OK I will admit it, I don’t actually really like NYC. I don’t like how unhappy people seem here, I don’t like how dirty it is, I don’t like how despite awful living conditions (high housing costs, bed bugs, cockroaches, rats and god knows what other pests) everyone is still so desperately trying to cram into what seems to be a very limited space. BUT in spite all these things it is somehow the most photogenic city in North America and one of the most photogenic in the world. I’ll bite! We have been in New York so much this year that I finally had an opportunity to explore beyond our usual spots. We have now shot Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and everywhere in between. Finding and discovering places you’ve never been before definitely helps with keeping things fresh and exciting. I decided to put together a list of my favourite places to shoot while we are here in hope that you too can find inspiration and ideas for your next trip to the big apple, because let’s face it, even if you haven’t been to New York just yet it’s probably already your favourite city…
Rain or shine, winter or summer Brooklyn Bridge is incredible not only in it’s historic significance but the sheer size of it all. It is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, it is powerful and has presence like no other backdrop. We love shooting here and despite the large number os people walking across it every single day it is actually quite easy to take photos on EVEN during the hottest of seasons. The top photo was taken on a rainy weekday morning so we had to suck it up a little bit, up side was that it was also completely empty, the bottom two were taken in the spring on a beautiful sunny day, here the trick was patience, if you don’t want to see people in your shots you have to shoot during empty pockets, if you get lucky or if you are there in the dead of summer there is always the option of waking up with the sunrise, it’s always a sure bet that you will be one of the very few that made the trip at 5am, the light at those times will be more then worth it.
There is nothing more annoying when you are trying to get THE shot than people watching you as you work, making fun of you and worst of all taking videos for their stories, snapchat or just to mock you to their friends later… this was my last experience shooting at the below crosswalk but whatever. I always try not to let these things distract me, chances are these constructive observers (as I like to call them) never put themselves in uncomfortable positions to get what they want. That’s the thing about New York, you are always surrounded by people, it is hard to get a street to yourself, better yet a street that is as famous, and photogenic as the corner of Broadway and 5th Ave. The Flatiron Building ladies and gentlemen! Isn’t she a beauty! And don’t forget to turn around, there are beautiful photo spots here every way you look. Take advantage and look around. #walking!
Speaking of absolutely impossible places to shoot. Times Square is guaranteed to be swarming with people at any given hour of the day, the traffic here is nuts and the lights can be quite overwhelming for any camera. But you can get lucky, especially at 3am, during the perfect time when people have left their broadway shows and the only cars on the road are taxis (another quintessential NYC photo moment) and it just happens to be raining enough to discourage tourists from lingering but not enough to make you soaking wet (actually how we came about getting the below photo). The good thing about the city that never sleeps is that the lights in Times Square are always on so you can have your moment literally whenever you dream it up.
You often see those epic NYC rooftop shots all over instagram but then you get there and you have no idea how to find one. The truth is those people are either lucky and live in or know someone who lives in a building that has rooftop access, are endangering themselves by climbing random fire escapes or in our case got eaten alive by bed bugs and got upgraded to a penthouse suite where hotel security offered to turn off the emergency exist alarm in hopes you can get the shot and feel at least somewhat redeemed. Easy and stress free! There are many ways to find your rooftop shot, it being New York I bet you could even put out a Craigs List posting and you’d find something. There are several rooftop bars (The Standard Highline hotel has incredible views!) that you can also visit but let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying or more New York than seeing the city from a rooftop vantage point. It is the only time where you look at all the dirt and the chaos and it makes perfect sense. Ironically the infamous bed bug trip was my favourite trip to NYC of all time! *Note that many of these rooftops are not secured, some don’t even have railings, though it’s amazing to look at photos of people sitting on ledges or walking on the literal edge I could NEVER endanger myself like this and don’t recommend you do either, it only takes a moment so please be so very very careful out there, not to get dramatic but no IG post or amount of likes is worth your life!
Those cobble stone streets, those old turn of century buildings and the fire escapes, Soho comes first to mind when you think of places to shoot in New York City. Every street is a photo, even when under construction. Broadway being the main artery of this neighbourhood is the easiest for a yellow cab cameo but once you veer off to Greene, Mercer and Wooster you are basically in every movie ever made. A totally different vibe awaits going the other direction toward Mott and Elizabeth Streets, a younger, more bohemian vibe. And of course nothing beats getting a great shot and then getting some serious shopping therapy. Go early in the morning before stores open to beat the crowds.
I am IN LOVE with Dumbo. We finally took the time to properly explore the neighbourhood for the first time this year and couldn’t even believe we were in the same city. The views of Manhattan are breathtaking, no wonder it’s impossibly expensive to live here, the proximity to water really makes it a completely different experience, you still have the history and the cobbled roads but you also have THAT shot of Manhattan Bridge (looking down Washington Street) and if you want to get creative, walk around the corner and find new perspectives.
If there is one place in New York that doesn’t get the love it deserves it’s the Long Island Pepsi sign. Maybe it’s the long trek to get here, although I would argue depending on your location in Manhattan, Brooklyn could be even further. It’s here if you’re into retro neon signs and it looks even more epic at night!
It’s been a dream of mine to see Central Park in the fall with all it’s changing colours and fall splendour, this year it finally came true and you know what,? It’s 100% worth all the hype. East coast fall is hard to beat to begin with but match it with the urban flavours of NYC and you have yourself cinematic magic. I don’t even know if our photos fully captured the beauty we saw because even on a rainy, overcast day it is hard to believe it’s real.
PROSPECT PARK/BROOKLYN BOTANICAL GARDENS
If you can plan your visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in spring, during cherry blossom season, do it! You will not regret it. I have this plan year after year to visit Tokyo or Paris during cherry blossoms but this year we landed in New York and stumbled on this alley by total accident. We came for the greenhouses and left with pink in our eyes. It was absolutely amazing. Walking around you can also hit the Brooklyn Museum and the Grand Army Plaza. Foot traffic in the outside boroughs is far less overwhelming than in Manhattan, in fact it’s a very welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of places like Soho and 5th Ave.
You will find all of your NYC hotspots in midtown Manhattan. There is something about turning a corner and getting a full view of the Empire State Building. NYC Central Library, Bryant Park and Grand Central Station are up there on my list of shooting spots as well. Walk over to Penn Station and the USPS building and you’ll even spot the famous New Yorker hotel sign when you look up at the right time (now home to the Wyndham hotel). This is your NYC Art Deco treasure hunt.
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