Seeing the Unisphere for the first time was love at first sight. It was bitterly cold and had recently snowed, but after getting over the initial honeymoon phase, I dreamed of seeing it with its fountains turned on. The first time I caught a glimpse of the fountains was indeed magic, but it was woefully brief—they turned them off because it was windy and people complained of the over spray. The second time I saw them, I really got to experience them in all of their World's Fair glory and it was just as impressive as I had imagined. Seeing the Unisphere lit up like a shiny Christmas ornament at night was next on my list, and after I crossed off that iteration there was only one left—the Unisphere, with fountains, at night.
The fountains—part of the original, 1964 design to create the illusion that the globe is floating—are not on a regular schedule. They have been on a few times when I've visited Flushing Meadows in the summer, but I've seen them off more times than on. Getting to Flushing Meadows is a bit of time commitment, but I knew that US Open time was a (mostly) sure bet. I went two days before the finals and lucked out with perfect weather and a nearly-deserted park.
I have almost no experience with night photography or long exposures (except these photos), so this was a great opportunity to play with my camera settings and really try to figure it out. There was a lot of trial and error, but somewhere in the process I accidentally discovered how to take "ghost" photographs. Someone wandered into my frame (my lifelong struggle), lingered for a minute and then walked out. I did a test with myself, and soon I was running in and out of the frame like a lunatic trying to get just the right shot. I couldn't resist taking my tripod around the park, trying to capture the New York State Pavilion, Queens theater and of course the Mister Softee Truck amidst the twinkling lights.
I was having so much fun that I completely lost track of time, and stayed long enough that the tennis match let out. I had to ride the 7 train back to Manhattan with the contents of an entire tennis stadium, but I was full of Mister Softee and high on that Unisphere magic, so I couldn't be too grumpy.