As I mentioned in last weekend's A-Players post I got to spend last week in New York City exploring and taking photographs, savoring some delicious coffee and food, doing some gift-shopping for friends back at home, and generally just having a good time on vacation.
Upon my return I wanted to share the experience with you guys somehow - so I thought it would be fun for me to start by talking about my time in the city that never sleeps, and finish off with some thoughts on the the new iPad Pro 9.7". It should be a good time for all who're interested in what I usually write about - so if that suits you then sit back, relax, and enjoy 🙂.
Ah, New York City.
I first went to New York about two years ago without any idea of what to expect or what to plan. It was a good time, but that visit I wasn't able to get far off the beaten path of tourist-attractions. Add in a hard drive failure that nuked all my photos from that trip and it'd be fair to say that I was game to make this year's do-over a good one.
This time, I had a plan.
I'd put together a Field-Notes-bound list of locales I was interested in seeing or things I wanted to be doing in the City beforehand. And while I didn't manage to make it to all of them - that's near impossible with the average vacation - for the most part I made it to the things I was truly excited for.
First and foremost that involved the subway. I didn't ride on New York's subway-system the first time I visited the city, so pretty much right after I arrived this time I made a point of figuring it out. One read through a handy online guide and a couple train-rides later, and I was feeling pretty good about it.
Aside from the one-time mishap where I rode a train about 3 stops too-far and ended up lost for for a few minutes, I actually had really good luck with the subway. It wasn't too complicated once I got a handle on the basics, and it's really cool to be in a city where public transport lets you go almost anywhere in a matter of minutes. Coming from the Detroit area it's a big difference.
Once above-ground a big deal for me was simply getting to see more of the city. Last time my family stayed in the Times-Square and Broadway areas which were nearest to our hotel, but this time using the subway we were able to hop around the whole island of Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs a lot easier. While I don't have photographs of everything, it was interesting to get glimpses of Queens, Brooklyn, Midtown, Chinatown, the East Village, and Washington Heights during the trip.
All the different neighborhoods have very distinct differences and personalities that one can pick up on just by walking through them. And while I didn't really get to delve too heavily into any one area, it was cool to pass through and watch life going on there. Certainly more fun than any guided bus tour or sightseeing path in my eyes.
One of the few things I did allow into my plans that might qualify as "tourist-y" was a trip to the MoMA - which thankfully has far more merit than your average popular attraction.
The architecture and typography in use around the building itself were gorgeous on their own, but I was especially looking forward to the MoMA's dedicated industrial and graphic design exhibits. Both of which unfortunately happened to be closed for renovations when I visited 😕.
That was quite the bummer, and so instead I checked out some of the special exhibits and the contemporary art gallery - all of which were good and interesting in their own right.
Probably my favorite piece was a hallway-long video game display showing the story of the Long March - a historic retreat by the Red Communist Party in China. People could pick up a wireless Xbox controller and play the game on one side of the hallway while a zoomed-in view of the character was mirrored on the other side. I don't think I fully understood the symbolism or message, but it was a really impressive piece to behold nonetheless.
I do hope I get to go back to the MoMA in the future when their industrial and graphic design galleries are open for viewing. I was really excited for those, and I have a hunch that they'd be some of my favorite exhibits in any museum I've visited. That leaves something to look forward to next time I suppose.
I really can't write about this trip though without mentioning the food.
It's hard to understate just how much good food was had throughout our stay in New York. Various great cafes with excellent espresso, a delicious Italian-restaurant lineup, some great lemon-ricotta pancakes one morning, and of course some Carnegie Deli sandwiches and cheesecake.
My parents let me research and guide them around to some of the best venues I could find, and I'm happy to say that there wasn't a single meal without the trying of new things, smiles and good conversation throughout, and a pleasant full-ness afterward - no matter if the meal was expensive or cheap.
It'd be really hard to cite anything as topping the food for what was the best part of this trip. And while it doesn't quite manage to, getting to buy & acclimate to the new 9.7" iPad Pro while running around the city comes pretty close for me.
Last fall I held out through the original iPad Pro's launch and all its excitement. That wasn't easy, but I prefer the smaller size of iPad - and so ever since the smaller 9.7" model was made official I've been planning to upgrade. I had the means, and the chance to buy and start testing the device out around New York seemed like too much fun to pass up - so I didn't.
While I've only just gotten the device - and want to save my final judgement for a full review in a few weeks' time - the new iPad Pro has been pretty much a joy to upgrade to and transition into using as my full-time iPad and computer.
Without even mentioning its accessories I can say that the iPad itself is a marked improvement in a couple small - albeit meaningful - ways to a primary iPad user like myself. I was surprised that the iPad's new louder, stereo speaker setup was the first thing I noticed. I listen to a lot of YouTube videos, podcasts, and music through the device's speakers when I get the chance - and so the much louder & nicer sounding speakers on this Pro are easy on the ears.
The True Tone Display makes a good impression as well. And while the effect is subtle enough, I do find myself noticing when the display adjusts or better matches to the room I'm in. So much so that I'm acutely aware of the feature missing on my iPhone in the evenings where the warmth of yellow-lights dominates the mood. Here's hoping True Tone makes the jump to the next iPhone models come September.
Alongside the iPad Pro I was eventually able to get my hands on both the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. I say eventually because while I was able to find an Apple Pencil in Manhattan the same day I bought my iPad, I actually had to wait a few days and keep my eye on the Smart Keyboard's availability before finding one to pick up in-store.
Maybe Apple's having some of the same stocking issues it had last November to a lesser extent with the new Pro, but it did work out for me - albeit a day or two later than intended. No real harm done.
The Pencil especially is great thus far. While I haven't gotten a chance to do much in the way of drawing with it yet I can confirm that the grand claims about it are true. It's accurate, it's fast, and it's made impeccably well. I'll delve into it more in the future, but suffice to say for now that I can't wait for some quality time to sit down with a good podcast playing in the background and sketch.
The Smart Keyboard... I'm not so keen on yet. While it seemed cramped at first to my hands I've already acclimated pretty well to typing on it. No speed-test results yet I'm afraid, but it feels about as good to type on as the Bluetooth Magic Keyboard - especially because of its fabric-like construction. The fabric adds some springy-tactility to the keys that my fingers like, and at a basic level I just find it nice to have a technology product made from something other than plastic, metal, or glass.
Where the experience falls down for me is really the concept itself of a Keyboard Cover for the iPad. I like to use my iPad in portrait orientation unless I'm explicitly using two apps in split-screen - It's better for reading upright, feels more natural to me for writing, is easier to pick up and start using, and I even like how it looks better.
The iPad Pro's new Smart Connector makes it so that an accessory like the Smart Keyboard can only be used in landscape orientation like a laptop, and in addition to that it's added bulk makes using the iPad when the cover is folded up behind the device a notably thicker and heavier experience. It might be an improvement for traditional laptop users, but maybe not for people who are already heavy iPad users out there.
That's not altogether something I think I want to adapt to. With that being said though, I will be giving the Smart Keyboard a fair shot for the next week or so. I wrote this piece on it, and aside from some niggling issues with iOS's autocorrect and having to write with my iPad in landscape, it's been just fine.
We'll see how my view on the Smart Keyboard turns out. It's by far the most uncertain part of the iPad Pro upgrade for me, but along with the Pencil and iPad itself I'm plenty excited to put them through their paces. Stay tuned for more.
With the loosely-defined 'travel photography' and first-impressions of new tech done, that'll bring this little piece to a close. I believe this is the first of its kind here on MBS-P-B, and I really hope you enjoyed reading through it.
I'm feeling better creatively upon returning from this trip than I have in a long time, and I'll try to keep that momentum going as best I can in the coming days and weeks - hopefully to turn it into some good things for you folks to read and look through.
Wish me luck 🙂 and I'll see you all around.