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Postcards from Miami

2004.05.26 — Culture | Postcards | Travel | by Derek Jensen

Miami from the 28th floor

Miami from the 28th floor of the InterContinental downtown, day. (Hi res)

I had to travel down to Miami for a business conference last week. I'd never been to Miami before and, in a sense, I still haven't. The nature of a business conference—the serious ones anyway—is that there's not much time left at the end of the evenings for photo-tourism.

Of course, in a business sense, it was a valuable experience. It just didn't leave much opportunity to roam around and take pictures.



Miami from the 28th floor

Miami from the 28th floor of the InterContinental downtown, night.
(Hi res)

You can't even stay out very late, since, in a serious business conference, you have to be up early to be beaten senseless with three-letter acronyms for several hours before some semi-structured after-dinner event that goes on late into the night.

As a result, several of my best shots came from my hotel room window. But I can't argue with an unobstructed 28th-floor view of a metropolis.

That's my kind of picture-takin'



Manhattan skyline day

InterContinental Hotel, downtown Miami, night. (Hi res)

The InterContinental is a fancy hotel. I usually find fancy hotels to be off-putting and uncomfortable. They try to hard to impress with their lobbies, leaving the rooms just a semitone above your average hotel.

But the Intercontinental is different. It has genuinely comfortable rooms, altho it does fall victim to the fancy hotel syndrome (FHS) in other ways. First, it has a mini-bar with no room in it for me to refrigerate my own stuff. They obviously want me to indulge in their $4 M&Ms and $6 Heineken, and I don't blame them. But that's fancy service, not good service.


Business party

Business party. I have also cropped and processed this one to look like a painting, which I think is pretty cool. (Hi res)

I also find that fancy hotels invariably have fancy satellite TV systems that have only 12 channels, four of which are hotel services channels telling me how easy it is to check out from my room. They obviously want me to indulge in their $10 pay-per-view movies. I'm a movie lover, but if I wanted to see The Core (which I don't), I would rent it at Blockbuster and watch it on my laptop DVD player. And I'd still have more than enough left over to enjoy some $4 M&Ms with the movie.




Hotel bar, midnight

Hotel bar, midnight. (Hi res)

The InterContinental is such a fancy hotel that it has slippers and a robe waiting for you. Now, I'm the worst sort of guest when it comes to this sort of thing, because I'll try them on for minute but just leave them lying there. So, not only have I touched them with my filthy guest body but I also haven't stolen them, which would probably be more convenient from their point of view. Now they have to wash them or dispose of them.


The area around the hotel was interesting, but with only one night with any time to shoot, I didn't get all the pics I would like. I can think of several I'd take if I had had another chance.

Miami Bayside park

Miami Bayside park after dark. (Hi res)

For example, I didn't get any pictures of the taxi cabs. Miami has the nicest taxi cabs I've ever seen: nice, new, shiny yellow cabs with chrome wheel covers and everything—that shows real pride, assuming the City of Miami doesn't mandate chrome hubcaps.


Working in New Jersey, I've ridden in some of the nastiest cabs you'll ever see. One of them actually had vinyl tiles stuck on the back of the front seat, apparently to cover holes in the upholstery. To be fair, it was the nicest tile job I've ever seen in an automobile.

Most of the Jersey cabs are retired New York City cabs. Think about that for a moment. Taxi cabs so old and worn out that they're not good enough for New York City are put out to pasture in Newark.


Hard Rock Café, Miami

Hard Rock Café, Miami. (Hi res)

But this is about Miami.... The second night, I went to Bayside with a couple of coworkers. The weather in Miami allows for a whole different kind of night life, including outdoor music open-air shopping that the Midwest couldn't dream of.


I didn't have my tripod (or my remote control) with me when I was taking these shots, so that was a hindrance. I had to find makeshift stands where I could set my camera in night mode with the timer on. Among other things, this means that most people don't realize that you're taking a picture, and walk thru the frame just as the timer goes off.


Chopin Plaza, Miami

Chopin Plaza, Miami. (Hi res)

I wish had gotten a decent shot of the musicians, but my pic of the Hard Rock Café turned out nicely despite workers piling up the chairs and tables practically on top of me as I prepared the shot.


I don't search out the best angle on a building or a location. I just shoot whatever I come upon. That probably comes from my training as a photographer and photo editor for a small newspaper (and even earlier, I suppose, as a yearbook photographer). Photojournalists don't construct their shots or enhance the lighting. You don't see pictures of Margaret Bourke-White rearranging Mahatma Ghandi's followers to fit them in the frame. Well, maybe she did; we'd never know; she was probably the only one with a camera.

Miami at night

Miami at night. (Hi res)


I'm content to look for interesting images on my way wherever I'm going and shoot whatever comes up. That's the reason I carry the little digital camera I carry and not the fancy SLR 35mm camera I used to use.

I know people who own handsome cameras they never carry because it's too much of a bother. I carry mine everywhere I go, in the pouch pocket of my computer bag, always handy in case of a glowing vista or a celebrity crashes his car into a lamp post.


More postcards from Miami...


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