Thursday, 30 April 2015

A day in New York...

I'm writing this sitting in Newark International Airport. Having missed my flight I've got a few hours to kill. Phil and I have been visiting New Jersey on business and had the opportunity to extend our stay over the weekend. This meant we could spend a day in New York, taking in some of the sights and sounds, but more specifically taking lots of photos.

Although I've described it as a day in New York we did indeed catch the train in on Thursday evening and visited the Empire State Building at sunset and then dropped down into Times Square.

New York - Empire State Building
New York from the Empire State Building

The Empire State building was quite impressive, it took us about 20 minutes to get to the top, the queues weren't too bad, in fact they were much worse coming down so we opted to take the stairs for part of the way back down from the 86th to the 80th.

Photo opportunities were good from the top. Understandably they don’t allow tripods or from what I've read even gorillapods, but initially hand held seemed to work, I was taking 3 exposures for each shot and pulling out the sharpest one. When the light dropped off further and all the city lights came on, it was a case of finding a bit of wall to balance your camera on or trying to wedge it as tightly as possible into the railings.

By the time we had made it down from the Empire State building the sky had turned an inky black and despite the vast amount of light given off by the advertising hoardings in Times Square the contrast was just too great to get any decent shots.

Skip on to Saturday and a nice early start saw us sitting on the station platform Edison station at 8am in the morning.  The train didn't leave till just gone half eight and already it was starting to get quite warm. I hadn't anticipated such warm weather and as it turned out it was the warmest day since the previous September hitting about 26 degrees C or 80 Fahrenheit. To start the day there wasn't a cloud in the sky, not ideal for photos, but thankfully by lunchtime we did get some wispy clouds appearing, which provided a little more interest, but didn't provide any respite from the blistering sun.

We arrived in Penn station at about 9:30am and started walking up towards the Rockefeller Centre, we stopped off en-route to take some impressive skyscraper shots, looking straight up. 

Reach for the sky

When we reached Rockefeller I was surprised to see skaters out on the ice. I had chosen to travel light bringing just my 50mm zuiko and canon 17-40mm. I was glad of the extra wide angle even at 17mm I was only just managing to get a whole skyscraper from top to bottom into shot. After the Rockefeller we headed on to Central Park. Boy was it busy, a bit of sunshine certainly brought out lots and lots of people, there was no avoiding them.  After taking some shots at the Meadow and looking across the Lake we had lunch at the cafĂ© and a much welcomed sit down.

Central Park
The Lake Central Park

After lunch we continued walking this time down to Grand Central station and managed to take quite a few shots across the concourse. We didn't even attempt to get our tripods out instead using the tops of the balustrades to set off a long exposure. Again going wide was an absolute must here, Phil could only go down 27mm with his crop camera.

Grand Central Station
Hand on hip, Grand Central Station

After Grand Central we jumped on the tube down to Wall Street and set off towards Ground Zero. Passing Trump Tower and few other very tall and very impressive buildings. The wispy clouds from earlier had dispersed with just the occasional small puffy cloud to add interest in an otherwise brilliant blue sky. Ground Zero was very impressive, but even at  17mm I struggled to get a good composition including the water and skyscrapers beyond. From here we set off towards the Brooklyn Bridge having a much deserved rest in a nice square which was shaded by buildings.

After a brief sit down and an opportunity for Phil to take some shots of the Tulips we were heading over Brooklyn Bridge. It took us about an hour to cross over, it was very busy indeed lots of people going both ways, walking jogging, cycling, you name it it happens in NY.  We took a few shots of the bridge and also the padlocks fastened to lots of available spaces, some had been there quite a while and had even had a mandatory coat of beige paint added to them!

By the time we had walked over the bridge and down the other side we grabbed some tea at the Shake Shack, the queue for the toilets alone was almost out the door. Thankfully we got in when we did, because by the time we got our food it was even busier. After tea we headed over towards the infamous old jetty posts in Brooklyn Bridge park overlooking Lower Manhattan.

Get ready for sunset, if you can find a spot!

I've never seen so many photographers and tripods in all my life, probably around 30 or so all lined up with their expensive DSLR’s. Still 20 minutes to go till sunset. We managed to jostle into position and get a good spot, foolishly the people down to the left had to abandon their positions on the rising tide. It was also quite telling that the line thinned out about 5 minutes after the sun went down. Did people not realise that the best colours were still to come when the sky had darkened and the lights had come on. Oh well who am I to complain.

Brooklyn Bridge Park - Posts lower Manhattan
Long exposure shot of the "Famous posts"

While there was still quite a lot of contrast in the sky I tried some long exposure shots with my B&W 3.0 nd filter (10 stop) and then 30 minutes after sunset made use of a 0.6 Soft ND grad, 0.3 soft ND, and then unfiltered as the light levels dropped. Once we had taken lots of shots of the posts and as the light was starting to go we moved round a little further back towards the bridge to get some shots for stitching of the Manhattan skyline.

Packing up at the end of the day we caught the tube back to Penn and then the 10.07 back to Edison. Just turned 11pm we arrived back at the car for a short drive back to the hotel.

A long, but enjoyable day we walked 13.5 miles in total and I've got a spot of sunburn to show for my efforts. Who ever said you can’t mix business with pleasure.

Mandatory yellow cab shot!

Flickr - New York Album