It started with a email from Sarah asking if I wanted to partake in a “mini photo expedition,” with the goal of photographing the 9/11 Tribute in Lights. Of course I was in, who did she take me for? Getting excited, I reminded her about my attempt last year, and cautioned against trying to photograph the lights with the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground by crossing ON the Brooklyn Bridge…that wasn’t my smartest gameplan ever.
Her response was perfect “I don’t want the shot everyone gets. I want something different.”
More Tribute after the break…
So we set off to find something different, and ventured towards the source. When we arrived at ground zero, the mood was somber and sentimental, but we were surprised to realize that the lights were still so far away. We ambled around with the other visitors, payed our respects, then continued our towards the light.
Right around this time we started noticing something strange. Drifting in and out of the beams were hundreds of white specs. Last time, from far away on the bridge, I thought that these were tail lights from planes (and remarked how creepy that was.) But now that we were closer, I realized that couldn’t be the case, but we still couldn’t figure out exactly what they were. Though our theories ranged from trash to moths, it turns out they were birds. Apparently the birds get trapped in the beams on their yearly migration, attracted to the light and then unable to navigate away. In fact, the city periodically turns off the lights in 20 minute stretches, setting the captured flocks free only to recapture new ones when the lights blast back on.
If you look closely at the bright scratches in the photographs, those are actually the birds. The long exposures captured light reflecting off of their bodies, registering as erratic lines running through the two towers.
Just to the north of Battery Park, we finally made it to the base of the beams. There, two ethereal lights emanated from a nondescript parking structure, but the view was breathtaking nonetheless. We crossed over the highway, away from the gathering crowds, and on the other side Sarah found her spot.
Check out her view here
We tried to set up the Polaroid for fun, guessing on exposures until we got it right, but as we began the lights started shutting down. We managed to pop off one goodie before the show was over, but at 12 on the nose, the lights turned off. We all agreed, it was perfect timing, we had our shot, we had our “different,” and we had our adventure. It was time to go home.