October 26, 2013 • New York City
(click in the image to see a larger version)
My father's journey to America began in 1943 when he left his native Ireland to spend 5 years in England, part of that time working in an aircraft wrecking yard breaking apart shot down airplanes for scrap metal. After the war, plans were made to emigrate to America, and eventually San Francisco, where one of his cousins was living. He sailed from Southampton for New York in November of 1947 on the HMS Queen Mary, a Cunard Line vessel that was their flagship from 1936 to 1946. So when I came across this ornate entrance to the Cunard Line offices in lower Manhattan last week, it had a special resonance for me.
I've always had a keen interest in the golden age of ocean liners and the fact that my father came to this country on one of them was always a point of great historical pride. One of the memorable experiences that my wife and I were able to share with him was revisiting the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California in 1997 and staying aboard her for a couple of nights, 50 years after the voyage that brought him to the United States.
I was running late when I photographed this. I had started the day before dawn, leaving my room at 5:30am to indulge in a last photo walkabout in New York before flying home that afternoon. By the time I found myself in the canyons of lower Manhattan in front of these doors, it was 11:30am and I did not have much time to spend here if I wanted to make it to the airport for my 2:30pm flight. As a result, the few shots I made of this entrance were very rushed and no individual photo had what I wanted. The image above is a blend of two different exposures that were combined to get the composition that best represented the subject.
The two source shots for the combined image (click the photo to see it larger).
The blending was partly automated using Photoshop's Auto-Align and Auto-Blend Layers and partly old fashioned manual blending using layers and layer masks. The Upright features in Lightroom 5 were very useful in correcting the perspective distortions in the original shots.
In the case of an image such as this, the ability to combine different exposures and craft an image after the fact was very important. It enabled me to make up for less than ideal shooting conditions, as well as being very rushed at the time, and helped me to create an image that captures the significance those doors and their history has for my own family history.