if you'd asked me Pre-COVID, what is my favorite genre / photo location, I'd have quickly answered architecture / city-scape and New York City. I would go into NYC a couple times a month searching out new and unique photo spots and was always able to come home with something fresh.
Well, Covid came along and that put a temporary halt to my NYC visits. I've just recently begun to go back into the city. It's a unique time to visit New York. The city is slowly clawing its way back to normalcy. More and more locations have reopened yet the crowds have not fully returned.
I feel 100% safe in the city, whether I'm walking the streets or using the subways. Of course you always need to be aware of your surroundings but I feel perfectly safe as I move about the city.
I though I'd share my top 10 favorite NYC photo spots. This list could have easily been 50 or 100 items long but I'll go with 10. I've omitted some of the more popular touristy spots like The Statue of Liberty & Times Square. Not that these aren't great spots, but rather I'll focus on spots that you might not be aware of.
My Gear for Photographing NYC
When I shoot in New York, my number one goal is to 'travel light'. I've done shoots with other photographers where they show up with huge backpacks and lots of gear. Sure, they may have the perfect lens for every situation, but the bottom line is that you'll be doing a lot walking and that bag is going to get real heavy in a hurry.
I take the opposite approach and prefer to bring as little as possible. I use a Canon R6 mirrorless which I love. I'll generally bring only one or two lenses with me. I'll always have my Canon 24-240 R lens which is an incredibly versatile lens and will typically also bring my Canon 16-35 for wide angle architectural and sky line shots. These two lenses handle any shot that I'll encounter.
In terms of accessories, I'll always have my Platypod & Ball Head, a couple ND filters, extra batteries and memory cards, a lens cleaning cloth and a train schedule. I've also got an app on my phone for the subway system. That's pretty much it. This all fits into my small camera bag.
I will mention that these are in no particular order. So without further ado I give you my Part 1 of my Top 10 Top NYC Photo spots...
If I could only pick one spot in NYC to photograph it would probably be The Oculus. The Oculus is a major transportation center and part of the World Trade Center complex.
There are so many great photo spots there both inside and out. Inside, there are balconies where you can shoot from up high, elevated walk ways and some some interesting stair cases. Visit at different times of the day can you get some great shadows on the walls and floor.
Outside, you'll find lots of interesting shots of the exterior. Go across the street in front of The Millenium hotel to get a full view. You can also photograph the hotel iself to get a great shot of The reflection of The Oculus on the exterior.
The best time of day to photograph the exterior is around sunset or at night. Better still is after a rain storm where you can pick up some great reflections in the street.
Though I don't necessarily do a lot of black & white, I find that The Oculus is the perfect subject to do so. The stark white color of both the interior and exterior just screams out black and white to me.
You could probably spend the entire day just photographing this magnificent structure.
Long Exposure shot of the exterior of The Oculus & The Freedom Tower
Commuters at rush hour photographed from one of the balconies
The shadows are constantly changing throughout the day on the walls of The Oculus
Brooklyn Bridge Park / Manhattan Bridge / DUMBO
From The Oculus you can take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or hop on the #4 train to Brooklyn Bridge Park / Dumbo.
Here you'll find sweeping vistas of the NYC skyline. Again, the best time to shoot here is sunset after dark. Walk south and you'll find one of the top photo spots in the city. What I refer to as The Sticks.
if you head North, you'll come to another classic NYC spot. That being the shot of The Manhattan Bridge. It's at the corner of Water & Washington. Don't be surprised if you aren't sharing this spot with at least 100 other photographers.
This neighborhood is referred to as DUMBO. (Down Under the Brooklyn Bridge Overpass). Wander the neighborhood for other greatvphoto spots as well as cool shops, restaurants and galleries.
'The Sticks' at Sunset - Brooklyn Bridge Park
The Manhattan Bridge - Brooklyn Bridge Park
The Manhattan Bridge - Dumbo
The High Line
The High Line is an elevated Greenway that runs along the west side of the city from 14th Street to 34th street. There are several spots where you can both enter and exit. I usually take the A, C, or E line to the 14th Street Station. From there it's a quick walk to the 14th Street entrance.
The entire length of the Highline is lined with trees, plants and flowers. If that's your photo niche, you won't be disappointed. I prefer to focus on the incredible old architecture in the surrounding neighborhoods. Look out both sides as well as down to street level and up to the rooftops to find amazing photo ops.
The Highline ends at Hudson Yards where you can take the obligatory selfie shot on top of The Vessel.
You should probable plan on spending about 2 hours walking the length of The Highline with plenty of time to take your photos.
Combination of old & new architecture along The High Line
Early Morning photo of the Empire State Building
Queensboro Plaza Subway Station
Leaving The High Line atHudson Yards, you can take the #7 train to the Queensboro Plaza Subway Station. I actually stumbled across this spot while taking the subway to visit my sister in Queens. On the ride out, the station looked interesting to me and then on the way back into the city I got off at the station to check it out. I was rewarded with an amazing view of the old buildings in the neighborhood with the NYC skyline as a backdrop.
You'll want to go to the top level of the station and walk down the platform towards the NYC skyline as far as you can. Wait for a train to come around the bend in the tracks and fire away. Ideally, you want to visit right before sunset as you'll be rewarded with an amazing sunset to incorporate into your photo.
A #7 train pulling in to Queensboro Plaza
Grand Central Terminal / Pershing Square Diner
After leaving Queensboro Plaza, you can hop back on the #7 train for a quick ride back into NYC to Grand Central Terminal. This is another spot where you could probably spend an entire day.
The most popular spot is the main lobby. There are balconies at either where you can get a wide-angle shot of the entire lobby. I like to do long exposure shots from up there where you can capture the commuters as they rush to catch their train.
I also like to shoot the information booth in the center of the lobby with a beautiful Tiffany clock on the top of it. There's a huge American flag on the wall which makes a perfect back drop for the clock.
I also encourage you to just wander around the building. There are great photo ops everywhere.
When you're done with the interior, head outside. Use a wide angle lens to capture the entire building then switch to a zoom to capture the details.
Directly across the street from the 42nd Street entrance is The Tudor Square Diner. It sits under the Park Avenue Overpass. It's bright red exterior and unique architecture makes for a cool shot. This is also a great restaurant which I've eaten at several times.
The diner can be a tricky shot to get without lots of people and cars going by. Hint - Wait until just before the light turns green and you typically have a few seconds when the cross walk is clear of pedestrians. This is also a spot that's best photographed at night to incorporate some beautiful golden light.
Long Exposure of the Main Lobby - Grand Central Terminal
Information Booth Clock - Grand Central Terminal
Pershing Square Diner - Directly across the Street from Grand Central Terminal
I will complete my Top 10 NYC Photo Spots in my next blog post. Stay tuned...
If you have any questions or comments, you can leave a comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.