Monday, December 30, 2013

Walking Through the Seasons in Central Park

2013 is coming to a close and this year, with the exception of the weeks that I have been out of town for vacations, I have been walking in Central Park every weekend and taking lots of photos. And lots of photos mean more than a hundred each month. It was hard selecting favorites in each month but in the end I decided to choose 13 photos for each month of 2013 and compile them in one Flickr album to represent the things I see during my walks in the park. 

I will share and write about some of those photos in this blog and link them to some of my previous blogs. So this is it, Central Park in 2013, looking at the seasons unfolding during the year in the park, through my eyes. I hope you will enjoy my pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them, and walking though the park that I love.

January was cold and most of the water features in the park were frozen. This was Bow Bridge straddling a frozen Lake during the first weekend of 2013

January 19 was the 2nd Central Park Ice Festival and lots of people watched the Okamoto Studio carve a scale replica, in ice, of Belvedere Castle.

For the finished product, here's the link.

All bodies of water were frozen during the last weekend of January as it snowed the day before. It was a beautiful scene at The Lake when I walked by, seeing the white of the snow against the clear blue sky.

The city was bracing for the nor'easter Nemo when I took a short walk in the park the afternoon of February 7. It was the first time I saw the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain void of people. The deserted area looked peaceful and beautiful, I was literally looking at the calm before the storm.

The blizzard Nemo dumped more than a foot of snow in New York City. Central Park was a winter wonderland that weekend. The Gothic Bridge looked gorgeous in the snow and setting sun.

Up at Cat Rock on the first week of March, I could see a lot of people enjoying the Wollman Rink, and the buildings of Central Park South provided a great backdrop. I could stay there the whole day!

I was scheduled to go on vacation the third week of March and before I left, I walked the length of Central Park starting at the northeast corner at the Harlem Meer. When I reached the Conservatory Garden, some early spring flowers were already blooming. This is iris reticulata, see how pretty it is!

As I walked the park that day light snow started to fall. I took shelter for a while at the Bethesda Arcade, its restored Minton tiles ceiling was a joy to see.

As that day progressed, snow kept on falling. The snow on the green trees made the park look like a postcard. Seems like winter didn't want to let go.

I was away on vacation for three weeks and when I returned in April, Central Park was wearing its Spring finery. This was The Pond when I took a walk around the middle of April.

By the third weekend of April, most of the spring flowers were in full bloom. When I passed by The Obelisk, it was framed by the magnolia flowers. Such a pretty sight, don't you think so too?

At the end of April, the crabapple trees at the Conservatory Garden were in full bloom. The garden was a riot of pink and white!

By the first week of May the temps were mild enough for picnics at the Sheep Meadow.

And a walk in late May around the Harlem Meer yielded some great reflection photos.

If you want to take wonderful reflection photos, look no further than Central Park's water features. Two of the reflection shots which I consider my best were taken on a walk in the park one weekend in June. One was of the Lake taken from the Ladies Pavilion at twilight.

And the other taken the following night from The Reservoir -- New York City looking like an oil painting!

In the summer months, the city experiences Manhattanhenge. These are the two days each year during which the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid in Manhattan. In one of my walks in the park, it seems the ducks were watching their own Manhattanhenge as the sun set in between the towers of the Time Warner Center as reflected in The Pond. 

Sometimes there are concerts held at the park, like the MLB All-Star Charity Concert benefiting Sandy Relief in July, featuring Mariah Carey accompanied by the New York Philharmonic. I had tickets to that free concert but the guards wouldn't let me in as I had my camera with me. So I went to walk in the park instead. A blessing in disguise, I think, as the skies that night gave more colors than the sparkles on Mariah's bling sling.

For the rest of my photos that night, here's the album on Flickr.

In the summer, I always see the great white egret at the park, sometimes at the Turtle Pond but more often at The Pond. One time I chanced upon it trying to stalk fish but it looked like it was commanding the mallards to swim in a straight line. Anyone care to caption this photo?

Also during the summer months, there are a lot of talents showing off at the park. I chanced upon these guys performing at The Mall one weekend in August.

Also in August I stayed late at the park one time and took this photo from Cat Rock. Standing there basking in the light of the moon and the stars, it looked like all my dreams and wishes could come true. Central Park in the evening is magical!

The warm summer months also mean rides on the Central Park carousel. It is a popular spot especially to its young visitors, with its 57 hand-carved horses and two chariots. I love the fence around it, there are horses incorporated in the design.

By September, the warm weather has given way to cooler days as autumn approaches. On the first day of autumn, the Wisteria Arbor was full of falling leaves.

I had written about Central Park's Adopt-a-Bench program before but on a walk in September I saw one bench with four plaques. It was a special bench as it was dedicated to the heroes of 9/11.

By the second week of October the leaves of the trees in the North Meadow have started to change color. 

It was also in October when I took this photo of the setting sun. I love watching the sun set on The Reservoir. I believe no two sunsets are the same, and most of the time the clouds like to dance with the sun as the day turns into night. We New Yorkers are so lucky -- in the middle of our great big city and surrounded by man-made structures, there is this beautiful park where we can be still, marvel at nature, and watch creation at work.

Near the north end of the park, The Pool was shimmering with the reflections of orange, yellow and green leaves as October gave way to November.

By the first week of November autumn was showing off with all the brilliant leaf colors around the park, treating the skaters at the Wollman Rink to some nice fall foliage.

The Lake had a treat, too, for all those walking along its path, and for those who took time out for some boating.

Also in November, Jazz and Colors returned to Central Park. 30 bands performed the same setlist in different places at the park from 12 pm to 4 pm, and I tried to see as many bands as possible. A quartet was playing at the Harlem Meer when I passed by while the trees in the nearby Dana Discovery Center were showing off their autumn colors.

On a walk in late autumn, fiery skies illuminated Belvedere Castle at sunset time.

Belvedere Castle has the best views of the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond. I have seen the cycle of the seasons over the months while standing on the castle's terrace. I took this photo in early December, the trees were already bare but Turtle Pond was a beautiful shining mirror reflecting the clear sky and the trees.

The city had its share of a couple of snowfalls before the winter solstice. The Central Park Dairy House looked like something from a fairy tale with the snow and its huge holiday wreaths.

The Park had a lighting ceremony for its floating Christmas tree on the first week of December but I wasn't able to attend as I was with friends visiting the city. I visited the floating Christmas tree at the Harlem Meer on the third week of December. Because of the cold temps the past days, the Meer was frozen and the lights on the tree was reflected on the ice.

The day before Christmas, I went to the Arsenal to view the Wreath Interpretations exhibit. On my way to the subway from the Arsenal, I passed through the Inscope Arch and had this great view of Central Park South. If it had been snowing, it would look like I'm inside a snowglobe!

On the last weekend of 2013, I walked in Central Park with my family. We passed by the Imagine mosaic on our way out of the park and I recall the lyrics of the song.

♫ Imagine all the people living life in peace ..
You may say I'm a dreamer, 
but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one ♫♪♫

Quite fitting as we prepare to welcome a new year with hope in our hearts and the love of family and friends guiding our way. 

I hope I have somehow captured the many extraordinary moments I experienced during my weekend walks in Central Park. Time and again, I have seen the wonders of nature, the beauty of the seasons, and have found peace and inspiration during my walks in the park. Thank you Central Park! May you continue to bring joy and spread cheer and hope to everyone. ❤️

For the thirteen photos of each month which I selected to represent 2013, here's the album on Flickr - Central Park 2013

For the photos I took during my walks in the park, these are in separate albums grouped by month. I've linked them in this article, just click on the highlighted month and it will take you to the Flickr album for that specific month.

May we all have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas in New York City

Each year after Thanksgiving, New York City rolls out its holiday decorations and lights and the city is transformed into a magical place. Most of the decorations are the same year after year, but still they always elicit smiles and fond memories from those who have seen them, and excitement from those who are seeing them for the first time.

One evening a couple of weeks ago, I walked along Sixth Avenue and came across these wonderful decorations. Coming from the north, I first came across several giant nutcrackers standing guard at the UBS Bldg. between 52nd and 53rd Streets.

A little further along, between 49th and 50th Streets are the giant Christmas balls of 1251 Sixth Avenue.

On the next block is the toy train of Rockefeller Center Station, parked at the fountain of 1271 Sixth Avenue.

Directly across the toy train is the colorful Christmas tree of Radio City Music Hall which changes colors every few seconds, from green to gold to red.

Then there's the giant Christmas lights on the next block in front of the McGraw-Hill Bldg between 48th and 49th Streets.

On the next block at the News Corp Bldg is a reindeer family, the baby reindeer looked cute!

I also walked one December evening, this time along Fifth Avenue from Central Park South. At 57th Street is the Unicef snowflake, a special symbol for the world's most vulnerable children. It hangs as a reminder of UNICEF’s commitment to reach a day when zero children die from preventable causes.
The original snowflake, a New York attraction since 1984, was dedicated to UNICEF by the Stonbely family in 2002. The New York Snowflake contains 16,000 crystal prisms, is 23 feet wide and over 28 feet tall, and weighs more than 3,300 pounds. While the original Snowflake contains 12,000 crystals, is 17 feet wide and over 14 feet tall, weighs 1,600 pounds and is illuminated by 125 steady-burning and 300 high-powered flashing LED lights.

Near the Unicef snowflakes are the stores of Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany's, both stores' holiday show windows are eagerly anticipated each year. For my pics on those holiday show windows, here's the album on Flickr.

Also in this intersection is Bulgari's, the store's facade is decorated with metallic, light-up snakes, the brand’s legendary symbol

Between 57th and 56th Street is Trump Tower, it has a very tall Christmas tree, placed near the lobby's waterfall and guarded by a toy soldier.

At the corner of 56th Street, the Harry Winston store glows with its holiday lights that shine in every window.

A block away reindeer prance on the awning at the entrance of The Peninsula.

Across Fifth Avenue but still on 55th Street, a toy soldier guards the entrance to the St. Regis Hotel.

A block and a half away, the lights decorating Fendi's look like a variation of Santa. I pretty much prefer their previous years' light decor which resembles a belt encompassing the building. Seems fitting as they are a leather goods store.

At the corner of the next block, the Cartier Building is wrapped in a red bow and a pair of panthers shine in golden light. Beside it, the Versace store light decor also shines prettily.

A pair of toy soldiers bring in good tidings as they stood at the entrance of 630 Fifth Avenue, which is part of the Rockefeller Center complex.

More toy soldiers, holding different musical instruments, are standing on the area surrounding the rink. Here's a drummer toy soldier.

And over at the Lego Store at the Rockefeller Center complex is a big Santa made of Lego bricks.

Of course the star of the Rockefeller Center Christmas decors is the tree. Usually a Norway spruce, the tree has been put up every year since 1933. Its lighting has been broadcast live nationwide on NBC's Christmas in Rockefeller Center show and is scheduled for the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.

The tree is topped with a Swarovski star.
The Swarovski Star is comprised of 25,000 crystals, with 1,000,000 facets, and it measures 9 ½ feet in diameter and 1 ½ feet deep. The Star weighs 550 pounds, including 300 pounds of crystal panels, and is composed of six outer rays and six smaller inner rays.

The path towards the tree at the Channel Gardens is lined with angels and their trumpets. Across the tree at Saks Fifth Avenue, the store's building facade serves as screen for its annual holiday light show. Snowflakes, ice skaters, gifts and a Yeti all interact through a custom-built, six-projector system developed by Iris Worldwide. The angels at Rockefeller Center have the best view of the Saks light show.

Here's the official video of the light show. Enjoy!

Further down Fifth Avenue by the New York Public Library, the lions Patience and Fortitude are once again wearing wreaths this holiday season for the first time since 2004.

The parks have their own beautiful Christmas trees, too! This year I was able to visit just the ones in Bryant Park and Central Park.

Bryant Park this year has gone patriotic with its red, white and blue ornaments.

While at Central Park, the tree is usually floating at the Harlem Meer. When I went there last weekend, the Meer was frozen and the lights of the tree was reflected on the ice.

Along Park Avenue, the lights of the Helmsley Building dominate the area.

Walking towards the building and onto Grand Central Terminal, I was treated to the terminal's Centennial Holiday Light Show, on display daily through December 26.

Over at Macy's on 34th Street is a big Believe sign. One of the Santa elves balloon was at the entrance near the sign when I took this pic.

Inside the store there's a Believe meter ..

and a mailbox for your letter to Santa.

Outside the store, the lights of the Empire State Building shine brightly. When I took this pic, it was lit in red and green for the Christmas holiday.

The Empire State Building also has its light show, held for 5 days from December 20 up to Christmas Eve. Here's the official video of the first day:

I know there are a lot more holiday decorations around the city I haven't covered but the ones I wrote about are the ones that I think are the most well-known and well-loved. 

Christmas in New York City is really the best! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! 

The rest of my photos of the holiday lights in the city are on Flickr. There is a separate album for the show windows.

NYC 2013 Holiday Lights

2013 NYC Holiday Show Windows