Start of 2017

Well 2016 is now officially in the books. It was quite a year, and i’d certainly say it was a busy one both in my own world and the whole world in general. We lost some great rock starts and viewed what will probably go down as the craziest election year that we will witness as a generation and society in general, but heres to hoping that the goodness of humanity continues moving in the right direction and that we stay productive and prosperous all around the world.

I’m not crazy about resolutions since the years find a way to all mesh together in the end, but the turn of the calendar makes for a great time to refresh a bit and find new energy and focus to build upon going forward.

I will be focusing the upcoming year on printed art, with both the creation of new work as well as sharing work from past years that deserves to be printed and placed where photographic artwork is needed.

Busy is a good thing, and the past few years have been a whirlwind of work and travel, but I hope to one day look back upon 2017 and see it as a year where many prints found a new home upon walls and places all around the nation. Cheers and lets together make it a great year ahead.

Spring evening in Boston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
Spring evening in Boston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

Moments of Beauty

Within most of my picture work I try to find beauty within either a moment or within a scene itself, and its often the best when the two concepts fuse together into one image. This was the 2013 Boston Red Sox World Series Parade. The picture itself is a mix of scale and perspective on the crowd below, the celebratory moment of the Boston style parade, and the beauty of autumn in New England. I’m always hoping for more of these moments to happen.

2013 Red Sox Championship parade on Tremont Street. (Michael J. Clarke)
2013 Red Sox Championship parade on Tremont Street. (Michael J. Clarke)

Aerial Sailing

The boats may be all tucked away for winter at this point, but thats what makes me miss summertime more than anything. One of the neat summer activities in Boston is the very accessible opportunity for sailing along the Charles River and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. As cool as it is to actually do the sailing, it’s also a staple of the city skyline and is a beautiful activity to be happening in any city.

Countless people take pictures of the boats all summer long, and they add a lot of visual activity and interest to pictures of the city, especially those from Cambridge looking over to the Back Bay skyline. The Cambridge view is a great one, but as often as I do those ground level views it feels a lot more special to make a different picture of the boats, and this one was a very different angle than the usual.

Aerial view of sailboats on Boston's Charles River. (Michael J. Clarke)
Aerial view of sailboats on Boston’s Charles River. (Michael J. Clarke)

These are the boats seen while looking down from an altitude of about 1000ft in a Bell Jetranger Helicopter, and its a whole different perspective of the afternoon sailing going on down below. Flying is one of my very favorite ways to make the usual look unusual, and with careful safety measures, timing, and flight planning helicopters can be one of the most useful and effective tools for both urban and landscape photography that we have available in the world.

I usually aim for two different picture types during flights, one being the glorious vista type of perspective that is simply impossible from ground or even building level perspectives, and another being the simplification of the landscape – which is the main goal when working a picture like this one.

A lot of things came together correctly in this image, including the subject matter and patterns below, the dramatic afternoon light, and the altitude and position of the helicopter to get in place for this view. I’ll be sharing more unique pictures and aerial views over the coming months, but it never hurts to look back at some summertime fun during the cold winter days ahead.

Downtown in the Cold

When I work making pictures of the Boston skyline, there are often two different thoughts I bring into visualizing and executing the work. One is to photograph the recognizable scenes that people know and relate two, and the second is to tackle uniqueness and making a picture that provokes consideration and thought.

To bring some unique artistry into my skyline photography, something I often do is isolate sections of the city while glowing with pristine light. This print of the downtown skyline seen from south of the city does that well, and is a view of the city that many people don’t often think of or recognize.

A cold weather view of the downtown Boston skyline. (Michael J. Clarke)
A cold weather view of the downtown Boston skyline. (Michael J. Clarke)

These are the skyscrapers of Downtown Boston and the Financial District on a cold and clear winter night. While Boston is often not recognized for its size in comparison with New York, the city does have quite a bit of vertical strength that can be seen and shown from the right views. In addition to being a different spot than most people view the skyline from, the crisp winter air and last bits of evening sunset that illuminate this frame provide a magical glow to the towers as they rest above the brownstones of the South End.

Sometimes within the realm of cityscape artwork its the unique and lesser known spots that can provoke the most thought and wonder when displaying an urban environment as a piece of artwork, and its for that reason that I work on all different view of the urban landscape throughout many different times of the year as well as weather conditions.

The Red Line Walk

Sometimes powerful pictures end up being the ones that we see every day but recognize in a new light. This simple image of commuters making their way to the platform at Charles/MGH is a good example of that, as its something that people are always doing that takes on an etherial feel when seen in the powerful backlight of a glowing afternoon.

MBTA Red Line commuters walking to the outbound platform of the Charles Street/MBTA station. (Michael J. Clarke)
MBTA Red Line commuters walking to the outbound platform of the Charles Street/MBTA station. (Michael J. Clarke)

When pondered about, our daily motions are one of that most powerful things that we can all relate to as humans. These actions and reactions, like the commute on the Red Line become such a usual happening within the daily grind that we often don’t think of them much, but when seen in the right light, they can be beautiful moments.

Cutting Steel

One thing I want to do here is share a more in-depth look at specific pictures, because there is often a good story behind a good picture. My picture work varies a lot in terms of planning and preparation, meaning that some things are painstakingly planned, and others are a lot more spur of the moment – in this business, its really the only way to be. Planning is great, but so is being ready when a moment strikes.

I was out on an evening walk around the esplanade this past spring when I made this frame of an ironworker cutting through steel beams on Boston’s Longfellow Bridge construction project, and it was quite a strong moment for making a construction photograph.

An ironworker cutting steel beams on Boston's Longfellow Bridge. (Michael J. Clarke)
An ironworker cutting steel beams on Boston’s Longfellow Bridge. (Michael J. Clarke)

This was definitely an instance of being in the right place, with the right gear, at the right time. Building construction happens to be something that Boston is seeing a lot of lately, but it’s when sparks fly during the deconstruction of buildings that brings out this type of situation, and it was a really good one. I was able to anticipate what was about to happen as the workers prepped this beam for the chopping block, and was able to work with the long throw of my trusty 100-400 with a long exposure to visualize the motion and flow of the sparks being thrown from the torch. It’s fairly rare to get things to line up this well, and to have the cutting work be done in a relatively slow motion to allow for a tack sharp frame. In the case of this frame it all came together just right, and made for a moment that I was glad to witness and be ready for.

Boston Fireworks for New Years

As 2015 winds to an end I wanted to wish everyone the happiest of New Years and a successful start to 2016. It’s been a fun past year on my end, with both commercial projects and artwork rolling along at a steady pace, and particularly fun travels here in New England. Ring in the year tonight and kick off a year of success in the next one.

Fireworks over Boston Harbor. (Michael J. Clarke)
Fireworks over Boston Harbor. (Michael J. Clarke)

Sunset Season in Boston

One of the most magical times in both cityscape and landscape photography is the golden window of moments at the end of day when the sun tucks below the horizon and basks our turf with magical colors and hues that strike our imaginations with wonder and awe.

Boston is a city that is particularly well suited for different angles of the setting sun, and its one of the elements of the local area that keeps me from ever tiring while photographing its changing conditions. While they are neat throughout the year, the short window of time in the winter months where the shifted angle of the sun combines with the shortest days of the year creates the month-long display of color from certain angles that I refer to as Sunset Season.

A glowing autumn sunset over Boston's Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)
A glowing autumn sunset over Boston’s Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)

It is more than just strong color that makes this time of year the best for sunset work – the early sunset times mean that people are still working inside the buildings and skyscrapers, and that means that the lights stay on as daytime turns to darkness, and for a photographer like me, that is a much welcomed change when compared to the rest of the year.

Layers of offices inside Boston's Hancock Tower. (Michael J. Clarke)
Layers of offices inside Boston’s Hancock Tower. (Michael J. Clarke)

These past few weeks have already brought some dazzling displays of evening light as the making of city artwork heads towards 2016. There will be a few more weeks where the short days mix with the glorious light from these angles, and I will surely be ready as the visual fireworks cast their light over the city.

A late-autumn sunset over Boston's Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)
A late-autumn sunset over Boston’s Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)

 

 

Winter Arrives

As winter rolls around just in time for the start of 2016, the past winter that we had is definitely worth a second look as it may be one to remember for a long time to come. The hatred of snowstorms is usually heard loud and clean in these parts, but for me, the unique changes they bring are visually entertaining and I would have to say rather welcomed. I am a big believer that beauty can be found on any given day, whether it be the pleasantries of a spring afternoon or a dreadful rainstorm on a cold December morning… but when a storm rolls into town, its more unique than most other days in the year.

This past year happened to bring several major snowstorms that walloped Boston into a state of emergency with the trains and city streets simply unable to handle the challenges that they let loose on the city. I was one of the brave souls that ventured out during the most extreme of the weather, and the sights and sounds were more impressive than anything I can remember in Boston’s snow history.

A pedestrian walking through Boston Common after a February snowstorm in the winter of 2015. (Michael J. Clarke)
A pedestrian walking through Boston Common after a February snowstorm in the winter of 2015. (Michael J. Clarke)

One thing that impressed me last winter was that as much as the snow kept coming, people kept carrying on with their days, or at least trying their best. Yes, the trains ground to a halt, traffic was nearly unbearable, short commutes turned into hours, but for the most part, people kept on trucking as well as they could. Walking seemed hard enough, but some people even kept pedaling away on bikes almost in spite of how cold it was!

A biker braves the ice and snow in Quincy Market on a cold winter afternoon. (Michael J. Clarke)
A biker braves the ice and snow in Quincy Market on a cold winter afternoon. (Michael J. Clarke)

Making pictures of these street scenes in their snow-altered state is a lot of fun for me as a photographer, and there is always the choice of attempting to capture the misery vs. the beauty of the scene. On some days its either all of one or the other, but oftentimes theres a good bit of both – you have to admit that the city looks pretty amazing under its blanket of snow when seen from above even while the streets below were transformed into a hard to recognize winter wonderland.

The Boston skyline after the heavy snowfall of Winter Storm Juno. (Michael J. Clarke)
The Boston skyline after the heavy snowfall of Winter Storm Juno. (Michael J. Clarke)
Snowbanks in Boston's Back Bay after Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)
Snowbanks in Boston’s Back Bay after Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)

Perhaps the beauty of the snow was lost to many people because of the problems with the trains, which were rather epic with their endless delays and even closures. Many people lost many hours waiting and hoping for transport, or possibly waiting or hoping to be somewhere a whole lot warmer than here!

Commuters walking towards South Station during a snowy evening. (Michael J. Clarke)
Commuters walking towards South Station during a snowy evening. (Michael J. Clarke)
An MBTA B-line train on Commonwealth Avenue in blizzard conditions. (Michael J. Clarke)
An MBTA B-line train on Commonwealth Avenue in blizzard conditions. (Michael J. Clarke)

For a few tips on how to make snowstorms in the city easier do your best to plan for it.

  • stay turned to  the local and national weather channels
  • use transit apps as they can tell you when misery is around the corner
  • get a great pair of boots
  • when it doubt, bring that extra layer
  • be overly cautious when driving, things go wrong much more quickly with snow
  • grab a dunkin’s and don’t look back

We had a little preview of winter over the past few days, and I will venture to guess that a whole lot more is right around the corner. It’ll be cold and slow going, but this is New England, and I say let it snow.

Blizzard conditions along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall during Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)
Blizzard conditions along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall during Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)

 

Another Year in the Books

As 2015 winds towards an end there is a lot to think back on and a lot to look forward to as well. I spent much of this year on pursuits within the city of Boston and the landscape of New England, and it’s been an excellent adventure. I’ll be gathering a year end gallery shortly, but check out this evening frame looking over the city as the lights shine brightly.

Aerial view of Boston at night. (Michael J. Clarke)