I wouldn't really consider myself a city person; the constant rush, the noise (and smells) as well as the overall lack of personal space in an environment jam-packed with people just isn't something I could ever really feel comfortable with. However, it's hard to deny the beauty of a place that people have--over the course of several centuries--built into this enormous monument to ourselves and what we can do if we work together. Buildings that stand over a thousand feet tall catch your eye in every direction, elegant suspension bridges carry you over rivers that stretch hundreds of miles north and every so often, you see something that burns itself into your memory forever (for better or worse).
I've been pretty fortunate to have a job that allows me time to shoot in a place like this on occasion, and I've gotten to know the lay of the land fairly well for someone who isn't used to this kind of thing. My favorite place to walk around so far is DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), mostly because the buildings themselves are so old but in such good condition. Just a few decades ago, it was a rundown industrial neighborhood, but some people saw the potential that it had and turned it into a nice place to go for a drink or to watch the sunset behind lower Manhattan. The rent is absurdly high, so be ready to pay $3500+ a month before utilities for a studio. I'll pass. Leave it to the trust-fund brigade. It's pretty interesting how you can see shades of the old world integrated with the modern city all in one place. Centuries-old brick buildings right next to contemporary steel and glass architecture full of million-dollar apartments overlooking the East River. Truly a beautiful place. The food is good too, Grimaldi's makes a brick oven pie that reminds me of my favorite place ever: Brooklyn's Pizza in Ridgewood, NJ. There's also Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has this awesome and well-photographed view of the financial district as well as the Brooklyn/Manhattan Bridges themselves:
The first image in this page is also shot from a location close to DUMBO: the Manhattan Bridge. The view of downtown is gorgeous and an excellent place to watch the sun set! Crossing over completely will land you in Chinatown, a whole different world from upper-class Brooklyn. I've never been to China, but I can't imagine there being much a difference from when you see walking down to the Hudson River from the Manhattan Bridge walkway. The air smells like a million crazy spices and all of the writing is in Chinese. It's something else!
As you make your way south, you end up in the financial district. Home to what is arguably the world's most important financial center, you'll see a lot of beautifully built skyscrapers including the newly-erected Freedom Tower as well as some of my favorite spots to shoot street photography. The streets themselves are narrow and make for some really photogenic scenes. I had spent a few days waiting for one particular shot of an airplane aligning with the buildings at a place I like to call "Five Corners" over by where DelMonico's has been for many years. You can see the contrast of the old and the new here as well.
Also, the financial district was a firsthand witness to one of the greatest tragedies of our time, the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Not only was there a great loss of life, but the world changed for the worse thereafter. Sometimes I think about people that were born after 9/11 and about how they've never known the carefree innocence that was the norm for most people back then. Now we have mass surveillance, security theater, terrorism, wars, crisis and comically evil politicians somehow making their way into office by playing on people's ignorance and fear as the new norm. Unfortunately, there is no turning back. We certainly live in interesting times!
Usually, I'll ride the subway back up to midtown at the end of the day to catch a heavy rail train back home from Penn Station. Midtown is another place to go if you want to see incredibly tall buildings and vast crowds of people. Times Square is right in the middle of it all, which I try to avoid at all costs because of the endless crowds but is a great place to go for street photography or to get robbed. If you wander a bit farther east, you can find one of my favorite views in New York: the 42nd Street overpass in Tudor City. In the summer months, the sun aligns perfectly with the canyon that the buildings form on either side of the street and you can see something like this if you can push your way through the hoards of people:
I assure you, it was the best three minutes ever. EVER. I must have fired off a hundred photos in the time it took for the sun to cross from one side of the street to the other, but half of the time I was just staring off at the scene itself totally blown away. It was an incredible sight that I actually stumbled into by accident when I was walking to Grand Central to catch a ride home.
I do plan on exploring the city for a while longer, I'll probably live in this area for at least another year before I make my next move (which will hopefully be an extended road trip). There's a lot more to see uptown and in central park that I haven't even touched yet. I'm also heading back out into the mountains in a couple of weeks when I visit my brother out in Colorado! I'm really excited and hope that the journey yields positive results. I also want to get back up to the Top of the Rock(efeller Center) and shoot a sunset from the view below, but as the winter draws closer, daylight is scarce and I get out of work at 7 on most days!
One day soon. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Real adventures coming soon, I promise!