Jake Egbert Photography Blog

Fleet Week 2012 #1 - A Morning Ride

I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience in late May when I was invited to spend the day aboard the USCGC Eagle during Fleet Week 2012 in Manhattan, NY. A friend of mine is an officer with the US Coast Guard and he happened to be assigned to the Eagle this summer. He invited me to ride along as a VIP while the Eagle led the Parade of Sails up the Hudson River! When he extended the invitation I really had to think long and hard about it... Ah, who am I kidding? I jumped at the chance. Immediately!

It should come as no surprise I had my camera along for the ride -- I came home with over 1,000 photos. With everything going on lately it has taken me a looooong time to get up the ambition needed to sort through and edit that many photos! The other item of note, photographically speaking, is that this was the last event that I photographed in .jpg format. Right after my cruise aboard the Eagle I switched to RAW format as an experiment. This was based, partially, upon on a conversation I had with a "serious" photographer on board the Eagle, and I haven't had any desire to switch back. RAW format chews up my hard drive and pushes the processing capabilities of my laptop, but it allows me a level of editing control that I just can't get with .jpg pics. In fact, it has been so long since I took these .jpg pictures aboard the Eagle that I found it very frustrating to go back and try to get the results I wanted now that I've been working in RAW for several months.

Since there are so many pics in total I plan to make a few posts highlighting my favorites by topic.

This post is really about getting myself, a civilian land lubber, on board a very cool tall ship early on the morning of May 23. So here goes...

Once I had accepted the invitation to ride along I received an email from a friendly Coast Guard public relations rep instructing me to arrive at the financial district of lower Manhattan by 6:30 AM. There a pair of 45-foot Coast Guard response boat-mediums (RBM) would begin ferrying VIPs out the to Eagle, lying at anchor just off the Statue of Liberty.

To ensure a timely arrival, I stayed the night at a hotel I Pricelined up near Times Square and then took the subway down to the WTC and my date with the Coast Guard. I arrived on time along with a sizable group. In fact, there were so many members of the press and other VIPs that I got to wait a couple of hours for my turn to board an RBM for my trip out to the Eagle. So I wandered the marina observing the endless stream of New Yorkers running, cycling, and walking their dogs while the sun rise reflected off of WTC 1.

After watching several boatloads of passengers make their way out to the distant Eagle it was finally my turn! I boarded the last RBM shuttle and once we cleared the marina they rev'd the twin 825 HP diesel engines and the financial district shrunk quickly behind us. I had a great view of the Eagle and the Statue of Liberty as we approached, however, I had a difficult time taking pictures because I thought it wise not to fall headlong into the Hudson River. I alternated snapping photos between other passengers and holding fast to the engine cowling to avoid taking a bath. I will say this, though, if you ever get the chance to ride a water taxi with a bow-mounted M240 machine gun, I highly recommend it!

We circled the Eagle and I made may way up a set of stairs to the deck, where I met my host for what promised to be an exciting day.

The Eagle is just visible in the distance along with the Statue of Liberty

One WTC rising through the Manhattan morning mist

Morning joggers reflected in the puddle of a leaking hydrant

North Cove Marina

Another view of One WTC

Eagle and the Statue of Liberty from North Cove Marina

A Coast Guard RBM loaded with VIPs heads for the Eagle

The shrinking Manhattan skyline

Lady Liberty over Eagle

My lens was not wide enough to get the whole ship (at least not shooting one handed from a moving RBM)

Good morning, Lady Liberty!

USCGC Eagle backed by the Jersey City skyline

Jersey on the left, Manhattan on the right, Eagle in the middle

One more of Lady Liberty, posing with our special water taxi (the one wearing that bright band of orange)

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Liberty State Park

Here are few of my favorite shots from a September visit to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ. These were some of my earliest sepia conversions in Lightroom. Loooking at them three months later they now strike me as slightly "over processed" but still interesting.

Manhattan Island from Jersey City

The Communipaw Terminal with it's deteriorating ferry docks is the NJ gateway to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

1 World Trade Center - September 21, 2011

Lady Liberty over Ellis Island

Ellis Island - Black & White Conversion

Statue of Liberty

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9-11 Memorial

The evening before our latest trip to Manhattan, I logged in to the 9-11 Memorial website on the off chance that I might get reserved tickets to visit the site. I had tried and failed, on short notice, to get tickets in the past. We had to wait until after 4:30 PM, but we were able to get in without any trouble this time!

I wondered how my children would digest the experience as none of them are old enough to remember the day the towers fell. We've been to the site several times over the past ten years, and we watched several documentaries together as a family at the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. As a result, my children were very aware of the significance of the 9-11 Memorial during our visit this time. It is always a bit difficult for me to sit through any of the documentaries as it brings back vivid memories of the devastation that I felt on 9-11-2001 when I saw the beloved Manhattan skyline and so many lives changed forever. Somehow it is easier for me to visit the site than to relive the news footage of the events of that day. And, I think the memorial will bring necessary awareness for generations to come of what occurred that clear September morning.

One of the specials we'd seen was about the design of the memorial with its pools, waterfalls, and engraved names. The kids were very interested in the significance of each small detail designed into the memorial.

It was a beautiful, if cold night, and we toured the site with reverence. We searched for a few names that we'd learned from one of the documentaries on the computer terminals they have set up for just that purpose and we located the sections where those names are engraved. Unfortunately, the names we found all happen to be located on the north edge of the North Tower pool -- the only side closed due to the construction on the Freedom Tower.

The new tower is rising taller and taller into its place in the Manhattan skyline and its floors are all lit up in red, white, and blue as a backdrop to the memorial pools and the growing inner-city forest of swamp oaks. One of the highlights for all of us was the survivor tree now located just to the west of the South Tower pool.

We were all humbled by the experience of visiting this beautiful memorial to one of the most impactful tragedies in our shared lifetimes. Of the many, many pictures I took, the following were the ones selected by my kids as being the "best" and most meaningful representation of our visit. If you ever get the chance to visit the 9-11 Memorial, I certainly recommend you take advantage of it.

South Tower Pool

The nearest row of swamp white oaks marks to each pool delineates the actual footprint of the original towers

The twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest man made waterfalls in North America

The Freedom Tower or One World Trade Center rises into the night sky

From the Memorial Jury's statement on selecting this design: "The 'Reflecting Absence' has made the voids left by the destruction the primary symbols of our loss"

The "Survivor Tree" is a callery pear that survived the destruction and was preserved for replanting.

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