New York is one the most emblematic cities (if not the top one) of United States of America. The Big Apple as it became to be known, is alive 24/7 and that is something hard to cope with if you are not used to it.
My visit was short, a quick a stopover of 2 nights just to get a taste of what I have heard and seen on countless movies and documentaries about the city. In order to make the most out of this experiences, I opted for an hotel right at the heart of Manhattan: Hotel Pennsylvania, on the corner of 7th Av and West 33rd St., right across from the Madison Square Garden. This would allow less time spent on commuting. The other important decision was to walk as much as possible, avoiding any sort of transport. Apart from the transport to and from the airport and one visit to a friend quite outside of the city center, the rest was walking; over 50 Km of it.
The hotel is an oldie, but more than enough for a couple of nights. It would be difficult to find something better located for this small trip.
Arriving at the city
Arriving at the hotel at about 9 PM, the first goal was to find a city map, and grab some typical food: a couple of slices of thin doe pizza with fresh tomato sauce, basil and mushrooms did the trick. I’m not a big fan of pizza, but to be honest, those were some of the best examples I have ever tasted. With a map, food and sored from the flight, I went up to the room, had my sumptuous meal and planned the next steps for the night and the following day.
Back home I would hit bed right after the meal, but on a 2 day trip on a city that doesn’t sleep… well you tend to just skip it. And so I did. I came down to the street and walked for a while, trying to cope with all the noise. Man this is loud city! And the drivers love to use their horns. Took a couple of images here and there, but mostly focused on absorbing the rhythm, the smell and the energy of the city that never sleeps. Time flew not soon enough it was 2:00 AM and decided to hit the sack.
Hiking to the Lower Manhattan
Night went by like a breeze and soon sun light was out. The most fabulous moment of any city: sunrise. Breakfast was not included, which actually is a great option as it forces me to get out from the hotel earlier, and interact with more locations. Grabbed the most important meal of the day, and headed to the tourist office where I got a paper map (you know those fantastic devices that don’t run out of batteries). Short after that I was starting my walk descending 7’th, 5th and Broadway targeting river side and the emblematic Manhattan bridge. As I get further away from the center, the city transforms itself from the sky scrapers at the core of Manhattan, to lower 4 to 5 store buildings and a much cozier neighborhood.
The river side area is quite busy with people jogging, walking their dogs or just having a good time enjoying the nice weather. Along the way I could recognize some of the postcard locations, but I wasn’t after that kind of images. I kept walking and capturing what felt right to me, which included people. This is clearly a city for street photography, an art I don’t nearly dominate.
The river area is impressive. Lots of contrast, the old and the new, wood and steel, peers, people and so much more. Millions of images just waiting to be captured. I indulged myself for a brief moment to navigate on all the possibilities, but I had to part from here otherwise I would miss the opportunity to see more of this magnificent city.
By now I was just below the Brooklyn bridge. The view is spectacular. The architecture of the bridge, the mix of materials with rock, wood and iron, loads of people coming and going. This is a never ending stage of photographic opportunities. Hiking one more mile and I found myself on top of the bridge itself. It was hen 11 AM and the bridge was packed with people and bicycles. I started with the intent of taking pictures with no human presence, but abandoned the plan soon after. It would take several long exposures to achieve this and I didn’t have the filters to achieve this. I then shifted the approach to some sort of basic street photography.
After walking on the bridge to and from Brooklyn, capturing a whole bunch of touristic images, I headed for Chinatown where I had lunch at a small restaurant out of the main streets. I tend to look for those as much as possible as usually they are less packed and I feel more welcomed here. This area and it’s neighboring Little Italy are specialized areas where people of each nationality have their life and businesses. Na opportunity to see larger than usual density of nationalities.
HINT: As a very early apprentice to street photography art, I tend to use the "if you can't be stealth, be respectful" and so far, so good. I know this approach won't get me those amazing spontaneous people close ups, but it's a start.
Back to midtown
It was now getting close to the golden hour. As interesting this hour can be, it has its downside on an area with very tall buildings: the high volume of shadows against the still bright sky (our challenge is the dynamic range). Choosing a high place, away from the shadows would allow me to shoot different perspectives of the city with a more leveled range of light. A couple of choices are available and I opted for Empire State building (a debatable choice).
From the mid-levels (top level was extra) the view is interesting, but if you are looking for unique images, well you can include the tourists 🙂 as all the other have been taken uncountable times.
Note to self: the Empire State building session was interesting but because it is the highest building around, you are actually standing on an excellent photo target, which means there is no way to use it in your composition. A better choice might be the Chrysler Building. From there it would be possible to include the Empire State building in the composition.
Next destination, the Grand Central station. Beautiful and extremely well kept building, this is the main train station in the city. Tourists mingle with passengers that head their way to and from the trains. I didn’t manage to go to the platforms themselves and hanged around on the lobby and ticketing area for a while.
Night fall and the city lights up. The decision where to go was easy: Time Square. The area is full of people and you really lose track of time. The enormous billboard screens light the area as if it was daytime. People just stare and hang around. Lots of opportunists hang around dressed in costumes for pictures and cut you short on 10 or 20 bucks.
On the Southern end of the square, the globe used to mark the new year sits inconspicuous. It took me some moment to find it, but there it was.
After a quick bite, a beer with friends on Brooklyn is the way to go. Thank you Pedro Gomes for receiving at the Milk and Roses. A cosy location away from the Manhattan fuss.
TTL = 0 (Time to leave, now)
Early morning and almost time to leave Manhattan behind, but there is still time for a quick walk to Central Park. The place is very large and I only scratched the surface of the southern part of the park. Water, bridges, lots of trees against the city skyline. A lot to be explored on a future visit.
All & all, it was a fantastic stopover. I had a first experience of why this is a such an attractive destination both for tourism and work.
Notes to self: Next time action bullets
- Take a ride on the trains; shoot the city skyline from far away and the trains themselves
- Explore the subways
- Explore Brooklyn and other
- Use action-cam during the walks
- Golden hour on the Chrysler building and/or the Rockefeller center.
|Global||[A] – Could call this home|
|Safety (see GPI)||2 (out of 5)
(Lower is safer)
Architecture, Street, People, Cityscape
|Weather||Sunshine and warm ( June, Spring)|
8 hours, ESTA needed
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