nancy needed.
Several blissful, inseparable years later, Jake and Nancy made vacation plans - a beach house in the Outer Banks. But Jake's plans went a step further. After a long night of working late (so late the Jake had to slightly change his plans for their evening), Nancy arrived at the house. Jake was waiting there for her with a dinner of filet mignon and lobster. It was exactly what she needed after a long week at work, especially the long walk on the beach that followed. Jake led her to their favorite spot, pulled out a ring and asked Nancy to be his wife. Of course she said yes. Deliriously excited, she couldn't imagine that night could get any better. But Jake being Jake, he had one more surprise up his sleeve. When they went back into the house after that walk on the beach their were both sets of their parents, flown down from Connecticut and New Jersey, waiting there with champagne to cheer the news they were all very happy to hear.
* * *
Since Nancy and Jake live down in North Carolina, we actually got to meet Nancy's mother first. She was helping out her daughter, running around and taking care of a lot of the wedding plans with Nancy on speed dial all the while. (We have an appreciation for all the hard work that goes into that kind of planning process - we relied on my parent's help quite a bit since we were living in Connecticut while planning our wedding that took place in New Jersey.) Nancy and her mother are totally on the same page, each of them have a very clear idea of the kind of fun, elegant event they want the wedding to be and from what we can tell from their plans, it's definitely shaping up to be just that.
We got to meet Nancy for the first time just a few weeks before the engagement session - she had flown up to take care of some of the plans and was just as excited to meet us in person as we were to meet her. We hit it off right away, with Nancy filling us in about her super fun wedding party and all the great touches that she and Jake want to incorporate into their day. Since they're getting married in her home state of Connecticut, Nancy thought it would be fun to incorporate one of her favorite childhood spots into their engagement session: Silverman's Farm in Easton. It was a place she loved to go with her parents when she was a little girl, and Mr. Silverman would actually go and cheer her on at sports games. To make it even more personal, Nancy suggested we start the session on the grounds of her parent's home, also in Easton, where she used to sit around the fire when she was in high school. We definitely worked up an appetite exploring the expansive grounds of her parent's yard, which was perfect because our next stop was Silverman's where there is no shortage of tasty treats, like pie and apple cider donuts. Oh, and some great scenery for pictures. That's always a bonus.
This is just a glimpse of Nancy's parent's backyard. It has all these beautiful trees plus a cool little stream and some bridges. It was easy to see why Nancy suggested this be the place we start the session.
Plus, since it was her parent's place both Nancy and Jake felt pretty comfortable which was a bonus since neither of them had really had a professional photo session like this before so they were just a touch nervous.
But they got the hang of it really quickly, especially since they happen to make each other smile like that. How could happiness like that not look good?
Just check out this snuggling. How sweet are they together?
And they were both really gushing about how excited they are - to be engaged, to be planning the wedding. Just ridiculously happy.
Thankfully, it wasn't too cold the morning of their session so Nancy was willing to take off her gorgeous white coat and take a seat in the middle of one of the bridges over the stream.
Then we headed back toward the front of her parent's house, with a quick walk up this large hill. Totally our workout for that day. :)
One last snuggle before heading inside for an outfit chance so we could head over to Silverman's Farm.
If you have never been to Silverman's, you should definitely make the trip. It's beautiful every time of year, but there is something really special about it in the fall. The pumpkins, the orchard, the bales of hay. Makes you feel like a kid again.
By this point in the session, Nancy and Jake were much more relaxed and actually having a lot of fun being in front of the camera.
Then a quick run through some of the orchard rows. They're athletes, they could handle it. Us, on the other hand... :)
And of course, some smooches.
We totally loved the flower Nancy wore in her hair, such a fun little touch.
And, of course, a classic "engagement announcement" type portrait. Always a necessity!
We always enjoying orchards because they give us the opportunity to play with depth and perception because there are so many rows of branches to incorporate.
Nancy spotted this bright red wagon when we first walked in, so of course we had to spend some time by it on our way out of the orchard.
Cause, really, it was the perfect place for some more snuggling. And who can say no to that?
Then we headed on over to the pumpkin patch where Jake switched it up and braved the cold without his jacket.
One last outfit change! Since Colgate is so important to them both, and the place where they met and fell in love, Nancy and Jake decided to don some university apparel for the last couple shots of the day.
Nancy & Jake, thank you so much for sharing your incredible sweet story with us. We had such a great time with you both during your session, got us even more excited for October!
Christmas has always been a big deal in my family. My mother is kind of obsessed with it, actually. Christmas trees in particular. They are her big thing. When my parents were first married she would always joke that she wanted a "tree in every room" whenever they had a house of their own. I think in part it's because the Christmas trees reminded her of her own family Christmases. She grew up in northern New Jersey, her family of seven living in one the second floor of a two-family row house where each child had to share a bedroom with at least one of their siblings all the time. They would gather together in the family room (the palor as my Grandmother called it), and on Christmas Eve my grandfather would go out to get the tree and they would all sit around and decorate it. In those moments, while they were all sitting and looking up at that Christmas tree their tiny house suddenly seemed so large, filled with laughter and spilling over with Christmas spirit.
That's something my mother and father have instilled with my brothers and I since we were little kids. The idea that you can bring the Christmas spirit with you anywhere, as long as you have a tree to sit around and family members gathered around it. Which probably explains why my mother wanted a tree in every room. Because the tree represents so much more than the ornaments or the decorations. It's a little piece of Christmas spirit everywhere you turn. And a small reminder of her own parents and all that they did to make her Christmases so special. All the more reason she wanted to carry on that tradition to her own kids, and now - her grandchildren as well.
And this year, for the first time in a long time, we're all going to be together for Christmas. All twelve of us. My brothers, my sister-in-law and my beautiful little nieces. We'll all gather around the trees (they actually are one in nearly every room now), and the house will be full. In every way possible.
So, as Rob and I sign off for Christmas and head down to visit family, we just want to thank all of you out there for all of your support this year. 2010 has been quite a whirlwind so far and we can't wait to see what 2011 has in store for us. We hope that you all have an amazing holiday in a house full of your own friends and family.
And since every post is better with a picture, here's one of our favorites that we snapped on a recent walk around the city. Pretty much sums up NYC in December. You never know what you're going to see, but it will more than likely make you smile. And speaking of things that make us smile, keep an eye out for our next post coming very soon - Nancy & Jake's Easton Engagement Session. You won't want to miss it.
Shortly after Dan met Jennifer, he made a phone call. Thankful to reach his best friend, he told him all about the girl he had just met. In part, maybe he was telling someone else so he could make sure he hadn't imagined it all. She was effortlessly gorgeous, first and foremost, and even more, she was smart, funny and easier to talk to than any other woman he had ever met. He told his friend, there was something there. In that one evening she had made a solid impression on him and he was eager to see her again. Thankfully, Jennifer felt very much the same way. Dan was quiet and reserved at first, but even at that very first meeting she could see there was a genuine sweetness within him that she had never seen before in any other man. She, too, could see there was something there. It was an easy decision when he asked her out on a date.
Shortly after Dan proposed, Jen made tons of phone calls. Thankful to reach her closest friends and family, she told all about how Dan popped the question. In part, maybe she was telling them all so she could make sure she hadn't imagined it all. But every time she looked down at her left hand she had all the proof she would ever need - the most beautiful ring, really - the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever seen in her life. And even more, all she ever needed was to look over at Dan and have all the proof that she was, in fact, the luckiest girl in the world. He was everything she thought he was on that first night and so much more and she couldn't imagine a life without him by her side. Even more than saying yes on that first date, her answer when he proposed was by far the easiest decision she had ever made.
* * *
We started the morning with Jennifer and her girls where they were getting hair and make-up done over at Hotel Sierra in Shelton, CT. It was a relaxed and comfortable morning, with Jen and her friends laughing and joking the whole time. During the entire morning, the smile on Jen's face never faded. We took a few minutes to get some shots of Jennifer's beautiful Monique Lhuillier gown that she had selected at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan. Throughout the day, Jen and Dan expertly blended their elegant style with their playful nature. The first hint was in Jennifer's choice of shoes, Dan's favorites, a pair of blue Converse sneakers acting as her "something blue." Her flowers arrived shortly after, lush bouquets in shades of red and orange made by TK & Brown's Flowers.
The ceremony was a short ride away, over at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull. It was a special location for Dan, a church he and his family had been going to for years, making it the perfect place for them to get married. It was a chilly day but Jen & Dan and their families totally braved the cold and took family photos outside the church before we all headed over to City Hall in Hartford to spend time with Jen & Dan and their wedding party.
It was a short trip from City Hall over to The Society Room in Hartford for the reception. There, there were more mixes of elegance and playfulness. The elegance was brought through with the setting, obviously, and then carried through with the centerpieces, and cake from Creative Cakes by Donna. Their playfulness was represented through their music selection played by Carol Moore from A Starry Night, and tasty dessert selections - from tons of chocolate to apple cider donuts in honor of the season.
The perfect example of Jen's unique mix of elegance and playfulness, her "something blue," Converse shoes and her all calla lily bouquet from TK & Brown's Flowers.
Jennifer carried a collection of things with her throughout the day - each of them significant to her or Dan - a antique handkerchief, a bracelet that was a gift to one of her older relatives, a key to her grandparent's house that all the grandchildren still carry with them, and a sixpence. The sixpence is actually at the end of the "something borrowed, something blue... and a sixpence for your shoe," which Jen promptly did.
Jen stayed perfectly relaxed as her sister took the time to fasten all the buttons on the back of her gown.
Once she was in her gown and ready to go, Jen was handed a gift from Dan. It included a very sweet note that made her laugh and cry and then smile when she saw what was inside the box.
Jen & Dan also had videographers on hand to capture all of the special moments throughout the day...
like the smile on Jen's face when she saw the earrings Dan got for her.
Before heading over to the church for the ceremony we grabbed a shot of Jen right after her girls had finished tying up her sneakers.
It was a short drive to St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull, where the ceremony was going to take place. We headed in and found Dan & his guys pretty quickly.
While Dan and his guys were taking a break between pictures, Rob saw this moment and told Dan to look his way - capturing this, probably one of my favorite guy shots ever.
Then we headed inside to grab a couple of shots of Dan by himself, showing off his handsome-ness. (Totally a word.)
It was not a long wait until Jen arrived and was promptly escorted inside by her father.
While I was in the back of the church with Jen waiting for the time for her to walk down the aisle, Rob was in the front grabbing Dan's reaction to seeing Jen as she first walked through the doors.
This is what I grabbed as Jen walked down the aisle, escorted by her father and step-father...
and Rob got these from the front of the church, captured the giant smile on Jen's face.
The Priest that married Jen & Dan knew Dan's family for a long time and shared a lot of stories during the ceremony which had them both smiling.
St. Theresa's is a very large, dramatic looking church. We love going there.
The exchange of vows between Jen and Dan was so beautiful and emotional, they both had to fight back tears.
Just look at that look on Jen's face - she's completely overwhelmed with emotion, so beautiful.
Rings and a kiss - it's official!! :)
Love this shot Rob captured before Jen and Dan walked down the aisle. It tells so much, I love the couple in the front hugging too.
Friends and family gathered by the door of the church to cheer Jen & Dan as they walked out, husband and wife.
One more big smooch before heading over to City Hall.
Even for more "formal" shots, like the one on the left - we want to convey the unique connection between each and every couple. You can see how much Jen & Dan make each other smile in both of these.
No Fall wedding is complete without some in season leaves, we lucked out with some bright yellow leaves outside City Hall.
While the wedding party waited and got warm in the limo nearby, we spend sometime with Jen & Dan, taking the time to show off Jen's shoes. (Which Dan totally loved.)
Gotta admit, we were totally loving Dan's glasses. Love the statement they make.
A little bit of snuggling...always a necessity. :)
Then it was time to bring in their wedding party to rock a bit of "seriousness"...
and then a little bit of fun...
and then a LOT of fun. Thank you guys!!
Ever the gentleman, Dan helped Jen as they headed inside City Hall for some more shots with just the two of them.
We really love going to City Hall - the light, the staircases, it's all gorgeous.
This is my favorite that I captured from their day. I just love the smile on Jen's face, her blue sneakers peeking out and Dan's pink socks. It just feels so "them" to me.
And this is what Rob captured just a moment later, one of his awesome architectural shots. Even after working together for so many years, he still blows me away with his incredible eye.
Another his shot, my shot. Rob's on the left, mine on the right.
Just look at the light in the atrium area of City Hall, great way to show off Jen & Dan.
Just look at how sweet they are together, how could any one deny how happy they make each other?
Another fabulous shot by Rob, shot from the second level of the atrium looking down at the beautiful floor.
Before the reception kicked off, we couldn't resist taking to the street with Jen & Dan for just a bit more fun.
The Society Room ballroom is gorgeous. Jennifer totally played up the elegance of the room with the tall calla lily centerpieces.
There was hardly a detail that Jen & Dan forgot, from the flowers for each guest on the table to the white birch box for cards.
During cocktail hour Jen & Dan had a speciality seafood bar. Huge hit with their guests.
Then came time for the first dance, Rob was up at the balcony grabbing this shot, really showing off the dramatic setting of the Society Room.
And then we were both down on their level, grabbing some of the great reaction shots they had while their were dancing.
After the dance, their fathers, maid of honor and best man stepped up to the mic and gave some toasts - many of which had Jen crying a bit.
After dinner, Jen danced with her father and stepfather and then Dan danced with his mother and grandmother.
Can't have a party without some dessert. Jen & Dan had plenty. Starting with some cake and then LOTS more.
Jen & Dan, thank you so much for choosing us to photograph your day, we had so much fun. Hope to see you both often, especially now that we're neighbors! Can't wait to check out the places you recommended to us in our new neighborhood!