Once again I went trough my Lightroom archives and selected the photo I took a long time ago. I was never happy with the final result even though I made multiple attempts over the years. I decided to take another shot.
It was 2006 and it was the very first time I visited New York after 9/11. Although it was almost 5 years past since the tragic event I still could see the traces of the destruction on some building surrounding the area.
I was standing on the sidewalk facing the World Financial Center with my back to the fence surrounding the Ground Zero. My goal was to capture the reflections of the place where Twinn Towers ones stood.
For me, it was an emotional experience.
I was shooting hand-held. I did not have a wider lens than 17mm and it was not wide enough when taking architectural shots from the close distance. I had to cheat by tilting the camera to be able to fit the World Financial Center building diagonally in my composition.
I took this photo from the Staten Island Ferry during my morning ride to Manhattan. It was hazy summer morning and I had little hope of getting any interesting shots. I was waiting for the sunset ride back to Staten Island in the evening (check photo from that evening).
The reason for me taking a gazillion of shots that morning was my recent purchase of a brand new Canon 70-200 lens and I wanted to test it in different scenarios. Now I am working on Lightroom Editing System for Cityscapes and Architectural photography and I thought this photo would be a perfect example on how to revive boring photos with creative editing.
Shooting & Processing
I was on moving ferry, it was shaky, windy and I was shooting with tele lens at 200mm on cropped sensor, hand-held. The main challenge was to get sharp photos. I set the camera to continuous shooting and selected a pretty fast shutter speed at 1/640. I was shooting in bursts of 8-10 shots. When I analyzed all the photos later in Lightroom, more than half of them were perfectly sharp.
New York is the only 6-hour drive from Montreal and when I feel I need extra inspiration for my photography I simply drive down south for a day or two.
I took this photo last summer in New York when I stayed not far from Staten Island. The Staten Island is not exactly the spectacular location with the regards to photography, but it gives you the unique opportunity to use Staten Island Ferry when visiting Manhattan. During my short stay I got to ride Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan and back 14 times.
Every time I was on the ferry I saw couple of huge seagulls following the boat at very close distance, waiting for the food to be thrown at them by the tourists. This is when I got an idea to place the bird(s) into the composition of the Manhattan skyline at the sunset.
Only when I was ready to start shooting I realized how complex it was to execute my vision.
I know that some photographers try to avoid well known and recognizable places when they travel as they are always in search of new and unique spots. I have a different approach when visiting iconic locations. I treat them as a personal challenge and, instead, work hard trying to make my photos unique. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not; but, I always have fun trying.
That was the exact challenge I faced while visiting Rockefeller Center in New York. The view from the observation deck towards the downtown is one of the most recognizable in the world. There is so much going on in front of you: the Empire State Building, Lower Manhattan, Hudson and East rivers, Statue of Liberty, Jersey City, bridges etc.
Thousands and thousands of photos are taken from exactly the same spot where I was standing. This is when I decided to do something different; I tilted my camera and took three bracketed shots. I broke my first rule of photography which states – always keep the horizon horizontal. I topped it with black and white treatment in post-processing and achieved quite an unconventional photo of an iconic location.
For years, I’ve been using an online photography service called PictureLife. It collects all of my photos shuttered across the web (Flickr, Facebook, G+ …) and stores them in one location at PictureLife. It organizes them by date, and tries to recognize duplicates and hide them. Therefore, you enjoy access to all of your photos in one location with a beautiful interface. I do not use this service professionally, but for managing my family photos, PictureLife is priceless.
One of my favorite features of PictureLife is weekly email. The email always has the same title “Memories of …” as well as the day when the email was sent. PictureLife finds photos in your library which were taken on that particular day in various years and it sends them to you. You cannot imagine how many forgotten memories I have recovered through this weekly email.
Yesterday, I received the regular email with the title, “Memories of October 30” and this was the photo found inside dated October 30, 2004. Exactly 10 years ago.
This is when I remembered that this was the very photo that triggered my interest in photography, and particularly, in travel photography.
I was in New York on a business trip. That was the time when I worked as a broadcast designer. The company I worked for at the time provided design and technical services to major TV networks for the upcoming 2004 US presidential elections. Half of our company’s employees spent 2 weeks in New York prior to the elections in various locations throughout New York.
That evening, I was driving with my colleague from Long Island to Manhattan and, somewhere in Queens, we saw this beautiful Manhattan skyline in the sunset light. I took this picture on the freeway from the moving car with my point-and-shoot Fuji camera. After spending hours in Photoshop trying to make it more presentable, I decided for myself that this is exactly what I want to do.
It took me more than a year to buy my first DSLR (Rebel) but that day and this photo served as main triggers.
I re-processed this photo using modern tools. The main issue was awful digital noise but even now it looks pretty bad.
The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic element of the New York landscape. It is easily recognizable with its historical roots and you cannot go wrong by including it in your composition. I have plenty of photos of the New York skyline with the presence of the famous arch. Every time I visit NY, I make sure to take at least a few shots of the bridge. On my last trip, I found the new bridge perspective for myself by shooting it from the Staten Island Ferry.
But what I realized years back was that it is not easy to come up with a meaningful composition while actually walking across the bridge. The first obstacle is the bridge wires. They are everywhere and when you want to compose the shot with part of the bridge as the foreground element and Manhattan as the backdrop, it is not easy to avoid them (wires). The second challenge is obviously people. They are everywhere and it can be ridiculous if you try to walk across the bridge in the middle of the summer during the high tourist season.
When composing this shot, I tried to deal with both of these problems differently. I managed to avoid tourists by shooting upwards. The second issue was solved by making the steel cables the main element of the shot. This formed the abstract symmetry of the composition.
And of course, without the flag this photo would look too monochromatic and symmetrically boring.
This view was like the grand prize of my latest trip to New York. As usual, it was a busy and exhausting day with lots of walking in hot and sticky weather with multiple short, yet intense rainfalls.
I was very happy that instead of driving to my hotel through busy tunnels I was taking a ferry ride to Staten Island where I stayed this time.
It is not very often that you see such a beautiful summer sunset with clear air in New York City, but that was the day. After three days of witnessing boring and forgettable evenings, I finally could capture the rejuvenated New York City skyline with new One World Trade Center at its best.
It was challenging to photograph from fast moving and shaking ferry with the strong wind blowing from the river. From the beginning I was planning to utilize HDR photography processing for this shot but using tripod was out of questions. I had to settle for 3 bracketed shots (-2, 0, +2) trying to hold camera as steady as possible. Out of 7 sets of bracketed shots I took only one was useable.
It was the middle of August, and probably the hottest weekend of the year in New York. With temperatures way above 30 degrees and the humidity close to 100%, it felt like walking on a frying pan. Of course, that was the week we picked for our first non-work related visit to New York.
It was after noon and we were slowly navigating our way from Greenwich Village to Midtown with our final destination being the Empire State Building. We stopped at a coffee shop to cool down and rest.
This is when we struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who overheard us speaking in a foreign language (Russian) and asked us where we came from. I said that we were from eastern Canada (Quebec), but the language we were speaking was not French. As a result more questions followed.
After visiting New York on so many occasions in the last decade I realized that I never had a chance to ride Staten Island Ferry. I have taken different types of courses and rides around Manhattan but never from Staten Island.
Last spring, before going to New York, I decided to compensate for my earlier shortcoming. I booked my hotel not far from Staten Island and every day, during my stay, I took the ferry instead of driving to Manhattan.
Beautiful and free 25 min ride is much more pleasant than driving in tunnel traffic and then searching for parking in Manhattan.
In total I took 14 rides. I definitely overcompensated.
While I was taking multiple shots for HDR processing I was not sure if it would be possible to align images later. Boat was moving very fast, I had no tripod (hand held) and it was very shaky. I used HDR Expose 3 to process 3 bracketed exposures for HDR and advanced setting in Align module helped me completely avoid ghosting effects.
I just returned from my latest trip to New York. It was amazing to see how One World Trade Center (aka Freedom Tower) changed the skyline of the Manhattan.
As a Canadian living in eastern part of the country, I visit New York fairly often. It is only 6 hours away from Montreal by car. Over the years I compiled the list of my favorite photography locations in different parts of New York. I also learned how to use New York’s famous landmarks in order to maximize the impact of my photography.
Here is the list of articles dedicated to my New York experiences:
And last week I realized that completion of One World Trade Center changed everything. The structure is enormous and it can be seen practically from every corner of the city. Many of my old experiences became obsolete but at the same time, it opened new travel photography opportunities for me as a photographer.
The featured photo I took from Staten Island Ferry and couple of years ago it would be boring and uninteresting capture but with One World Trade Center as a focal point, it looks impressive.