Some days, when I go through the shots I’ve taken, I’ll get a wonderful surprise. A gift. Maybe somebody stepped in front of me and delivered a little unexpected magic. Maybe I’ll catch a particularly telling facial expression I never noticed at the time. But there are also days where I feel that I’ve captured a treasure trove of cool images, or at least a handful of keepers - lots of people out in the sun, lots of activity along the benches - but then I go through my hundred or so hopeful images... and it’s just a hundred boring shots. Why is that? Wishful thinking? Maybe I was a nanosecond too late, or mistook a bright display of color or a crazy pair of sunglasses for something interesting, or just didn’t notice all the distractions in the scene. Maybe something got in the way that I can’t simply retouch out. Or, maybe I was just hoping, and kidding myself. But the image doesn’t lie. 

Nothing. Oh well. Next time.

My wife Christine recently asked me, “Don’t you get bored with Coney Island, going back there all the time?” Fair question. And the answer is, I don’t. Sometimes I do get a little tired of it, which is different than being bored, I think. It can get pretty repetitive and even physically tiring walking up and down the boardwalk for two or three hours waiting for an image to present itself on one of these benches. After all, I can’t control who sits or does not sit there, or who might sit alongside whom, creating a compelling image. I can’t make something happen. I can only hope to witness it, and freeze-frame it. So in that sense, it can feel like wasting a whole lot of time... some days literally for nothing. And there’s the repetitive subway rides, the schlep across Stilwell Avenue... 

But there’s always the chance of stumbling onto a great moment, and there’s always the opportunity to experiment and try something new. When the benches are empty or just not that interesting, it pushes me to look somewhere else, to go deeper. So there’s always growth. For me, relatively new to this whole photography thing, that’s always there for the taking. The experimenting, the learning, the failing, the growth. That’s never boring.


You see all kinds of people on the Coney Island boardwalk. And sometimes, these people seem to be ready-made for a camera - any camera - to take their picture. There was the woman in full Kabuki make-up, the guy decked out in top hat and old fashioned tux and weighed down with all kinds of decorative chains and metallic objects, and the wedding couple covered in head-to-toe tattoos and piercings. And, of course, there are the whole range of costumed boardwalk performers. Early on, I took the bait, and snapped these pictures. But they invariably disappointed me when I reviewed them later. I quickly learned that, for me, the made-for-Instagram images were never as interesting as those of the “regular” people I see, just eating a hot dog or grabbing a selfie, or sitting next to a stranger and watching the rest of the day’s crowd pass by. They’re just everyday people being themselves, going about their day, and without the make-up and the costumes, they’re always somehow more revealing and, for me, a whole lot more fascinating.


Landscape isn’t really my focus, but on this day the boardwalk was pretty empty again so I wandered onto the beach, attracted by the bright white ice caps across the tops of the jetty  rocks. They appeared courtesy of a rare combination of rain, choppy surf and suddenly plunging - then rising - temperatures. A bright cloudless sky gets most of the credit for the beautiful color.


Today presented the ultimate challenge to Brooklyn boardwalk lovers: single digit temperatures with a frigid and bullying wind that at times threatened to knock you over. Clouds of sand blew across the beach and the giant stones of the jettys were frosted with white. Who the hell comes out on a day like this? Well, mostly no one. At times I could look both ways down the Coney Island Boardwalk and not see a single half-frozen soul. But still, there were a few random crazies. Why they were here and where they were going - hard to say. No one was soaking in the sun or enjoying a leisurely stroll, that’s for sure. The rare human I saw was either hustling along to who-knows-where or, in one case, part of a foursome of determined Scandinavian tourists apparently on a poorly-timed trip to New York; they came, they snapped a few cell phone images of one another, and they hustled back to the subway. I lasted little more than a half hour myself, before I started to seriously fear for the safety of my fingers and toes. Back on the subway, they burned as the heat slowly thawed them out. I only took about 20 shots this day. Mostly nothing, because there was mostly nothing to shoot. Till next time...