NEW YORK CITY - trespassing, friends, hyperlapse

     I got the opportunity to visit New York to shoot for Of The Free and Xero. My team (Reid and Annelies) worked on a "from the bootstraps" / "eyes to the sky" theme, to bring out those feelings in video, and capture look-book / product photographs for Of The Free, a rad jewelry company from New Zealand.

The setting of New York was exciting to me because it's a different type of jungle. No waterfalls and forests to work with amongst the honks and fuck you's from passerby's. 

What did I shoot? Specifically, product photos, models wearing jewelry, and some just-for-fun stuff to take advantage of being in the Big Apple. 

If you've been following my work, you're used to seeing landscape and portrait work, but not product work. So lets start off with that! These are images I'd never post on social media, but served as a fantastic creative challenge. 

Note: These albums are all carousels, so you can click the arrows to see more photos! 

 

Fortunately, we had near perfect shooting conditions to work with - Annelies rented out a home studio for one of the shoots. I got to work with two lovely people, Lilith and Charlie. Here, I was tasked with getting portraits of people that showed off the pieces. Here's what I captured:

 

I packed as many fashionable (lol) clothes as possible in my backpack, but it was so hot and humid there, all I wore were what looked like gym clothes.

I remember hearing way more sirens than usual and seeing emergency newsflashes about some "Times Square Rampage" or whatever they called it. Concerned, I read more. Some piece of shit human drove their car through a crowd. One girl was killed, many more were hospitalized. I'm so glad the man was arrested.

A few hours later, we were in Times Square, half blocked off for the investigation. This provided a unique opportunity - I could walk in the middle of the street! So I took advantage of the open roads to shoot my first hyperlapse. It took me around 30 minutes to shoot. 

I still can't imagine the horror that the 18-year-old tourist girl's family must be going through. In that moment, I was a tourist too. It was all timing and placement. Life isn't fair, but sometimes it's unfair in your favor. We are all still here. You are still here. I can't really draw any conclusions from this. The loop just keeps playing in my head, "You're still here, make the most of it."

 

Waking up at 4:30am is nothing new to me, especially when it comes to shooting sunrise. That's my favorite reason to wake up early. Sunrise was so early in NY that we had to get up at 4:00am to leave by 4:30am to make it to the Brooklyn Bridge for sunrise.

When that alarm came, I was so confused why I felt like I got hit by a bus. 

Oh, duh: the time change. Here I was, used to Portland time, waking up at 4:00am New York time. Across the country, it was 1:00am. My girlfriend just went to bed. Cue the coffee from the fridge; it's go time.

Next thing we know, we're on the Brooklyn Bridge shooting into Manhattan. And man, I never expected a sunrise in the city to be as beautiful as it was. Here's the gallery from it:

 

The next introduction to make is Ashley. She actually DM'd me while I was there. The connection? Her cousin is a friend of mine back in Missoula. Naturally, we made the time for a new friend. This portion of the shoot actually crossed off a huge bucket-list item for me: a rooftop shoot in Manhattan. 

I'm not going to lie, I was a bit sketched out once we found the roof we were going to climb. It was big time trespassing (according to the signs threatening fines after the arrest) with cameras everywhere, but hey. Hey hey. I have to do it sometime. 

We waited for a resident to buzz themselves in with their keycard, and slid in before the door closed. After that, we waited at the bottom of the elevator as some residents gave us weird looks. It felt like a sauna, but with gross yellow flickering lights. Finally, we took the slowest elevator ride of my life as high as we could go, climbed the last couple flights of stairs to the top, and found the roof access door unlocked. Dope. 

 

Lastly, the Rockefeller. Top of the Rock. It was my second time here. The first time was with my dad a few years back. Saw Jeter's last home game and watched over the whole city. Legendary. Coming back up here with my camera and some cool people (introducing the rad Grace), we watched as the sun set over the city, and I felt conflicting emotions. It was beautiful and I was getting the shots I wanted, but I had to practically elbow my way through the crowd to take these goddamn photos.

In conclusion, New York was hot as hell and productive, a completely wonderful time, in my book. I'm so fortunate to be surrounded by such driven and creative people to help make opportunities like this a reality. A few drunk nights, cool AirBnbs, an expensive downtown Manhattan hotel, and a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn so good my non vegan friends chose to eat there every day.

If you want to see any of the people in my photos or on my team, just click on their name where they appear in the blog, and it'll take you directly to their Instagram page. 

Cheers,

Michael Graef