Setting the Scene – Crossing the Hudson River to Look Back at the Big Apple
The New York skyline has to be one of the MOST photographed skylines in the world. There are plenty of other cities that have just as impressive buildings – Tokyo, Shanghai, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Toronto spring to mind. However, are these locations as immediately recognizable as Manhattan Island and its legendary buildings?
Most people can immediately pick out the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and One World Trade Center, for example. There is just something about this skyline that sets it apart. It is beautiful. It's also an engineering and technological marvel. I think it also helps that it has been featured in hundreds of films and TV series – it is ingrained into our society.
In this photo, you can see some of the most iconic buildings New York City has to offer. In the center, you can just glimpse the top of the Chrysler Building. Next to this, you can see the cluster of buildings that surround the legendary Times Square and the glimmer of the H&M sign.
To the right of this, another huge batch of skyscrapers looms – these, unfortunately, cover the iconic Empire State Building. However, in the foreground below these concrete behemoths, you can see the architectural marvel of The Vessel, and if you move to the left along the river, you can also see the USS Intrepid that is now a maritime museum. Finally, to the far right, you can see the One World Trade Center and the new cluster of buildings that surround it in Lower Manhattan.
I could spend hours looking at the skyline and marveling at the enormity of it, and the variety of different skyscrapers' designs!
Creating the Composition – A Challenging Shot With Multiple Lighting Elements
There are many angles you can photograph the Manhattan skyline from. The most common variants we see are possibly from the GE Building, and from Liberty Island looking back towards Lower Manhattan. However, I wanted a different scene. Therefore, we crossed the Hudson and found a great spot to photography the skyline from a New Jersey perspective.
This photo brought many challenges. Firstly, the various lighting conditions. There were the foreground lights of the buildings and construction in New Jersey. Also, there were the reflections of the buildings in the Hudson River. Finally, there were the lights from the NYC skyscrapers. These had to be balanced and it was a challenge to get the best exposure.
Also, to get a shot like this, a panoramic composition was required. This photo is actually formed from 8 individual shots. When taking panoramic bracketed shots, it is vital to keep the camera level. Also, it helps if you overlap the photos slightly as this will help the stitching process in post-processing software.
I was surprised that this set of photos turned out the way they did! With the challenging lighting conditions and the cold weather, I didn't have much hope. However, as you can see, the individual shots have stitched together perfectly. Also, the lighting is relatively balanced between the foreground and background buildings.
Overall, it is an impressive photo that shows the Manhattan skyline in all its glory. I feel that this photo during the daytime would also not be as impressive. The light from New Jersey and the skyscrapers really add another dimension to the photo.
What Makes This Photo Stand Out?
What is there not to love about this photo? It’s fantastic! You don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate the spectacle this photo presents. It is dramatic, its epic, it shows the sprawling landscape of Manhattan Island in amazing detail. There are so many different elements that combine together to make this photo stand out.
Firstly, the lighting and detail in the foreground do not go unnoticed. You can literally see the bright lights of New Jersey and the bustling world on this side of the Hudson River. Secondly, the Hudson River splits the scene perfectly – you can see the clear divide between the huge skyline of Manhattan, and the ever-developing landscape of New Jersey.
Thirdly, the use of panoramic photography is essential here. Without a compilation of several photos stitched together, you simply wouldn't be able to capture the detail in this photo. A wide-angle lens could be used, but still, a panoramic photo like this is much more impressive. You can see the enormity of Manhattan and just how many skyscrapers it has. Also, I find it interesting how you can see the lull in skyscrapers between midtown and lower Manhattan until you reach the One World Trade Center.
Finally, the lighting and the night sky of this photo are also perfect. The night sky is dark enough to form a backdrop for the city. However, it still has a glimmer of light, and you can see a myriad of different colors. The lights of the various buildings are also fantastic and dazzling – they demonstrate the power of technology and show the different detail in the styles of skyscrapers.