William Tell photography: shooting the Big Apple

One of my goals for my October, 2015 trip to New York City was to capture a panoramic photograph of the New York City skyline.  If you have ever been to the city, though, you probably know how hard it is to photograph the buildings when you are there among them.  In this blog post, I offer four views of Manhattan from the outside.

My first attempt came from Gantry Plaza State Park.  This historic park, just across the East River from the U.N. Headquarters, was a conveniently short walk from the Local N.Y. hostel where I stay when visiting the city.  It’s close to the 21st and Van Alst or Court Square Metro stops.  Viewed from Manhattan, the park may be better known for a ginormous Pepsi-Cola sign.

Manhattan from Gantry Plaza State Park--David Tabb

Manhattan from Gantry Plaza State Park–David Tabb

This image was stitched together by the Hugin software from seven snapshots on my Canon EOS M2.  I used the waterline as a reference point in my viewfinder, aligning it with the lower edges of the vertical bar; keeping the images at nearly the same angle up-and-down while shooting is critical to good alignment.  I note that this is the only shot of four I’ll show today that features the U.N. and the Chrysler Center. The latter is one of my favorite bits of architecture in the city! A notable problem with this view, of course, is that lower Manhattan is almost entirely invisible, though you may be able to make out the Freedom Tower at the extreme left of this image.

For my next stop, I made my way to Brooklyn Heights.  This area became famous as the “Dunkirk” of the American Revolution.  I took the subway down to the city hall.  You should see the ramp leading to the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge immediately as you exit the subway.  The walk is beautiful, though it always seems to be crowded, and it was briskly cold for me.  I hiked probably a half mile along the streets of Brooklyn to the area above the highways belting the borough, where I found the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

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Lower Manhattan panorama from the Brooklyn Heights –David Tabb

Certainly this is a stellar view of lower Manhattan!  My panorama spanned five images this time.  The Statue of Liberty is out of frame to the left.  It was well out of range for my 18-55 lens.  I was sad to lose sight of the Empire State Building from further north, but this view showcases the large buildings of this end of the island, and the Freedom Tower, over on the west side, doesn’t dwarf everything else from this distance.

On the following day, the front had blown through, leaving gorgeous clear skies.  I was near Penn Station, and I found the PATH station courtesy of a helpful employee.  Happily, one can board the PATH to Hoboken using the same card as he or she would use to ride the subway in Manhattan.  In twenty minutes, I was transported to the west side of the Hudson River.  I headed north from the station, and I immediately saw the Pier A Park.  Right away, I knew I had found my favorite view of the Manhattan Skyline.

Manhattan skyline, from Pier A --David Tabb

Manhattan skyline, from Pier A –David Tabb

You get the full Monty at Hoboken.  This image spans twelve photographs; it’s easily the most ambitious stitch I’ve ever done.  The Empire State Building rises majestically from mid-town, and lower Manhattan shows its pride.  I should note at this point that the images I am showing in this blog are scaled down in size by 90%; the image for my Pier A panorama has a full resolution of 22288 x 2252.  The link immediately following each image leads to a full-size JPG at Wikimedia Commons.  The above skyline spans something like a 150 degree angle, which I may have distorted by using the default settings in Hugin.

For my last panorama of the island, I hopped aboard the Hudson-Bergen light rail from the PATH station.  For $5.50, you get a round trip down to Liberty State Park, but be sure you validate your ticket after acquiring it!  Along the way, you’ll even get a glimpse of the Katyn Memorial in Jersey City.  I ran into a problem when I got off the train at Liberty State, though.  Where was the park?  I made a mistake in following the signs to the Liberty Science Center (it was closed, in any case), and so I walked further than I needed to to reach the end of Audrey Zapp Drive.  The Empty Sky Memorial is moving and yet not overwrought.  The paired walls point to the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood.  One bystander complained that it should point to the Freedom Tower, instead, but the WTC site itself is now a pair of mammoth fountains.

Manhattan from Liberty State Park --David Tabb

Manhattan from Liberty State Park –David Tabb

Here, then, was my last shot of Manhattan from New Jersey.  This panorama, spanning five separate photographs, showcases the Freedom Tower, and the Empire State Building is visible, as well.  Just the very top of the Chrysler Center appears in the shot.  It was a beautiful sight to end my photographic tour of the New York skyline.

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2 thoughts on “William Tell photography: shooting the Big Apple

  1. Pingback: Warsaw: hiking the Old and New Towns | Picking Up The Tabb

  2. Pingback: Cahokia: America’s first city | Picking Up The Tabb

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