Exploring Manhattan at Night

Breaking out of a creative rut sometimes requires getting out of your comfort zone.  Luckily my wife was heading to New York city for a business trip and I decided to tag along.  I would get the typical touristy shots of towering modern buildings inter-playing with the city’s heritage, but what I really wanted to do was explore Manhattan at night.  I don’t usually get a chance to experiment with night photography and this was a great opportunity.

Central Park in Manhattan is beautiful.  It’s well designed, accessible and a huge green space in a city inhabited by millions.   Unfortunately capturing photos that don’t have crowds of people is challenging. As one of the most visited attractions in the city, it’s a nature refuge in a place where skyscrapers dominate everything you see.  But, when the sun goes down an eerie tranquility falls over the park everything changes at night. The constant hum of tourists and the locals vanish leaving a mysterious playground for you to explore.

During the day you can’t get a shot without someone walking into your frame; with all of the people surrounding you there’s an immense pressure to get out of people’s way as they’re trying to take a photo as well. When the sun goes below the horizon you can take as much time as you please.  Places like Bethesda Terrace have lots of interesting elements that are begging to be viewed at night. I would never have realized how beautiful the ceilings are without seeing them lit up for evening viewing.

The ceiling of Bethesda Terrace glows at night.
The ceiling of Bethesda Terrace glows at night.

The main walkways through the park are very well lit creating interesting shadows, but also conveys a sad loneliness of a place made to draw visitors.

A Walk through Central Park
A Walk through Central Park

Times Square is always bustling with people, but at night you can feel how the advertisements light up the area.  Lots of people are still hanging out, but the energy is subdued as people enjoy the neon lights.

Time Square after dark

Even eating dinner at Mimi’s Dumplings I got a chance to practice some slow shutter skills sitting by the window and watching the East Village go by.

Watching the East Village at Mimi’s Dumplings

So now I have the night photography bug and want to do more when the sun is hiding.  It’s amazing how environments change once the sun is no longer shining.

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