If you’ve been to Manhattan, you’ll likely understand what I mean by the phrase ‘Magnetic Streets’. There is an energy that draws you outside, no matter how tired you are or how late in the evening it is.
I’ve often arrived after an eight hour flight, tired and knowing full well that I should go to bed, but simply being unable to. For street photography enthusiasts there is never a boring moment. Even if you don’t like photography, you’ll want to sample the madness.
There are few places on earth where you really never know what you’ll hear or see while walking down the street. I really believe that this city will either feed you with energy or drive you crazy.
Even if you have no sense of direction, Manhattan’s grid like and sequentially numbered Avenues and Streets will make navigation simple. This rule starts to get fuzzy as you head further downtown, particularly south of the Flat Iron District. As you make your way further down towards Greenwich Village and Tribeca, the streets become more snake like and lose their logical ordering.
There are corners of Manhattan that are far removed from the skyscrapers and madness of Midtown. One of my favourite areas for street photography is Hell’s Kitchen. The moody lighting, small restaurants and stepped access apartments make for perfect photography conditions.
There are moments when you look up to the sky at night in the city and instantly get transported to the scene of a Marvel Comic or a Batman movie. There’s something about how the bright lights interact with the clouds that paints a picture that simply oozes character.
I would highly recommend taking the Subway out to Brooklyn and walking back to Manhattan over the famous Brooklyn Bridge. Just before sunset is a particularly good time to do this as you’ll be rewarded by amazing views of the downtown Manhattan skyline with all the tones of the photography golden hour.
The bridge itself is well laid out in terms of pedestrian foot traffic and a dedicated cycling lane. Don’t wander over into the cycling section unless you want to be yelled at by one of the locals.
When the bridge ends you’ll find yourself in the wonderful Seaport District, a hidden gem that many visitors to NYC will never encounter. There are beautiful views of the bridge and many wonderful little streets that have a unique character that feels much more compact than what people would normally expect in Manhattan.
I personally like to stay away from Times Square, but it is a must for first time visitors. Locals tend to avoid it like the plague and as a regular visitor to NYC I can relate to that logic. Still, it won’t disappoint from a photography point of view.
The towers of glass and concrete have the tendency to make you feel truly small, yet empower you at the same time. You can’t help but notice the opportunity, but also the other side of the coin, the harsh reality of not making it in NYC.
When you visit New York, don’t expect to get much sleep. My grandfather once told me that he visited The Big Apple as a young man with a group of his colleagues. Manhattan must have been very different back then, but what he told me still applies to this day. He said that there’s no need to sleep, you won’t want to and there’s plenty of time for that when you get back home.