New York City. NYC. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The Empire City. It doesn’t matter what you call it, there is no arguing the fact that New York truly is one of the greatest cities in the world. It has beautiful architecture, it is rich in the arts, the people are amazing, and it holds a significant place on the world stage. On a personal note New York holds a special place in my heart because it was where I honeymooned after getting married and, having spent a long time working as a paramedic, I feel a connection to the events of 9/11 and the brethren I lost that day when they were working to save people in the World Trade Center towers.
I know that it has been two weeks since I last posted on this site, but that is because I just returned from another trip to New York where I spent a lot of time shooting, showing the city to family that had never been there before, and visiting friends. This post is part one of a new five part series featuring photography from New York City:
- Part One – Photographing New York City
- Part Two – My Fujifilm gear pack for photographing New York City
- Part Three – New York street photography
- Part Four – Grand Central Terminal photographed in black and white
- Part Five – Photographing New York City from the Top of the Rock
Every time I go to New York I feel like I just scratch the surface of the city, despite spending hours every day with a camera in my hand. There is simply so much to see that it would take months to explore everything New York has to offer. In this first post I want to share a series of images that gives a broad overview of the city, and in the next few posts we’ll talk gear and get more area specific.
Get ready for a lot of photos. Wordpress doesn’t always render images well in the blog post, so please click any of them to view larger if you are having any problems. That said, let’s get started and look through the lens of my camera at the beauty that is New York City!
The photo at the top of this post is the quintessential skyline shot of New York City. Dead centre you can see the iconic Empire State Building. Viewed large you can see the new Freedom Tower behind it, the Statue of Liberty behind that, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc. This photo was taken from the Top of the Rock, a viewing platform at the top of Rockefeller Center. I will have more on shooting from this location in a separate blog post.
When I teach my travel photography workshop I talk often about the need to walk a city, to explore, to get lost. Here is a perfect example of that: I was walking down 5th Avenue, looking south, when I saw the view seen in the photo below. I love the architecture, the flag, and how the Empire State Building is framed with the blue sky behind it:
Had I not been out walking I never would have seen this view. You really need to give yourself time to shoot places like New York, and you need to be out walking. I averaged 10-15km per day and wish I could have done more!
Not far from where the above photo was taken you will find the iconic Grand Central Terminal:
I spent a lot of time shooting Grand Central this time, and it will have it’s own blog post later in this series. If you haven’t been before it is hard to fathom how busy this terminal is, with 750,000 people per day passing through its doors. Somehow, however, there is a calm amongst all of that chaos when you stop and take in the beautiful design of this building.
Keep going south beyond Grand Central Terminal and the Empire State Building and you will find the Flatiron Building, another beautiful example of the New York architecture I love so much:
Continuing south, the National September 11th Memorial and Museum is incredibly moving to visit. At street level the Memorial is dominated by two one acre reflecting pools that sit on the former footprint of the north and south towers of the World Trade Center:
These pools and man made waterfalls reflect the loss of life and the physical void left by the destruction of the Towers. The names of 2,983 victims are etched around the edges, representing those lost on September 11th and also in the earlier 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This wide angle photo doesn’t pay respect to the scale of the Memorial. For perspective though, all of those little dots you see around the edges of the Memorial are people.
The actual Museum is located underground. I will have a separate blog post on my day visiting this location coming up in this series.
Go all of the way to the southern tip of Manhattan Island and you will find the Statue of Liberty:
I have taken the typical shot of this iconic landmark before, and wanted to make a photo that was a little more original this time. A trick to seeing the statue is to take the free Staten Island Ferry, which goes past the Statue of Liberty. When I saw the rays of light bursting from these clouds I dropped back into black and white, boosted the contrast, and got a photo I was happy with.
Going north from Grand Central instead of south you’ll find Central Park, a place of quiet beauty in the heart of this insanely busy city. This will sound like a strange analogy, but I equate visiting Central Park to going to Disneyland. Disney has curated the experience of visiting their theme parks perfectly. As soon as you enter one of their parks it is like the outside world ceases to exist: The sounds are different, the sights are different, the feel is different. I have the same experience when I go into Central Park, I find it quiet and calm despite the bustling city life that is happening all around it.
Here is an image taken in Central Park on a cloudy day, looking west towards the San Remo building on a cloudy and overcast day:
And, an image on a bright sunny day of the famous Bow Bridge:
In the park you will also find Strawberry Fields, a memorial dedicated to John Lennon:
The entrance to the Memorial is at 72nd Street, directly across from the Dakota Hotel where, on December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was murdered. His ashes were spread in this area of the park, and in 1985 Strawberry Fields was dedicated.
I have never been here when the Memorial was not surrounded by people either paying their respects, or fighting for the space to take a selfie.
Selfies. Sigh. Anyway…
Wherever I travel I love visiting old churches. I feel at peace in them, and I love the architecture. New York is home to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located near Rockefeller Centre:
So beautiful, and well worth a visit.
Near the Rockefeller Center are several other iconic images, including Radio City Music Hall:
…and the Atlas Statue:
These last two photos show that the name “The city that never sleeps” is well earned…. Daytime, nighttime, you can always keep shooting in New York and I was out late every night well after my family had returned to the hotel.
I spent an afternoon and evening in Brooklyn this trip, an area that I hadn’t photographed on previous visits. On this day I spent a few hours on a photowalk through Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and the Financial District catching up with fellow Official Fuji X Photographer Kale Friesen. After our visit I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge:
Funny story: New York is quite famous for their epic, “appear out of nowhere” thunderstorms. The Brooklyn bridge is about a mile long, so it is very easy and quick to walk across. When I started crossing it the weather was about 35 degrees Celsius (about 95 degrees Fahrenheit), and the sky was blue as far as the eye could see. By the time I reached the half way point, the sky was full of dark clouds that opened up on myself and the other people on the bridge. We got totally soaked, and by the time we reached the end of the bridge the rainstorm was gone. It was quite comical. Moments like this are part of the fun of traveling!
Once across the bridge, you are in an area affectionately know as DUMBO, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This area is a treasure trove of photographic opportunities. There is one famous spot where the Empire State Building is visible through one of the supports of the Manhattan Bridge:
From the walkway along the Brooklyn Bridge Park you have wide open views of both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Here is the latter:
For my final shot of the evening I settled on a classic shot of the Manhattan skyline, framed with a row of pilings in the foreground. While I waited for the right blue hour light I put a 10 stop ND filter on my lens and shot black and white long exposures:
And, when the time was right, I grabbed the same shot with the city lights lit up against the evening sky:
The photographic opportunities in New York are endless. All you need are a good pair of shoes, your camera, and an appetite to explore and observe.
This trip really reinforced for me my love of shooting travel and street photography with my Fujifilm cameras. I hope you enjoyed these photos, and I look forward to showing you more in upcoming blog posts. If you have any questions or thoughts please feel free to comment!
Next up in this series will be a discussion on my camera gear pack for this trip.