“I’m taking the twelve twenty-seven train to Montauk for a sunrise photo shoot. Are you in?” Cory asked, looking at our digital microwave clock.
It was midnight. He had just arrived home from another shoot in Lower Manhattan – the constant movement of a music photographer life. I just stumbled into the kitchen, fully ready for bed – the constant routine of having a full-time job. As he looked back over at me and waited for an answer to roll off my tongue, I started to rely on all the reasons I shouldn’t go. The to-do list piled high, but something pushed me to impulsively respond, “I’m in.”
We boarded the LIRR double-decker train at Nostrand Avenue, leaving the hot July black top and blacked-out party goers Brooklyn had embraced and headed towards the eastern tip of Long Island to greet the sun.
The commute into the night felt like an eternity. The acute train car lights made sleep almost impossible, along with the overzealous air conditioner vent that sat directly above us, blowing cold air on our already frigid bodies. We huddled together under a blanket for warmth and used Cory’s Pelican camera case as an ottoman. After several hours of tossing and teasing the idea of rest, the conductor announced that this was the last stop. Four in the morning and, somehow, we made it to the end of the world.
Shortly after, Cory’s full-time friends and part-time clients, Max and Mike, pulled up to pick us up in Max’s yellow jeep wrangler. Its reflective neon body illuminated in the train station parking lot, as Max drove up onto the curb, directly in front of us.
“Door to door service!” Max laughed from the driver side. He was wide-eyed and bubbling with unstoppable energy, as per usual. We got in and drove towards the tip of Montauk Point, to the lighthouse.
Growing up in Suffolk County, I visited Montauk dozens of time, but never at this hour. The sky in front of us while driving resembled an inky black mass, only lit by Max’s brights and the dim, glowing eyes from the woods that fenced the road.
“Deer!” Max or Mike would yell occasionally, breaking the silence and waking me up from my half-sleep.
When we arrived at the lighthouse, dawn started to arrive too. The sky in its navy glory, we all got out of the jeep one by one to relish in the fact that we made it here – highly caffeinated and a bit delusional but made it nonetheless. The other boys in the band assembled from their separate cars and walked down to the beach. While they discussed concepts, I walked alongside as a passenger on this impromptu adventure.
The boys went off to try and capture the best photos. I propped myself on the smoothest rock I could find and waited for the sun’s show. Just as I got comfy, the sun’s rays started to peak over the horizon and scattered through the atmosphere. Everywhere you looked began to turn into a blend of oranges and pinks. The sky, what was once a somber in-between of night and day, transformed into a kaleidoscope of cream colors, then developed into a soft aqua-blue, matching the tone of the sea in front of us. I watched the waves cleanse boulders out in the distance. The ocean washed over each object it came across with such poise and purpose. Subtly, it kissed the dry sand and, finally, retreated back into the current.
I began to forget all that was around me. Everything was perfect, even the wind chill started to not bother me. The beauty of the water’s slight change in direction in accordance with the wind left me compelled to learn from the scene unfolding before me. I thought to myself, I need to practice to be more like the ocean.
Quickly, twilight dissipated and morning fully arrived. Cory packed up his gear and the boys once again split up to their designated cars. Max drove Cory and I back to the station. We boarded a seven o’clock train and arrived at Penn Station by ten. Setting foot onto the platform, we immersed ourselves into the disarray Manhattan always seems to encompass. As we surfaced above ground, we watched the city’s commuters head underground to subway stations, moving like magnets to their destinations. And I stood with an ethereal high, observing the city from the outside for the first time in a long time. Like the ocean, Cory and I walked through the station’s ecosystem, ebbing and unfazed, merely gliding over our terrain. We, two tides, changing in accordance with the wind.
Photo Credit: Cory Ingram