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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

The best place to photograph New York City’s skyline

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Evening on the East River looking at Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

LOCATION: Old Pier One, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City, N.Y.


EQUIPMENT: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM | Hoya ProND EX 64 (6-stop) Neutral Density Filter


THE STORY: Let's just be honest.


Sometimes, a place that's been over photographed, it's okay to photograph it one more time.


What you want to do, though, is put your own spin on it. As a photographer, even amateurs or hobbyists, you have a personal style of photography.


You like to make images in a certain way. So do that in a place that's been photographed to death.


That was my goal standing in the mid-Spring chill of the East River down in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The scene of dark, lonely pilons that once hosted a bustling port has been an attractive place to see the glitz of Lower Manhattan for a long time, ever since the park opened in 2010.


It's on the cover of books. It's featured in YouTube videos. It's been done so much, it's practically a cliché along the lines of subway photos and the Statue of Liberty.


I didn't care. I wanted to make one for myself, for a future place on the wall of my home.


If you go, go early. Any day of the week, if the forecast for sunset has even the slightest hint of pleasant in it, the area is like a magnet for photographers.


Understandably so. Old Pier One has plenty of space for everyone to set up tripods. And that view!


It's perfectly framed from the Staton Island Ferry station to the Freedom Tower.


And plan to stay there for a good 1-2 hours, maybe longer. Here's why. As the sun descends behind the high rises, the contrast is super heavy. You can HDR it, but if the water of the East River is choppy and there are clouds racing overhead, as it was on this night, that can make doing multiple exposures a challenge.

No problem. Because the best image, IMHO, comes right at the start of blue hour, that special time when the sun has first disappeared behind the western horizon. The bluest blue sky chases after it with black night following behind.


If you wait until then, plan to do a long exposure to smooth out the water, and -- this is important -- the lights of the Financial District buildings turn on like a thousand yellow stars.


That's the sweet spot. Blue overhead, yellow lights like a star field, lower Manhattan in all its glory before you.


Dave Pidgeon is a veteran writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at dave@pidgeonseyeview.com.

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