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Author Topic: NYC location scouting - any NewYorker here ?  (Read 4583 times)

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« on: May 17, 2008, 08:54 »

I'm going to NYC at the end of the month. I try to plan my stay and find some nice photo vantage points, knowing that photography is the main goal of my trip.

I'd like to shoot twilight/night views of the statue of liberty from a location where I could frame lower Manhattan buildings in the background. I exclude shooting from a ferry as I expect very low shutterspeeds at that time of the day. Looking at the Google Earth screenshot below, it seems the best location should be somewhere on Jersey's east coast.

Does someone here know if this place on Jersey is accessible and open to the public (it seems to be some kind of industrial area) ? If it is, what is the easiest way to go there at twilight (and go back to midtown Manhattan afterwards) ? I won't have a rental car, I'll just use public transportations and taxis. Does this place have a name, so that a taxi could drive me there ?

The Google Earth measure tool indicates a distance of ~6.2 kms (3.85 miles) from this part of Jersey to lower Manhattan (the statue being approx. in the middle). I guestimate I'd need at least a 200 or 300mm on a canon crop body to get a decent framing of the scene. Am I completely wrong ?

Thanks for any information.

« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2008, 10:13 »
I was born and raised in Manhattan, but I am not too familiar with the area that you are talking about because it is in New Jersey.

From looking at the map, it looks like that is a shipping port area.  If it is, you're probably not going to get access to it, since those are very high security areas.

The port area is in Bayonne, NJ.

Maybe someone from that part of NJ can help you a little better.

Another thing to consider is why aren't there many images with your vision already out there?  I looked at many of the stock sites and found only a few images with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline in the background.  Many of them look like composites, a few look like they were taken from a boat, and one actually looked like it was taken from a helicopter.  The fact that there aren't many images out there for that type of shot, might tell you that it simply isn't possible (without getting special access to the port).

Hope that helps.

« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2008, 13:14 »
Thanks for your answer GeoPappas.

I also considered the fact that there aren't many such images, that's why I was wondering if it was possible at all. The few ones I've seen, I can't tell if they were composites or not.

From looking closer to the map, I can see there's a road called Port Jersey Blvd leading to that place, so maybe there's still some hope I can get there, if it's open to the public.

If not, I'll get by with a trip to Liberty State Park from where I should get some nice Manhattan skyline shots and also some views on the Statue.


« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2008, 14:12 »
I've been to the port of bayonne and it is high security, but there are areas you may be able to get a vantage point. I think the bigger problem will be air quailty. It's going to have to be a very clear day to get a decent shot.

« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2008, 17:33 »
The issue with both the port and the Liberty state park is the angle you get on the Statue. She is facing the other way, towards the entrance. From Liberty State Park, you will not have Manhattan in the background. So, as much as you are closer than the tip of manhattan, you will not get a full frontal shot. From the port, you will get her back. And, as much as Lady Liberty is a pretty woman, she is not that interesting from the back or from the side which you will get from the port.
Most of the shot you have seen of her and Manhattan in the back were indeed taken by helicopter.
Photographer Peter Bennet has made a career of photographing New York for commercial stock reasons and can certainly be a source of inspiration as well give you an indication of where to shoot.

New York Stock Photo here :http://www.digitalrailroad.net/newyorkstockphoto/Default.aspx

Hope it helps and that you have a good time in our lovely city.


Paul M

« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2008, 18:55 »
@Darryl : Indeed, living myself in Paris, I know air quality can be problematic sometimes, though I find it's less of a problem in the evening than during the day. But again, it seems that distances in NY are longer than what we're used to in other parts of the world !

@ZymmMan : Yes I had noticed the orientation of the statue facing towards Brooklyn. I expected to get a profile view if I could get access to Port Jersey Blvd. Yes, from Liberty State Park, I won't have both the Statue and Manhattan in the frame, but was hoping to try a composite, as suggested by GeoPappas. Anyway, the Statue is such an iconic symbol that even a silhouette from the back is easily identifiable and shouts "NYC" (unless it is the Parisian Statue or another replica).

Looking at this picture, I found that the angle of view was quite low (ie. probably not from an heli) with the perspective highly "compressed" by the use of a long lens. But as it seems a bit blurry in the larger size, maybe it was shot from a boat, with some kind of stabilisation, or maybe it was cropped heavily.

Maybe I'm overthinking this. After all, Lady Liberty has been shot thousands and thousands times. Maybe a very classical shot could sell as well as a more thought out one. On my last trip to India, I shot the Taj Mahal from many different angles and tried to be somewhat creative and not only shoot the "clich" frontal perspective. Guess which one sells best ? Bingo, the latter. Go figure...

Thanks to both of you for your help.

PS: Any tip about how to resist going to B&H ? My wallet would be very grateful !
« Last Edit: May 17, 2008, 19:03 by ErickN »

« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2008, 00:12 »

you can never be wrong when you shoot the lady and the last think I would like to do is to  dissuade you from doing so. Like any woman, Lady Liberty needs to be charmed and if you can, she will give you the favor back. But, like any woman, she needs your full attention before she will help you out and it is not  a simple trip ti New Jersey harbor that will help you out.
My experience shows, and I am no photographer, that she loves playing with the sun, the clouds and the winds, and she has tired the most patient artist. She stands by the water and its crystal reflection and adores playing with its multiple reflecting mirrors.
She knows who she is and will make you pay the price. Like the Sphinx in Egypt.
what I am trying to say, is that, it is up to you, not the location, to capture her.
That image you reference to, BTW, seems like a composite. I might be wrong, but the building behind her does not look like anything familiar on the downtown manhattan skyline.
anyone wants to add ?

« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2008, 08:49 »
Looking at this picture, I found that the angle of view was quite low (ie. probably not from an heli) with the perspective highly "compressed" by the use of a long lens. But as it seems a bit blurry in the larger size, maybe it was shot from a boat, with some kind of stabilisation, or maybe it was cropped heavily.

That picture seems to have been taken from the exact port that you want access to.

The building immediately behind the Statue of Liberty (in the image) is 1 World Financial Center.  It is the left-most building in the image:


The larger black building behind that is the new 7 World Trade Center (the old one was destroyed on 9/11).  You can see it here:


There is another tall, white building on the right side of the image.  That is the Long Lines Building at 33 Thomas Street.  You can see it here:


If you draw a line between all of those buildings, you end up on the exact pier that you want access to.

There are a few companies located at that port.  You might want to call them and see if that road needs special access.

North East Auto-Marine Terminal (403 Port Jersey Blvd).  This is the company at the very end of the port:

Global Terminal & Container Services (302 Port Jersey Blvd).  This is the company with the large cranes:

Port Jersey Railroad (203 Port Jersey Blvd):

Another thing to consider when taking photos from an industrial area at night is safety.  Those areas are usually ghost towns at night and can sometimes have seedy characters lingering around.

Good luck.  Please let me know if you get any photos from that area.

« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2008, 10:17 »
Being an occasional visitor to the city, as I live about 70 miles away; here is a recommendation for you. Going to the top of the Rockefeller Center and booking a sunrise/sunset ticket for $30 for some amazing views. You can get a stunning view of Manhattan including The Empire State building being splashed with warm sunset tones.
See 'Top of the Rock' link:

« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2008, 13:04 »
One other thing -

That person must have used a telescope or spotting scope for that image (or cropped it immensely), because from the port to the Statue of Liberty is about 1.7 miles.  And it's another 2 miles (at least) to the buildings behind the Statue of Liberty.

I decided to go back and take a look at the image and the following EXIF info is available:

Camera: Nikon D300
Exposure: 20 sec
Apeture: f/11
Focal Length: 460000 mm

So it looks like my suspicions are right.

Unless you expect to be carrying a monster lens, I wouldn't waste my time trying to get a shot from there.

« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2008, 07:09 »
@ZymmMan : Thanks again for your thoughts and such an elegant way to talk about the Lady. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury to spend as much time in NYC as I'd like to, but I'll try my best to make Her react to my charming dance !

@Stu99 : Thanks for the recommendation. Actually, I did already browse the main RFC website among many others but not the one you linked to, and I intended to do exactly what you suggest. I've seen many pictures taken from the top of the Empire State Building, but the RFC seems to be an equally good platform for such cityscapes, including the ESB and the Chrysler building.

@GeoPappas : Wow ! I didn't expect such an helpful and documented answer. Thank you very much for taking the time to look for and share those informations. I'll try to get in touch with the companies you mentioned, and I'll definetely take into account your safety warning.
At first, I couldn't see the exif of the image I linked to, because it didn't work in IE. After reading your post, I went back to it using Firefox, and I could read it. I wasn't hoping to get such a close-up anyway, but something more like a Manhattan skyline with the Statue in the frame. And a focal length of 460000mm sounds wrong to me. 460 m ? That must be a giganormous lens/scope ! Even Hubble has a focal length of ~58m (189 ft) :) But you may be right in the fact that a scope was used, as it may not have reported its focal length to the camera, thus the erroneous exif value.

My head is turning, so many things to do/see/shoot in NYC, so few time for it !


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