Once upon a time a girl from Toronto had big dreams of moving to New York City. She had hopes of attending FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) about 17 years ago. She submitted her portfolio to the Fashion Design program and found a roommate to share an apartment with in Soho. She found out less than a month before her move that FIT misplaced all her original work. Her portfolio was misplaced and she wouldn’t be able to attend that semester. That girl’s heart and dreams were suddenly crushed. That girl was me.
I have always loved New York and it was my dream to move there. I guess it wasn’t in my destiny to have that dream fulfilled. Now all I can do is to continue going back to NYC as a tourist. I have been to NYC about 20 times throughout my life and no matter how many times I go to the city the allure of it never ceases to amaze me.
The last time I was in New York was almost five years ago. I wasn’t nearly into photography as I currently am, but I remember going to specific places even then to capture some images. Unfortunately, they all were taken on my Blackberry at that time so the quality would’t be anything worth sharing. I would have liked to go back to see if the places I visited then, would still be of interest to me today.
Going back to New York for the first time as a photographer, I had my usual mental list of the places and things I wanted to capture. I was staying in the theatre district and as soon as I stepped out into the busy Manhattan streets I was immediately surrounded by massive structures, crowds of people, bright lights and all the chaos that one would expect in a big city.
I checked into my hotel after dark and immediately wanted to rush out to start shooting. The first thing I saw on one of the streets was men working and smoke coming out of the ground. I placed my tripod on the street and began setting up my shot. I didn’t anticipate that a shot that seemed to be relatively easy to shoot would be as challenging as it was. I thought it would take me about 10 minutes to snap what I was envisioning. The smoke pouring out of the ground was appearing heavier and thicker than I thought when I set the shutter time. On top of that, the lights from the marquee were extremely bright and coming out over exposed. The buildings in the back were coming out under exposed because of the lack of time needed to allow more light to be let in. I did the best I could.
Of all the times I have visited NYC since the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I have never gone to visit the site. I have only had the opportunity to catch a brief glimpse when flying over it. I have seen the newly constructed Freedom Tower from a far but wanted to admire the massive structure closer. The memorial of the two World Trade Center buildings is adjacent to the newly built Freedom Tower and difficult to look at without getting knots in the pit of your stomach. It’s strange to be at the location where something so devastating took place and in my lifetime. I still remember watching it on television only a week before I was supposed to move to the USA.
The sky was fairly cloudy the day I made it down to the financial district so I had to wait awhile for the clouds to role out in hopes of achieving a decent shot. I forget that the weather plays such an important factor when you are traveling and trying to capture specific shots. When the time is limited in any one place you may only have one opportunity to nail the image. This whole time in the northeast I experienced a few days of bad weather that were not helping me capture what I had hoped for.
The only places with observatories in all of the city are The Rockerfeller Center and The Empire State Building. Come the end of May 2015, the Freedom Tower will have a brand new observatory. I was a little too early. I waited till after dark to visit the top of the Empire State Building so I could capture the city all lit up. It closes at 2:00am. I was tired and walked the 18 blocks with my camera and heavy tripod in hand only to find out at the security checkpoint that they didn’t allow tripods. Just my luck! I opted against going up because I knew I would just be frustrated not being able to shoot what I love shooting most.
Instead I decided to visit the Top of the Rockerfeller Centre sans tripod during daylight hours. I had never been up prior. It was a beautiful day in the city. It was actually the hottest days of the year yet so it was great to feel the sunshine finally beaming down upon me. The view from the top was pretty incredible. It was cool to overlook the whole city at a 360 degree view. The visibility was fairly good. I could see over all of Central Park when looking north. Facing south, I could see the Empire State Building all the way down to the Freedom Tower at the bottom of Manhattan Island. I still would have preferred to shoot after nightfall. I sometimes find shooting during the day is less exhilarating and not as creative.
I would have loved to try shooting a timelapse in Times Square but my lack of time and sleep didn’t permit me to do so. Also, I never realized how challenging shooting in the city would be. I couldn’t even leave the shutter open more than one second because the bright lights would instantly be blown out. I was having the same problem I had earlier with the smokey shot. All the buildings with little or no light were not appearing in my images. I was getting frustrated fast. The following night I decided to bring my ND filter to see if I would be able to achieve what I hoped. It definitely helped but all those competing advertising lights were still posing a problem. There was a lot of trial and error to walk away feeling satisfied with what I shot.
I walked around the whole time with my camera weighing me down, excited to capture everything I have been waiting awhile to add to my travel portfolio. I forgot how much time I actually need in any one location to walk away with something I am satisfied with. If I were shooting any of these locations in the city I lived in, I would be spending at least one full evening and night at any one location.
Towards the end of my trip I felt like I was rushing around to capture all the things that I hadn’t yet. Everything always takes a lot more time than I expect. I would have loved to walk along the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset and capture the city from that angle. It would have been amazing to cross over to New Jersey and be able to capture the whole New York City skyline both at sunrise and sunset. I would have loved to take a boat over to the Statue of Liberty. The list goes on.
Also when I am visiting such incredible cities, I don’t want to miss out on other opportunities that do not involve a camera. There are a myriad of fantastic restaurants throughout the whole city. Superb shopping. Some of the worlds best museums. It is nice to be able to have a good balance but when time is limited, I often over extend myself and am left feeling tired. But as they say, you can rest when you’re dead.
Being back for just about two weeks now, I am already looking forward to visiting New York sometime real soon. This city never disappoints me and I can never get bored visiting.
Homeward bound to Toronto after almost six weeks in the States!
Until next time,