Friday, December 22, 2006

This Day In History, 1995

This Day In History posts usually refer to a specific date, but today's is not about a specific date, rather a specific day (not necessarily a Friday, either). Today is a day unlike any other, it is the shortest day of the year. No, not that it's shorter than any other day, it's still twenty four hours, rather today is the one day of the year with the fewest daylight hours. In other words, it gets dark earlier than any other day. Today, the sun will set at precisely 4:32 PM.

Whats so good about that? Well, for one thing, tomorrow we'll have one minute more of daylight. More importantly, today (and the week preceding) is the best time, perhaps the only time, to make images of the Statue Of Liberty at night from Bedloe's Island. Sure, you can photograph the statue at night any day of the year... from somewhere else, not while on Bedloe's Island.* Why? Because the National Park Service closes the Statue Of Liberty National Monument at precisely 5:00 PM, and to ensure that everyone is aboard the ferry on-time, the rangers round you up at 4:45 PM and hustle you off the island post haste.

When the sun sets at this early hour, you have about five minutes to shoot with a darkended sky, no more ...and since 2001 you can't even get on Bedloe's Island with three tripods (and 300mm & 600mm lenses) so easily.

In years past however, this was almost a snap. All it took was some advance planning: meet with the chief ranger, show a portfolio, explain what & why you want to shoot and promise to keep your gear out of everyone's way and comply with the guidelines.

Typically I'd set aside three or four days in that week, just block them out on my calendar (assuming good weather, of course), and devote them to shooting the Statue... each day you can do maybe one shot. I'd plan carefully, choose my shot and go make an image. On a good week I'd make three to four great images.

In addition to photographic stuff, the most important piece of equipment in my arsenal is my North Face Brooks Range Parka, the absolute warmest winter coat available. The coat is so warm that all I wear beneath it is a tee shirt. A really warm coat is of supreme importance if you plan to stand at water's edge in windy New York Harbor on a cold day in December (although this December, thanks to global warming, a light jacket would do).

Cold weather, crisp, clear air, a warm coat and an early sunset... it doesn't get any better than this!
Above: JP0402 The Statue Of Liberty At Dusk - Nikon F3 with 600mm lens, Fujichrome Velvia.

*Once, July 1986, I worked The Statue at night with special permission to camp out on the island, another story for another day.


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