5 days in New York City

New York City | 1/500 second exposure | f 9.0 | ISO 200
New York City | 1/500 second exposure | f 9.0 | ISO 200

New York City makes my mind whirl. 5 boroughs full of amazing architecture, it is a place everyone should visit once in their lives.

Weekend and short city breaks are an ideal way to give the mind a mini vacation. Packing up and heading out, even if it is just for the one night, helps refresh the system. A short trip creates opportunities but also brings challenges. A short period of time means prioritizing and sometimes it can be difficult to fit everything in.

I want to share my methods to get the most out of a short trip.

Plan Plan Plan.

Research the places that you want to see before you go. New York is an overwhelming city, but if you have an idea of what you want to achieve in a day, you are off to a good start. With five days, I chose five different attractions and made sure that I had a daily priority. Visiting anywhere else around that daily attraction was an added bonus.

Book a hop on, hop off bus tour. A 48hr ticket allows you to see a lot in a short period of time, and also be guided through the area. This is a good way of delving deeper into the city and grasping more of an understanding of your surroundings. It is also good way to see the city at both day and night time and see what you may want to make images of.

If the bus does not suit you, taxi’s are cheap and plentiful, so stick your arm out and head to your destination of choice.

Taxi Please | 1/125 second exposure | f1.8 | ISO 100
Taxi Please | 1/125 second exposure | f1.8 | ISO 100

Maximize your time.

To maximize my time, I had the earliest and latest flights possible and chose to utilize two hotels.

The first was by Central Park, allowing me to focus my time making images in this part of the city. Walk, take a horse carriage, rent a bicycle or jog to explore Central Park. While you are exploring, you can look for spots that appeal to you for making images, you can stop or go back depending upon your time frame. I found places that I wanted to make long exposure images, I would take a quick iPhone picture, and go back after dark. Be smart when walking around Central Park alone, in the dark with photography equipment, although it was a lot safer than I thought it would be.

It really is Central Park | 25 second exposure | f4.5 | ISO 100
It really is Central Park | 25 second exposure | f4.5 | ISO 100

Wake up early and go to bed late. Again, making the most of your time before the tourists get out of bed. A cheeky mid day nap is fine, or just power through and sleep when your trip is done. There is something about waking up before everyone that excites me. The quite city streets, the early workers, the smell of coffee and the fresh air. Exploring the waterfront at 5am, you can chat to the joggers and the dog walkers and get their opinions on the best spots to make images. A friendly dog walker told me about this viewpoint of the Queensborough bridge.

The Queensboro Bridge at  5am | 20 second exposure | f5.0 | ISO 100
The Queensborough Bridge at 5am | 20 second exposure | f5.0 | ISO 100

After two days, I moved hotels to Times Square, this put me right in the middle of the the hustle and bustle. The two hotels may not seem that far apart, but it makes the difference when you are carrying your camera equipment throughout the day. Especially with the sheer volume of people that are walking about.

Times Square | 1/15 second exposure | f3.2 | ISO 100
Times Square | 1/15 second exposure | f3.2 | ISO 100

Take your camera with you EVERYWHERE.

Yes, you see tourists walking with cameras hanging around their necks all the time, but that is because you never know when an opportunity makes itself available. I found utilizing my 50mm 1.4 lens kept my camera nice and inconspicuous. If you have auto ISO, have this selected so that you are not scrambling and could potentially lose the image. Perhaps have the camera set to aperture or shutter priority, again so you do not miss the shot.

This image is probably the freakiest busking costume I’ve ever seen.

Freaky baby | 1/500 second exposure | f4.5 | ISO 1250
Freaky baby | 1/500 second exposure | f4.5 | ISO 1250

Explore in and out.

In New York City, the architecture on the outside of the buildings is stunning, but if you can get inside, and see the heart of the building, you have the opportunity to understand the architects vision. Do not be scared to ask security guards if you can look inside a building. You may not be able to make photographs, but it will be cool to look inside and you will have a deeper appreciation for the building.

Grand Central Station was a fun challenge, between all the people, the lighting and trying to make a long exposure image without my tripod being moved was tough. I like the challenge.

Grand Central Station | 2.0 second exposure | f7.1| ISO 100
Grand Central Station | 2.0 second exposure | f7.1| ISO 100

Hotel Etiquette 

When checking into a hotel, ALWAYS be very nice and polite to the agent behind the front desk. This person is the key to your stay. I explain that I am a photographer, and would like the highest room with the best view, if it is at all possible. I also mention, that I am happy to wait longer to check and generally want to be the easiest guest that they deal with throughout the day. This paid off on my recent trip and I was treated to views from the 43rd floor and this amazing sunset.

43rd floor | 1/25 second exposure | f6.3 | ISO 640
43rd floor | 1/25 second exposure | f6.3 | ISO 640

Try a different viewpoint.

My image of the Flat Iron building was taken from the top of a bus. There was no trickery, no sneaking into a building to take a shot. I just utilized my surroundings, and fortunately a red stop light. New York City has lots of observation decks. Book a ticket and head on up.

NYC Flat Iron Building |1/640 second exposure | f5.0 | ISO 200
NYC Flat Iron Building |1/640 second exposure | f5.0 | ISO 200

Revisit specific places at both day and night.

I purposely booked both day and night tickets for the top of the Rockefella Centre. I felt that this building gives a better view of the city overall, and includes Central Park and the iconic, Empire State Building. Photographing from the top at different times of the day, gives completely different images

Day: Blue skies, clouds, the greenery of the park and the different colours of the buildings.

Top of the Rock overlooking Central Park during the day | 1/250 second exposure | f6.3 | ISO 100
Top of the Rock overlooking Central Park during the day | 1/250 second exposure | f6.3 | ISO 100

Night: All the lights from the buildings and light trails from aircraft.

Top of the Rock over looking Central Park at night | 6.0 second exposure | f3.5 | ISO 400
Top of the Rock over looking Central Park at night | 6.0 second exposure | f3.5 | ISO 400

Another important note; Tripods are not allowed at the top of most buildings, so look around and utilize your surroundings. I was able to place my camera on a surface allowing me to make long exposure images.

Top of the Rock overlooking The Empire State Building | 10 second exposure | f5.0 | ISO 100
Top of the Rock overlooking The Empire State Building | 10 second exposure | f5.0 | ISO 100

Take a boat ride

The Statue of Liberty is another NYC Icon. You cannot go to New York and not want to see it. The best way is to take a boat ride, depending upon time, you can take a walk around and have a closer look.

The Statue of Liberty | 1/500 second exposure | f9.0 | ISO 200
The Statue of Liberty | 1/500 second exposure | f9.0 | ISO 200

Taking a boat ride, also gives great panoramic views of the city

New York City | 1/500 second exposure | f 9.0 | ISO 200
New York City | 1/500 second exposure | f 9.0 | ISO 200

Most importantly – Have Fun

Around making images, I found New York to be an amazing place for food, drinks and pretty much anything else you could ever want. I am an explorer and this city has peaked my interest and there is something about NYC that allures me more than the others (probably because I have not spent that much time there and there is still a lot more to explore) I still feel I have unfinished business out there, with one building in particular so I will be venturing back with a different plan.

For more pictures and details please visit my website http://www.paulkporterphotography.com

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