Monday, 4 February 2019

Shooting New York With Samyang

New York's famous yellow cabs
(Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/250th sec, f8, ISO 100)
New York is without doubt the most photographed city in the world and a place that I will go back to time and time again. It's easily the most awe inspiring city that I've visited. I've been fortunate enough to have visited three times in the last ten years with my last visit in June 2017. Each time I've visited I've managed to cram in various sites, experienced a lot of what this bustling city has to offer and each time my stay is different but I still feel like I've just seen the tip of the iceberg.

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/30th sec, f3.2, ISO 800
Of the many things I love about Manhattan one of them has to be the geographical layout, which mainly comprises of a grid system with avenues running vertical and the streets horizontal so it's surprisingly easy to find your way around and get to various places provided you have the street address or avenue that it's on. Using the subway is relatively easy also. I'd recommend downloading a couple of apps for your smartphone to help you find your way around.

It was around the time of my second visit to Manhattan that I started to get into photography back in March 2013. I hired a Samyang 8mm fisheye lens especially for my trip to use with my Sony A65. It was great fun to use to capture unique images with crazy distortions and have the ability to fit so much into each frame. One of the images that I captured during this trip (taken at the observation deck at the Rockefeller Center) is to this day one of the most viewed images on my Flickr account with over 30,000 views and even made it onto the Flickr Explore page when it was first posted. When I shot this image I didn't really know what I was doing when it came to photography. It wasn't shot in RAW, the sensor had a load of dust spots on there (Photoshopped out) and I probably shot the image using Auto settings apart from the manual focus and manual aperture settings on the lens so I think this image could have been significantly better but I'm still happy with it.
Samyang 8mm f3.5 Fisheye @ 1/100th sec, unknown aperture, ISO 400

Having visited the Top of the Rock observation deck during a previous visit I knew that this would afford me the greatest vantage point over the city. In my opinion the view from there is better than the Empire State Building as you can see Central Park and downtown Manhattan (including the Empire State Building itself which makes a great focal point in the frame). It also features a more unrestricted viewing platform to the Empire State Building and even the One World Trade Center which has glass windows obstructing your view making it difficult to shoot good images. While here I shot images with both the AF 14mm f2.8 FE and the AF 35mm F2.8 FE lenses.
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/30th sec, f5, ISO 100
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/40th sec, f9, ISO 200

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/30th sec, f9, ISO 100

Here's another shot of the New York skyline. This time at night with the busy city traffic lighting up the streets below. This image was taken from the rooftop of hotel Ink 48.
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 30 seconds, f11, ISO 100

New York is well-known for it's skyscrapers and has some of the largest and most diversely designed buildings in the world. This shot was taken near the financial district. At the top of the frame you can just about see the iconic building which houses the famous Delmonico's restaurant. At the time I shot this, the restaurant had scaffolding up so it kind of ruined the concept of an image I had in mind so instead I looked up and saw this composition.

Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/200th sec, f8, ISO 100

Another of New York's most famous landmarks is the Flatiron Building. Situated on 5th Avenue between E22nd and E23rd Street this building is easily one of the most iconic buildings in Manhattan. The Beaux-arts architecture also appears in the Spiderman films due to the Daily Bugle newspaper (where Peter Parker works) being based there. This is one of the most photographed buildings in the world.
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/250th sec, f9, ISO 100

Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/30th sec, f22, ISO 50

When visiting New York it is essential that you walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Spanning a distance of just over 1.8km it's possible to take in incredible views of the city and create visually stunning images using the lines of the bridge cables and supports but be careful not to get in the way of the cyclists and runners. There's a cycle lane for a reason.
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/20th sec, f22, ISO 50
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/320th sec, f10, ISO 100

If you venture over the Brooklyn Bridge then you have visit D.U.M.B.O (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Here you will find Washington Street and it's amazing perspective of Manhattan and the Empire State Building through one of the archways of the Manhattan Bridge. This is a pretty clichéd shot and one that you may have seen used in the film Once Upon a Time in New York but one that I had to take myself. I wanted to get low to the manhole cover so that you could also read the N.Y.C embossed in the metal. It's virtually impossible to photograph this area without any other people in the shot due to how popular it is.

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/200th sec, f8, ISO 100

Brooklyn Bridge Park piers offer truly amazing views of "The Big Apple". This area is filled with photographers looking to capture the perfect shot showing the city's skyscrapers in all their glory. This spot is a great place to take in a beautiful sunset.

Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/640th sec, f13, ISO 100
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 5 seconds, f22, ISO 50

Whilst on my way to the Roosevelt Island Tramway and looking for interesting things to photograph I stumbled across the Bloomberg Tower (also known as One Beacon Court) at E58th street. Here I chatted with a doorman of the building and showed him this image that I'd just captured. He told me about the building and said that he'd never seen it captured at this angle before.
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/200th sec, f10, ISO 125

The Roosevelt Island tramway runs from E60th Street, Manhattan over to Roosevelt Island. It only costs a few dollars to take the trip over and you get to take in a different perspective of the city.
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/400th sec, f8, ISO 100

The World Trade Center Transportation hub or "Oculus" as it is also known is an incredible building with sleek lines which was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and built at a cost of $4 billion. This a most definitely a building worth visiting if you're a fan of modern architecture. I love the amazing sleek, white lines of this beautifully designed building. From the outside it looks quite small amongst the other skyscrapers around it but when you get inside the scale of it is pretty spectacular.
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/25th sec, f22, ISO 64

Another place that I recommend to shoot from (possibly a great spot to shoot a nice sunrise) is Exchange Place Waterfront over in Jersey City. This spot is accessible via a short subway ride from the Oculus transportation hub (above). Here you get an amazing panoramic view of the city and it's skyscrapers.
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/125th sec, f11, ISO 50
(Yes, that is me in the photo)

A short walk from Oculus, on Fulton St, it's possible to get an image that fits the One World Trade Center building in the frame. It took me a while to get this shot due to the city's crazy traffic.
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/60th sec, f8, ISO 100

Tudor City Overpass is another stunning vantage point. You get a beautiful view virtually from one side of Manhattan over to the other taking advantage of the long, straight roads and the trees make for a beautiful composition. It's also possible (if you shoot in portrait) to get the beautiful, art deco architecture of the Chrysler Building in the shot.
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/15th sec, f18, ISO 50

Yet another must-do while in New York is a beautiful green park/walkway known as the High Line. Built on a former rail line this 2.3km elevated trail offers a great viewing platform over the westside of Manhattan. During the walk you'll come across some cool architecture including the Zaha Hadid Architects' 520 West 28th building which was still in the process of being built while I was there but from what I saw it looked like a stunning building.
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/250th sec, f8, ISO 100
(shot through a dirty glass window)

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/200th sec, f6.3, ISO 100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/160th sec, f7.1, ISO 100

On my last day in New York I had a few things that I wanted to see and tick off my list. One was the Guggenheim Museum which is situated in the Upper East-Side area of Manhattan between E88th and E89th Street, adjacent to Central Park. Of all days for me to visit, on this particular day the building was closed. I was so disappointed. I still wanted to shoot the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and wanted to have a NYC yellow cab in motion going past the building during my shot.

Samyang AF 14mm FE f2.8 @ 1/15th sec, f22, ISO 50

Here's another image I shot on the last day of my visit. This time a portrait taken with the AF 50mm f1.4 FE. As I walked back to my hotel to collect my belongings and check out I noticed this homeless man with so much character and detail in his face and beard. He was sat on the sidewalk in a shaded area but the light was so bright that it made him squint his eyes a little. I gave him a few dollars and asked him if I could take his picture and he obliged. This portrait blew my mind with how sharp the details were. I only wished that I'd spent a little more time photographing some more New York characters while I was there. Maybe something for my next trip, whenever that may be.

Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/500th sec, f2.2, ISO 100

During my most recent visit I clocked up over 55km of walking across the space of three and half days in near 40° blazing sunshine so I think I earned the numerous pizza slices that I consumed during my trip. I got to see different sites to my previous two visits and experienced different things this time around also but I'm still left wanting to see more that New York has to offer. I can't wait to go back with my wife again in the future and take our two boys to experience the "Big Apple" and see it once again. Next time with more of the Samyang range of lenses to capture New York from a different perspective

Thanks for reading!

Check out my reviews for the three Samyang lenses used in this article for Sony E-mount below:

Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE review
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE review
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE review

I'd like to thank Alice and all involved at Samyang Korea for sending the lenses out to me.

For more information on Samyang products please take a look at their website - and subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with product news.

Follow me on my social media channels:

Samyang AF 24mm f1.8 FE