What Is This 25-foot Santa Doing In Dyker Heights?

It's unlike anything you've ever seen in New York.  Which is precisely why it's such a New York thing.  

Dyker Heights is smallish neighborhood nestled between Bensonhurst to the east and Bay Ridge to the west.  It's a classic old school Italian neighborhood, with a very fantastic holiday tradition.

The online magazine Brklynr, whose in-depth articles about Brooklyn affairs covers topics like community policing in East New York, or surveying the landscape of Coney Island through the eyes of Hubert Selby, published a wonderfully written and photographed piece last year about the residents of Dyker Heights and their viral neighborhood display of Christmas lights, which has grown in fame and visitor counts each year.  

PHOTO BY WILL ELLIS for BRKLYNR (using zoom technique)

PHOTO BY WILL ELLIS for BRKLYNR (using zoom technique)

Although the origin story is murky (no one seems to know who started it) the neighborhood boasts over a hundred participating residents and some of the most extravagant displays of holiday spirit imaginable.  It's pure visual spectacle, all blinking lights and reindeer and oversized Santas, spread out over a system of over a dozen city blocks.  

"If you can’t take the kids to Disneyworld or Disneyland, you bring them here,” notes longtime resident Angela Locombo.  It's fitting that Dyker Heights would serve as the backdrop for theme park-like illumination with its array of fantasy homes: Greco-roman statues, neo-colonialist columns and balconies, Old World villas and perfectly manicured flora.  This is their yearly coming-out party, a tradition that stretches back over 40 years.  

It's also the perfect place and time for night photography, and with lights going up beginning around Thanksgiving and reaching full tilt in mid-December, it's chance to capture a true winter wonderland.  Bring a tripod (essential), a flash if you have one, and get ready to reach the absolute zenith of holiday cheer.

Save Big During Cyber Weekend

Whoa right now you can save huge $$$ when you book a class, private lesson, or get a gift certificate for your friends and loved ones.  It's Cyber Weekend, which sounds like a retreat for robots but is actually just the time over Thanksgiving Holiday when people, shellshocked from attempts at retail shopping on Black Friday, flock to the internet and address their gift-giving needs painlessly and with plenty of time to spare.

We support this decision to stay sane and enjoy your family time, and so we're offering up the following easy-to-love deals:





* 5 Dollar Fridays excluded.  Sorry, this deal doesn't apply retroactively.  Hurry offer ends Monday 12/1.

Use the coupon code at checkout and save big time.  To see what classes are coming up, follow this link


Camera Talk: Fuji X100s

This week on Camera Talk we will continue to praise Mirrorless cameras for offering form and function in equal proportion.  Mirrorless Cameras have the best of both worlds: a smaller size closer to that of a point-and-shoot, with the large sensor of a DSLR.  

The Fuji X100s is this weeks camera of choice because it delivers excellent image quality with a self contained unit plus it is light and compact with a fixed lens and built in flash.  This is a camera that you can take with you pretty much everywhere without being overwhelmed by its presence while being able to create quality images.  The lens is a fixed Fujinon f2, 23 mm lens, which is the equivalent of a 35 mm lens on a full frame 35 mm camera. The lens is fast enough to allow shooting in low light conditions which is ideal for events or concerts.  The controls on the camera are really easy to reach and it has an excellent auto white balance.  The X100s offers a high ISO setting of 25600 with far less noise than other cameras and is surprisingly usable for such a high ISO setting.  The X100s has interesting creative options such as recreating the look of different types of Fuji Films: Provia, Velvia, Astia and several Fuji color negative films.  It also includes black and white, sepia and color toning options.

You can find a Fuji X100s for $950 and up which is a great price for all it has to offer.  Check out this review from Bangalore-based photographer Nishant Ratnakar after he left behind his Canon 5D for the Fuji X100s and stay tuned for more camera talk next week...

Photos: Analog Film Lab

Had a great day shooting, processing film and making prints during our all-day Analog Film Lab (@ the Bushwick Community Darkroom) this Wednesday.  After a 45 minute shoot in the neighborhood, we learned to load film onto reels, something that requires a bit of practice because you have to perform this maneuver in total darkness.


Throughout the 8 hour class, we go through the whole darkroom process step-by-step, taking our time to make old school silver print enlargements and getting a feel for the hands-on process.  Some stuff is pretty toxic, like these C-41 processing chemicals which must be handled with gloves in a well-ventilated space.  Luckily we used black and white film, so the chemistry is a lot easier to deal with.


Darkrooms are evocative places.  The constant sound of running water, and the dim lights and memorable smells are actually pretty hypnotic when you spend a long period of time there.  It's a pretty decent alternative to binge-watching on Netflix, so you've also got that going for you.


Justin and Kelsey did a bang-up job at the manual 35mm capture stage... nailing the exposure on almost every frame (without the help of a LCD screen) which provided a lot of options for printing.  The 45 minute challenge really forces you to focus on specific ideas or elements, and the simplified film bodies encourage a slower, more measured approach.  They nailed it, making it much easier for them at the printing stage.  Some pretty spot-on work... see for yourself!


Also, the vertical print washer has the best bubble patterns...


Prints on the dryer -- shot, processed and enlarged in a single day.


This is Kelsey, a nurse from Texas, with her favorite print of from today's class. 


And this is Justin, a cinematographer also from Texas, with his.


You can become a member at the Bushwick Community Darkroom or rent darkroom time at only $12.00 per hour.   They can do your film processing and contact printing for you too, but maybe you rather learn to do your own.   Sign up for the next Analog Film Lab by clicking here.

Photos: The November Student Show

One of the best things about photography is it gets you out of the house.  Students, teachers and friends come out to show their support and a share a celebratory drink at these end-of-class photo receptions.   For us, It's pretty special to see people make such huge leaps, often from little to no practical experience with photography or cameras.  We live in a time when many of our images arrive electronically, and so it's becoming unusual to see photographs printed and hung on a wall, especially our own.  So we get a lot out of these student shows, and it's awesome to see all the friendly faces and great work!


Student Show Tonight! Nov 4, 2014

Come join us tonight for the final exhibition of student work for those completing the Digital Photo I and II courses with Kathy Rugh.  Featuring projects by Samantha Niedospial, Laura Varoscak, Nancy La Lanne, Les Vital, Elianna Lippold-Johnson, Boris Artemyeu, Josh Morey, Dana, Wilson, Debbie Vazquez, Lee Press, Maura Doyle, Ignacio Sarasola and Zhenya Bernadskaya.  Refreshments as always will be served.