Covid did a number on all of our plans to travel. Last year I had planned a trip to New York City to spend time photographing the city in the fall. Hopefully this year the trip will take place. But what I learned while waiting for the all clear is that I did not really know the city of my birth.
Even though I have lived in Rochester for 40 years, I will always consider New York City to be my home town. In the 40 years I have lived here, I take as many opportunities as I can to visit the city. For a while it was to visit my parents, but since they passed the trips have been more 1-2 days for holidays. In 2015 my younger son and his future wife moved to the city and since then we have made more extended trips. On each trip I take time to photograph the city, but what I have found is that I am photographing the same spots as most photography tourist do. I have a bunch of photos of the 9/11 memorial, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, etc. You would think that I could be more creative with were I photographed. You would think I would know the secret spots, but as I have found in researching my hopeful trip this fall, I was way wrong.
For the past couple of years, I have followed 2 Facebook groups devoted to NYC. Besides posting of great places to eat, pictures of time long gone, there are also positing of everyday place people will visit in the city. Places not on the tourist maps, but places that hold many interesting opportunities for taking pictures. Now these are area I knew growing up, but just forgot all about them. For example, Central Park. Like most tourist, we will take time to go to the South end of the park. The area where all the hose drawn carriages and the Roosevelt Hotel are located. That would be the area south of Strawberry Fields. It was not until I started to see some pictures of the north end of the park that I realized I was missing a lot of interesting places. We have visited the Bronx Zoo, but it was until I watch some Nat Geo Wild show about zoo did I remember that both Queens and Brooklyn had zoos just as large. The point being that even if you have been to a place a dozen times, there are always new places to see.
So for this trip I have started to plan early and make a list of places that I have not been to before or in a long time. As of today the list is over 70 places long. My list is just not a list of areas, like Greenwich Village or Midtown, but details streets and addresses. Google maps 3D views have been great in scouting out the location to find the best spot to photograph. Just place the little yellow man down hear the spot you want to photograph, and take a virtual walk through the neighborhood.
While doing my search I found out that there are 2 St. Patrick Cathedral in NYC. The one everybody know on 5th AVE and the original one in what I know as Little Italy. In fact it is not very far from where my mother was born. I grew up in this city and never knew this church existed. Most people have seen that iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge from this one street in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, but there are other streets in that same area that have even better shots of the bridge. A tip I learned in my research.
The other thing I have learned from my Facebook groups is how many different angles there are to a typical iconic photo. I have seen more pictures of many famous places, but from an angle I never would have known of. So sometime in July, I will make a decision and book my hotel and train trip. We always stay in Chelsea, near Penn Stations so we do not have far to walk and it is pretty central to all the trail lines.
Let me state this, every photographer wants to prove that they can take the same shot better composed, exposed, and process than the iconic photo. How many of us want to or have visited the places Ansel Adams photographs to see if we could get a better shot. But with the ease of photography now, why prove you are better than the person with an iPhone 12? Find those places that nobody but the locals know and photograph them in a way never before seen.