Jason Daniel Shaw
Must-See Spots in New York City for Photographers
NYC – New York City, NY
New York City can be overwhelming for someone that has never been before and even more so for someone that has never been to a big city. This is a list of some of my favorite places that you must-see when visiting New York City for photography.
Oculus – Lower Manhattan
Manhattan is what most people think of when they think of New York City but even Manhattan can be subdivided by neighborhoods with each of them having a completely different look and feel. One of the first stops for us was the Oculus in the financial district. We stayed at the Holiday Inn – Manhattan Financial District, which just so happens to be the tallest Holiday Inn in the world, for the first night of our trip to see the sights that we wanted to see in lower Manhattan. I will write another post about the stay here and what room to get for the best views.
The Oculus is actually a Westfield mall and train station located adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center. Officially opening in August of 2016, its unique architecture has drawn photographers from all around the globe. I recommend spending time exploring the main hall of the space and capturing many of the design details as well as the overall atmosphere of the space.
My original intent was to shoot the building twice, once during its busy times to get the motion-blur of the people to show how fast-paced life in NYC is as well as in the middle of the night, to capture the starkly empty building. Due to the amount of time that we had, I was only able to get there once but it has me looking forward to a return visit.
DUMBO – Brooklyn, NY
DUMBO actually stands for “Down Under the Manhattan & Brooklyn Overpasses” and is also one of my new favorite spots in NYC. It is actually located in Brooklyn. In fact, I loved it so much that I visited twice in one day, once for sunrise and once for sunset and three times total for the trip.
For sunrise and sunset, we visited a spot along the Brooklyn Bridge Park Greenway just south of the Granite Prospect. There are the remains of an old pier that makes a perfect foreground subject for a long exposure across the river of the Manhattan skyline. During our sunrise visit, there was quite a bit of snow on the rocks and the posts but by the afternoon, it had melted away.
Following the long exposures, we made the short walk over to Washington St. and Water St. to get the classic shot that you see below of the Manhattan Bridge framed by the old brick buildings. If you look closely, under the arch of the support, you can see the Empire State Building. It was much less crowded earlier in the morning than when we returned closer to sunset. Both provided great views, though. There are also a ton of shops and restaurants around this area that you can explore while you are there. It seems that everyone gathers around Pier 1 to watch sunset fall over the city and the lights start to come alive. We took the subway over but the ferry also runs from here to Wall St., which gives you a nice ride across the river. I would even consider staying in this part of Brooklyn on the next trip to explore the area more.
Brooklyn Bridge – Brooklyn, NY
Our third trip to DUMBO was to make the trek across the Brooklyn Bridge. It is a must-do for any tourist to the city and the photos that you can capture are just a bonus. The original plan was to walk across the Manhattan Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn and then walk the Brooklyn Bridge back from Brooklyn to Manhattan but due to time constraints and having to work around the weather, we decided just to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Sunset was a crowded time to make the walk but provided for great light for photos. Trying to stay out of the way of the bikers and wait for a clearing in the pedestrians to take a photo can be a challenge but well worth the wait. Next time, it may be easier to try an off-time to make the journey but I will definitely do it again.
Ellis Island – Manhattan, NYC
I had been to NYC before and even the Statue of Liberty but never stopped at Ellis Island. I actually learned a lot from the visit and was so fascinated with the history that I didn’t take too many photos while there. It is a spectacular place for photos, though. The architecture is beautiful and you can spend all day there exploring different areas. The day that we visited, the crowds weren’t bad either so it wouldn’t be hard getting an empty space. I would love to do a project with them photographing and documenting the entire island as a lot of it is off-limits. Maybe in the future 🙂
Statue of Liberty – Manhattan, NYC
The Statue of Liberty is pretty self-explanatory and being an iconic symbol of NYC, it is well-photographed. However, the next time that I visit the Statue of Liberty, I want to spend some time getting shots that you don’t normally see. I think that Liberty Island provides a lot of opportunity for being creative.
Times Square – Manhattan, NYC
Another classic spot in New York City is Times Square. I think that its character really shows up at night and I wish that I was better at night street photography to really capture the essence of everything that is going on there. I did venture out one night just after it rained to try and see what I could find. There are so many opportunities to capture unique photos here that you could make a whole coffee table book with Times Square photography. If you get a rainy night in Times Square, make the most of it, I would love to see what you capture.
BONUS – Traveling to NYC
The destination isn’t always the best part of a trip, sometimes getting there is just as spectacular. I have been mainly flying American Airlines over the past decade or so and love aviation in general so I captured a few shots around the airport and along the way. We flew into LaGuardia (LGA) and the approach that day took us up the east river, giving us amazing views of the Manhattan skyline out the left side of the aircraft as we were on final approach. I had looked at some of the flight trackers to see which approaches flights had been using and used that to determine which seats we would select, something that I do frequently to get the best views of the things that I want to see when departing/arriving somewhere. Make sure to think about that when selecting your seats and don’t forget that the journey is part of the trip as well.