Empire State of mind

New York City. Hot or cold, it's one of my favorite cities. On Jan. 4, it was bitterly cold. Still, it was a great day to wander city streets, see the awesome Flatiron Building up close and shoot some wintry portraits with my friend Perla.

This first shot of the Flatiron was a happy accident. A bit overexposed, and a wicked sun flare. Doesn't matter. All the things "wrong" with this image make it for me.

I'm still working on my freelensing technique. It's lo-fi and it's fun. This was shot on the High Line, an old elevated subway track near the Meatpacking District that's been converted into a landscaped walkway. Lots of greenery and places to sit, and great views of the waterfront.

One of the things I love about shooting in cities is the way you find light where you don't expect it. This shaft of afternoon light was like a pillar of warmth down in the cold, shady canyons of lower Manhattan.

The High Line runs right under the Standard Hotel, which makes for a nice, modern backdrop. Add a little off-camera flash, a little angling and a model who's willing to take off her coat on a 30-degree day, and you've got a recipe for success.

When it comes to post-processing, I try to keep things simple. This image is an example of that. Most of the magic was seeing some great, golden light reflecting off buildings and finding the right place to use it.

They take parking very seriously in New York, as the sign indicates.

Sometimes you need to back your subject into a corner. Literally. I couldn't have asked for a better contrasting background.

Speaking of contrast, it makes for great background detail. It's even better when it plays off one of the colors your subject is wearing.

Think you need a tripod to take good photos? Not always. This is a shot at 1/10 of a second, handheld. It was simply a matter of finding something against which to brace myself (in this case a fire hydrant) and stilling myself. There's a nice bit of blur in the foot and vehicle traffic, but the hotel sign is still in focus.

Our breaths in winter

After several days of torrential rain in Los Angeles I flew to New Jersey, which promptly got smacked with a blizzard. While it was bad enough to shut down all three airports in the New York City metro area, the snow didn't pile up as much in the country where my family lives. But that first night, as the wind howled and the snow kept coming, I was alone in the dark for more than an hour, creating images. Capturing the mood of a snowy night meant setting a timer and using myself as a subject for this first image.

There is always a light in the darkness.

Walking up and down the road for nearly an hour and a half, I only saw one car pass by.

Often, the best images are right in front of you. I captured this bit of serenity in my parents' driveway.

A few days later, I set out for the afternoon to drive the backroads and capture some images.

I suspect watching for children at play hasn't been an issue for some time in the village of Wallpack Center, up near the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border. The few houses that are there appear to have been abandoned for a while. I spent about an hour there, and saw one car drive through "town".

When the light gets good at the end of the day, it starts moving fast. I chased the sunset down the mountain, stopping at a few vantage points to capture that golden, end-of-day light.

Like everywhere else I went on this particular afternoon, historic Millbrook Village was empty.

Last light at an old horse farm in Blairstown.

Two night scenes to cap things off, the first the old Blairstown Diner, and a gas station next door. It was actually a busy evening, with cars zipping back and forth, but I was able to capture two relatively still moments.

More portraits are on the way! In another day or so, I'll be posting some images I shot of my friend Perla during an afternoon in chilly Manhattan.