Bond Street & 64th Street, Southwest Corner

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Then and now revisited ….

I've always loved those "then and now" books: you know, photographs of New York in 1900 side by side with photographs of New York in 2000, and so on.

And at the same time, with my intellectual reading glasses on, I've looked down my nose at them: fun, but not serious.

Too easy.

Tenth Avenue & 17th Street, Southeast Corner (2006 above, 2010 below)

Well, it's like this: since starting my crawl up Tenth Avenue looking at "signs of change," I've been feeling more and more like, yes, I can identify these signs, but what actually happened? And, of course, what's happening now?

So yesterday, in all that heat — it was the hottest day of the year here so far: 95º in mid-afternoon — I went into town (as we say here on Staten Island) and photographed Tenth Avenue from 14th Street up to 42nd Street, inclusive.

Soon I'll do the next stretch of Tenth Avenue, and so on, until I've reshot the whole thing, though that might take the rest of the summer to get finished.

Came home, processed the images, put together a new set combining the old and the new pair-wise: old (2006) on top, new (2010) below, corner by corner.

The new ones, the ones I shot yesterday, were all shot at a focal length of about 35mm, and I didn't do much cropping in from the sides, so the field of view is pretty consistent across the set.

And generally wider, sometimes, though not always, much wider than the photos from 2006.

Also the light was different, the white balance in particular, and the camera is different too, though the lens is the same.

And the heat got to me a bit also, with the result that the photos in some instances have problems that I might have avoided otherwise. (But they'll do for the immediate purpose, though I have to reshoot some of them eventually.)

And my ideas about processing evolved over the past four years — the Tenth Avenue pictures were the first ones I processed way back when, and I'd do it differently today.

So I compromised, and made the 2010 images look more like the 2006 images than I'd have liked, and, conversely, changed a bunch of the 2006 images to be more like what I'd go for today.

But they're reasonably consistent with one another now, though not as consistent as I'd like.

It ain't so easy after all, this "then and now" thing.

If I'd known — isn't that always the way — that I'd ever be doing this again, I would have been much more consistent with field of view in 2006.

And a bunch of nits, this and that, I won't go into it all. But I do find it amusing that, having spent a good many years, off and on, in my previous life, splicing disparate data sets together to try and arrive at usefully consistent time series (with all the data "massaging" that involves), now here I am dealing with time series construction and its problems all over again.

The thing is: times series tell us a lot, or can be made to. (I'm reminded all of a sudden of that great old statisticians joke: "if you torture the data long enough, it will confess …."

Be that as it may, I'll be using the comparative set from now on as I continue to wend my way up Tenth Avenue, looking for signs of change not only then but also now, and, now, also looking at the changes that actually did happen.

The link to the "then and now" set is here. I've also put the link in the "links" box on the right of this page (below the "archive" list).

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