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New York City | Photo Guide

by Keo Lin. Published on August 2017

Welcome to New York City

After more than 5 years of saving on a public teacher’s wage, I bought my first holiday tickets to the furthest place possible – NYC. After 9 months of planning, the trip finally arrived on the morning of 17th September 2016 when I boarded the longest haul flight to the Big Apple.

Times Square

Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA

Times Square – Where’s Everyone?

My first shot of NYC – A lucky shot in the unluckiest circumstance. Most of the square was condoned by the police due to a bombing incident in Chelsea the day before. This shot was made possible with a quick click of the camera while being moved along by security. This is where familiarity with your camera’s controls is key in order to quickly flick on the correct settings, else, just remember your quickest way to turn the Auto function on. Color and exposure can always be corrected (to some extent) in post production but a poorly framed shot is usually useless.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/6.7
  • Shutter speed: 1/180
  • ISO: 100
Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, Travel

Times Square, Take 2

A return to Times Square a week later in the day. I wanted to show off the incredible hustle and bustle of the place, which required me to take four separate shots for this: The first to expose the base of the frame correctly, the second to expose the electronic billboards correctly, and two more to capture traffic and pedestrian blurs. These were later recombined in Photoshop manually.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/6.7 – f/8
  • Shutter speed: 1/45 – 3.0
  • ISO: 200

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Neon Magic

I absolutely adore neon lights and the neon glow of Radio City Music Hall’s billboard definitely takes the cake. To capture scenes like these, tripods are a photographer’s best friend. Not only are they essential in enabling you to use lower ISO values (100-200) to minimize image noise, it also enables you to capture traffic light streaks such as those of the taxi cab going by in this shot. Tip: Wait for one of those taxis with top-mounted lighted ads to go by to capture a more prominent streak.

Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 20mm
  • Aperture: f/9.5
  • Shutter speed: 3.0
  • ISO: 100

Empire State Building

Empire State Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Tower Lights

The top of the Empire State Building likes up in different colors throughout the year to commemorate different events. This shot was completely by chance, but if you’d like to plan your shots, click here for the Empire State Building Tower lights Calendar. The red-white lights featured in this shot commemorated the New York Philharmonic Opening Gala on Sep 21, 2016.  Side note, I think this shot of the Empire State Building only worked because of the rush of police vehicles on the street.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 45mm
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter speed: 6.0
  • ISO: 100
Empire State Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Towering Over Temporary Vacancy

Special thanks to Alex Ruiz for showing me this spot! A rare almost unobstructed view of the Empire State Building front-on, framed by typical brown-bricked Manhattan architecture of the twentieth century. Ideally, I would love to have gotten access to the upper floors of the building behind this shot to reduce the verticle perspective distortion of the buildings in the foreground.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/6.7
  • Shutter speed: 1/60
  • ISO: 100

Glass and Brick

I personally love this shot of the Empire State Building with a variety of building styles from various architectural eras. With the contrast of different colors such as the cyan from the glass to the browns of the bricks to the reds of the bus lane, waiting for the trademark yellow taxi cab to zoom through the frame was a must-have for that final color splash. (Side note: This shot would have worked even better on a blue-sky day with wispy cloud formations)

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter speed: 1/125
  • ISO: 100
Empire State Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Brick and Brick

Complementing the previous photograph Brick and Glass, this shot features the Empire State Building framed by other brown bricked monoliths of the same architectural era. For those who live in NYC or are visiting with good timing, what would make this frame pop would be to capture a HDR sunset with the sun streaking through the middle of the frame. To aid planning, I use sunrise/sunset calculators such as SunCalc to plan the exact time of day/year of the shoot.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/8.0
  • Shutter speed: 1/125
  • ISO: 200
Empire State Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Empire State, Street Photo Style

I usually don’t like taking landscape photographs in overcast days, but they are probably perfect for Black & White “Street Photography” styled photos. This shot was taken with a combination of three photographs – One with the Empire State Building exposed correctly, one of the foreground buildings exposed correctly, and the last for the traffic (bus) and pedestrian blur.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/6.7 – f/22
  • Shutter speed: 1/10 – 0.5
  • ISO: 100

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

The Main Concourse

The Main Concourse of Grand Central Station, or more correctly, Grand Central Terminal, is like a grand ballroom where travelers and tourists dance to create an incessant sea of movement. A tripod and your widest lens will be your best friends. The best spot is to get as high as you can go. In this case, I ducked under a taped off area to get access to the mezzanine just above everyone else.

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA

Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/9.5
  • Shutter speed: 0.7
  • ISO: 200
Grand Central Station, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Light Rays Through the Concourse

Tripods in the middle of any public space is usually a no-no as it’s a supposed tripping hazard and hence security usually will ask you to pack up pretty quickly. Fortunate (?) for me, no security! as parked in the middle of the entire concourse waiting for the perfect moment when a man walks towards the information booth creating an interesting ghostly blur.

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA

Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter speed: 0.7
  • ISO: 100

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Polished Illusions

Did you notice that you can almost not see what this part of the entrance really looks like? Almost every texture is an illusion!

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 26mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter speed: 1/90
  • ISO: 100
One World Trade Center, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

A Brand New Start

When photographing buildings or architecture in general, it’s important to keep frame your scene straight as that creates beautiful, totally symmetrical perspective lines. While you might be able to straighten a photo in Photoshop, what that does usually rotates the photo and will not correct the lines that have been photographed.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter speed: 1/180
  • ISO: 100
One World Trade Center, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Old-New-Old Architectural Sandwich

This is my personal favorite – a new glassy tower framed by classic Manhattan brick architecture (Apologies for not know the architecture type’s proper name). Time of day to make this shot work is of utmost importance. Ideally, come at midday where the noon sun casts short shadows and ensures even illumination of both buildings. Else, you might have to cheat with some HDR photography or simple exposure balancing in Photoshop.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 21mm
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter speed: 1/125
  • ISO: 100

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Like an Angel Pointed Towards Heaven

The Chrysler Building is in itself, a work of art. It’s probably harder to photograph as it’s not entirely visible from the more popular observatories like Top of the Rock, Empire State Building or One World Observatory. However, this street corner allows for an almost totally unobstructed view from base to tip. Best time to photograph is in the early afternoon where there’s even illumination of all buildings.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/13
  • Shutter speed: 1/60
  • ISO: 100

Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Flatiron Afternoon

If you think “Impossibly Thin” = “Macbook”? Think again. The Flatiron Building is an impossibly thin triangular architectural wonder. In order to show off this standout feature, try photographing the building edge-on, or at least like in this picture, almost edge on. Either way, an ultra-wide angle lens is a must.

Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 20mm
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter speed: 1/60
  • ISO: 100
Flatiron Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Flatiron Sunset

The Flatiron Building sits at a diagonal high-traffic street junction, which makes for great light trail effects. However, this must be carefully timed as the building itself is not well lighted at night. Try setting up your tripod safely just as the sun is beginning to set to balance the exposure of the different elements with the building.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 33mm
  • Aperture: f/6.7
  • Shutter speed: 2.0
  • ISO: 100

Rockefeller Building

Rockefeller Building, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Rockefeller Dream

The Rockefeller Building’s pale exteriors make it a challenge to photograph properly on a bright sunny day. Either turn on your camera’s HDR settings or manually combine multiple shots in Photoshop. Here, I used three different shots – first to expose the main tower, the second to expose its secondary buildings, and the third to capture the motion blur of NYC’s signature yellow taxis.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 22mm
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter speed: 1/60 – 0.3
  • ISO: 50

The Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline

Statue of Liberty, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

The Statue of Liberty for Free

The best shot of the Statue of Liberty is actually one that you can get for free on the Staten Island Ferry. It’ll take you past the front of the statue, which will give you a great shot of the entire monument with just a standard zoom lens. You can opt to pay for a private cruise that will take you past the statue and around the Manhattan harbor, but personally, I find that a waste of money and time.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 61mm
  • Aperture: f/9.5
  • Shutter speed: 1/350
  • ISO: 100
Manhattan Skyline, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

The Manhattan CBD

If you’re on a sightseeing ferry around Manhattan, try to get a spot on the port side as most circle the island in an anti-clockwise direction. Also, always try to be near the front of the ferry so that you get ugly water trails in your shot that distract your viewer from the skyline itself.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 26mm
  • Aperture: f/9.5
  • Shutter speed: 1/350
  • ISO: 100
Manhattan Skyline, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Overcast Skylines

Suffering from “ugly cloud day” like I was? Don’t fret! Overcast days are best for black and white photography. The entire sky acts like a giant softbox, which provides gentle and even lighting for each building, eliminating unwated shadows and harsh contrasts.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 38mm
  • Aperture: f/9.5
  • Shutter speed: 1/350
  • ISO: 100
Manhattan skyline, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Manhattan Dream

This shot requires you to get a little naughty. In order to line those wooden columns with the city, you must cross a chain barrier on an uneven stone boat ramp to plant your tripod. I was twice approached by a park ranger to leave. Fortunately, this is where my Asian appearance and “don’t speak English” excuse come in handy. 😉 Also, a lens blower will come handy to blow away water droplets from waves that WILL occassionally crash and splash your lens.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 20mm
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter speed: 20
  • ISO: 200
  • Filter: Variable ND

Mounted on Top of the Rock

For some strange reason, the use of full-size tripods is strictly prohibited at the top of Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Building). I was lucky enough to have found a stone ledge that enabled me to perch my full-frame camera for the required long exposure. However, if you’ve got a smaller handheld or phone camera, definitely bring along a mini-tripod for that blur-free, noise-free iconic shot of the Empire State Building and the rest of the city.

Top of The Rock, Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY, USA

Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 24mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shutter speed: 3.0
  • ISO: 100

The Final Scenes While Some of the City Sleeps

Central Park, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Central Park Reflections

The Central Park lagoon at the southern point of the park makes for great reflective photography with a small part of the Manhattan skyline. This photo is yet another manual HDR, in which I layered multiple exposures to capture detail in the vegetation against the lights of the building.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/4 – 9.5
  • Shutter speed: 0.7 – 1.5
  • ISO: 400 – 800
Aladdin Musical New Amsterdam Theater Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

A Whole New World at New Amsterdam Theater

Did you know, Broadway is actually the name of a theater precinct made up of multiple major and minor theater venues scattered in the area? Here is New Amsterdam Theater, home to Aladdin the Musical in NYC. This shot is a manual HDR shot with four separate shots to properly expose the buildings and the content in their electronic billboards.

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Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 17mm
  • Aperture: f/19
  • Shutter speed: 1/30 – 1.0
  • ISO: 400
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, NYC, USA, travel landscape photography

Brooklyn Bridge

Who says a photo has to be realistic? Sometimes, playing with your camera’s White Balance (WB) function can create fantastic purple-hued skies. Also, it’s shots like this where lenses with a higher aperture blade count shine as they allow for multiple streaks of light to radiate from each light point, adding detail to the shot.

40.703295, -73.994773

Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Tripod

Camera Settings

  • Focal Length: 17mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter speed: 20
  • ISO: 100

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