Walking 15 Kilometers in New York City
Embarking on a road trip from Nova Scotia to Florida for our summer vacation was a decision that invited many questions. Covering approximately 6400 km round trip and taking around 33 hours of driving, the journey was an opportunity for freedom and exploration. Among the various destinations, New York City stood out as a place we wanted to experience on our own terms.
As we headed south, we opted for the I-95, and Manhattan's skyline revealed itself from the interstate, approximately 7 kilometers away. Despite navigating heavy traffic, I stole glances at the impressive skyline, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun as it dipped low on the horizon. The scene was captivating, and I couldn't help but wish for the chance to capture it with a telephoto lens. That wouldn't have been safe in the traffic and we weren't stopping in on the way down.
The wife and I had a list of places we each wanted to visit, and we strategically chose a hotel that was centrally located. The plan was to walk to as many locations as possible, as we were a bit nervous about getting lost on the subway and definitely not keen on driving. Our apprehension grew after the challenging experience of reaching the hotel.
Navigating through crawling traffic to merge into the tunnel was slow and steady, but chaos ensued moments after emerging on the other end. The constant honking created a chaotic symphony, as if people believed it would magically clear the traffic. It was a free-for-all, where giving an inch meant it was immediately taken. The drivers were seemingly unpredictable, but my main concern was the swarm of bikes coming from every direction—on both sides and at a considerable speed. Couriers, engrossed in their phones, weaved through the madness, and pedestrians dared to dart across if there was even a slim chance of making it.
Reflecting on this chaotic scene, the best way to describe it was a "Gong show." Later, a friend who lived in the city remarked, "You don't drive there!" It suddenly made perfect sense.
After settling into our hotel room, we swiftly revised our itinerary for the places we intended to visit. Unfortunately, Central Park got omitted from the list as it would have added about 2 km, reaching just the edge of the massive park.
Our first destination was Times Square, a bustling hub packed with people, as one would expect. Attempting to capture the essence of the moment, I tried a few images. However, I found myself dissatisfied overall. The clear, blue sky devoid of clouds presented a challenge. Moreover, I hesitated to keep my camera out, wary of the bustling crowd and the risk of someone snatching it or accidentally bumping into it. Despite the challenges, I did manage to secure an artsy long exposure.
The next item on our agenda was food! We opted for a pizza joint tucked away in a hole in the wall, treating ourselves to a tasty pie. Following our culinary adventure, we strolled past the iconic Empire State Building. Its distinctive presence made it easy to spot both from the I-95 and on the ground. I quickly snapped an image as we approached, consciously avoiding waiting until we got too close to prevent a less-than-ideal perspective. However, it worked well for a selfie to mark our presence at this iconic landmark!
Our next stop took us to the 9/11 memorial. The walk was a bit of a trek, covering about 5 km. As we ventured towards our destination, memories of that fateful day resurfaced—recollections from high school, watching it unfold on the roll-in TV in home room, particularly after the second plane hit
The journey also brought us closer to where we needed to go. Yet, the kids' energy began to wane not long into the walk. Complaints echoed after each block we passed. Attempting to capture the authentic sounds of the city for a video, I aimed to record traffic noises but ended up with a soundtrack of complaints. Despite having covered considerably larger distances each day at Disney and Universal parks, it seemed the promise of a ride at the end offered more motivation.
Considering the subway as an alternative, I delved into the logistics, but it appeared there were issues with the routes in our vicinity. Undeterred, we pressed on. Amidst the fatigue, there was a delightful moment when Aria spotted a rat thinking it was a mouse. Chasing it around, she declared it cute, eliciting chuckles from those nearby. Her disappointment was evident when the elusive creature managed to escape.
As we explored the city on the evening of September 10th, the sun began to drop, casting its warm glow and creating the iconic beams of light reaching into the sky in memory of the two World Trade Center Towers. The weather transition, from perfectly clear skies as we left Times Square, went unnoticed until raindrops started to fall. By the time we arrived at our destination, it was pouring. Opting not to risk water damage to my camera, I settled for a few cellphone pictures before we resumed our journey to the next spot.
These two locations, scouted online for shooting the city skyline, were conveniently close to each other after our walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The pouring rain persisted as we made our way to these spots. The bridge itself provided a unique experience—it's not small and offered captivating views along with its own architectural beauty. Despite the rain, we even managed to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. While it appeared quite small in the distance, it still counted as a memorable sight. Given the persistent rain, I opted not to take out my 600mm lens and try a shot.
Despite the rain, I couldn't resist capturing a view that I believed would make a great image. Taking a few cellphone pictures, the urge to shoot overpowered the caution of keeping my gear dry. On this side of the 1.8 km Brooklyn Bridge, foot traffic was lighter compared to the people on the other end taking selfies with the 911 beams shooting into the sky.
The rain added depth to the image, creating reflections off the wet bridge flooring. Striving for balance, I included a couple walking within the frame, offering a sense of scale to the composition. (if you can find them)
Despite the downpour, I quickly packed up, and we completed the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, arriving at my first chosen spot. As I set up, it seemed that the rain intensified even more—typical. Undeterred, I walked along the boardwalk, attempting to find the right perspective to include both the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline in the frame, with minimal land on the left side. The beams from the World Trade Center were also a consideration.
The storm clouds, in my opinion, added to the drama of the scene. Given the darkness of the surroundings, a long exposure was necessary. I took several shots to avoid having boat streaks disrupt the image as they navigated the East River. If it weren't for the heavy downpour, I might have explored a few more compositions. With the lateness of the hour, it was time to wrap up the shooting at this location.
At another spot on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, closer to the financial district, I found a better view of the skyline with an old pier as a foreground element. I set up two compositions, one looking over the pier to fill in the foreground and another featuring an open lane, as shown. The piers were interesting, appearing to have a plastic coating on them. Although I couldn't determine the exact nature of this coating, my research led me to learn more about the ongoing reclamation efforts in these East River areas.
Upon closer inspection, you can spot two herons standing on the piers. Luckily, they remained still enough during the long exposure, preventing them from appearing completely blurry in the image.
As I captured shots at this location, flashes of lightning illuminated the sky to my left. I timed the thunder to gauge its proximity, and it wasn't close. I couldn't see the bolts either. While it would have been epic to wait and try to catch a lightning bolt in my composition, I wasn't in a position to do so.
However, I encountered issues with my camera due to the soaking it endured. It seemed to be experiencing flashbacks from a previous incident when it toppled into a cold creek. Although the camera would eventually recover after being dried out, this added a touch of frustration to my shoot in Portland, Maine.
Despite the challenges, I can't believe I had the opportunity to shoot at these iconic spots, and I'm glad I did, even with the hiccups afterward. These were two scenes I had admired in images and movies for many years since I began my photography journey. Now, I have them in my own collection.
With the family thoroughly soaked, it was time to get back to the hotel. The only viable option was to try the subway, and thanks to Google Maps, the journey went without a hitch. We crossed the Manhattan Bridge and emerged from the subway a couple of blocks from the hotel, where we needed to dry off.