I'm a New York City native who grew up there until the age of seventeen. The wunderkind had a love for subway transit as far back as I can remember. Since the family didn't have the resources for a car, we went everywhere on the subway, bus or by foot. Each stop in Brooklyn on our line was known by name and could be recited in order by age five. Someday, my world was destined to expand beyond the borders of New York to see the subway systems in other cities around the globe.
I had the best public education from inner city NYC schools that money couldn't buy. From the fifth grade on, we young ones were speaking French conversationally, which was later followed by German in high school. There was mathematics toward the end of elementary school that didn't surface again until college days. My mom fought for these opportunities that were rich in music, arts and the sciences.
The formal education was earned at Stanford University with a bachelor's degree from an inter disciplinary program between Geology and Civil Engineering. The interest in photography was implanted by a mentor for whom I worked at the U.S. Geological Survey. The interest lasted only through graduation. Even though I was one of the coolest around with access to an expensive camera, the pleasures of working with the funky chemicals wasn't all that alluring. Photography came back into my life years later when another passion was dashed by health issues.
The initial half of professional life was consumed by a 25-year career in geotechnical engineering which included assignments in all states, except Alaska. The United States has been seen many times over from work and fifteen cross-country drives. While traveling for pleasure has always been a joy on my dime, the responsibility of doing it as a means to earn a living gets old very fast.
An interest in learning to swim was given to a late bloomer that became a 25-year non-championship career as a Masters swimmer. Hunting places to swim developed into the foundation for a US Masters swimming directory of public and university venues in this country and public pools abroad. The gift of learning to program in the now ancient C+ language to develop swim meet management software was a bonus. Only one suite was sold and the support level required was enough to know that my future was elsewhere.
The corporate world was abandoned after twelve years from seeing what were supposed to be invisible glass ceilings to minorities. Working freelance meant six to eight months of feet on the ground and much more money than a salary. Idle time lead to travel fulfillment in seeing the world.
The urge to document subway station architecture and art installations slowly brought photography back into my life. The first camera was a Kodak point and shoot which was followed by a slightly more sophisticated Panasonic unit that included geo-coding to track my movements. I finally graduated to a Canon Rebel 3Ti DSLR and arrived in the big time. The Canon was somewhat bulky and too conspicuous when shooting in restricted stations. The Sony a6000 mirrorless camera became my mainstay with a 18-105 mm lens, 10-18 mm lens and 2 prime lenses. The Sony affords less visibility and easier handling. The a6000 was replaced by a Sony 7MII just prior to the start of the pandemic.
Subway stations have been photographed in more than 40 cities around the world. Obtaining permission from transit agencies to photograph and using a tripod are usually sought in trip planning when the rules of photography aren't clearly presented on the agency's website. Getting permission has rarely been a problem. My vision in photographing stations is to present the local population with the beauty generally overlooked on a daily basis.
Aerial photography is an addictively acquired taste. Flying in low altitude vehicles has been a way to beat fear of heights. Having favorable conditions for clear shots is definitely a crap shoot. Obstacles have included hazy skies, rain, dirty windows, glare, good seating, and the occasional idiot with a selfie stick appearing in everyone's photos. The exhilaration of returning with clean usable photos is priceless.
The pandemic has presented challenges no one would have imagined. The challenges include not being able to travel along with a desire to avoid the normal crowds that would have been ignored any way and learning to reuse post-processing software that evolved a generation or two while being occupied with other priorities. I'm looking toward a return to life as close as possible to what we lost.