New York...and my new lens:
On our last day in the city, I finally ran out of flashcard space. It was a long time coming. I had edited down my photos assiduously twice a day for the entire trip, and yet photos were accumulating at their usual inexorable pace. And this was on the new 4GB compact flashcard that came with the barely-used D200 that my mum so generously passed on to me while we were upstate (story to follow in a later post).
But there was no help for it. We had spent the morning with some blog friends at a playground in Central Park, where Q reunited with her little friend Muguet for the first time since early last summer. It was one of those magical, gilded, balmy mornings so rare in the course of a New York winter, and of course the photo ops came thick and fast.
So it was that, heading downtown toward Union Square and the farmer's market after our long, lazy morning amongst friends, we stopped into one of "those camera shops" in midtown. If you know New York, you'll know what I'm talking about. They always have a broad if wildly random selection of inventory that doesn't exactly jive with the price points (or labeling) of anything you're used to seeing. The brand names are slightly off, the price tags printed in a currency that you can't quite identify, and there is always room to bargain. You never know what you might come across, and most days its a good idea to just keep walking. But on the odd day, if you're lucky, you might just come across something you had no idea you needed, at a price that you can actually sort of afford.
We went in for a flashcard and a phone charger. The camera man took one look at my new (or new to me) micro lens, and pulled a box out from under the desk. I was reluctant. In fact, I was adamantly against any random purchases. We had spent what little we could afford on the trip, and were buckling down. The wide-angle add-on lens that came out of the box was visually appealing, but I shook my head. The camera man gave me a skeptical look. "Just give it a test-run," he cajoled. I refused. "Let me show you just one thing", he said with an oily wink.
He screwed on the lens, and took a shot of me at close range. It was amazing. Pure focus at the center in spite of the dim light. A beautiful radial blur on the periphery of the image. Gritting my teeth and exercising every ounce of self-control, I shook my head again.
Just as I was about to pay my tab and walk out of the shop, my husband asked the price of the lens. It was several hundred less than I would have guessed. I gasped a bit, but choked down my lust with an effort.
"Too bad," my husband said, turning on his heel. "We would have bitten if it was $50 less."
It was, as you might have guessed, almost immediately $50 less. We walked out with a new lens.
Not only do I not have buyer's remorse, but I dearly wish we had come across this lens at the start of our trip instead of on our final afternoon. I really don't understand how these things work. The lens, as far as I can tell, comes from China via somewhere in Serbo Croatia. It's all very William Gibson, and I'm sure someone has done the research on these shadowy networks of vaguely contraband international trade. In fact, on the plane home, we read a NY Times article about how many of the off-brand retailers of everything from burger chains to MP3 players that previously littered the storefronts of Canal Street have recently been shut down by the authorities.
In any case, I can't say I'm sorry for my luck on this particular occasion. The craftsmanship, however it was achieved, is beautiful, and I could not possibly have afforded such a lens otherwise at this fragile stage of our family's subsistence.
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