When my sister moved to New York City to work for Coach, one of the most prestigious of Handbag companies, I knew my portfolio and readers would benefit as well! Earlier in the summer, I spent a good amount of time exploring one of the world’s greatest cities like a local, and here is the result.
As I arrived at my sisters building, the sun was setting and I wanted to get up to her rooftop to catch a glimpse of the sun setting over the city. The first images below are an example of the great views from up on the 51st floor.
Exploring the Big Apple is not an easy task, it is huge and the subway system is archaic and confusing. Even with an iPhone app guiding me, I still managed to get lost more than a few times. I guess those fantastic modern rail systems in Asia have me spoiled.
One of the first places on my list to shoot was the Meatpacking District at night. There is no better way to explore that area of the city than via the High Line Park. The High Line was originally built in the 1930’s. It was designed as a rail system to lift heavy freight 30 feet in the air. It is now a massive sprawling park and walkway, and one of the most beautiful parts of the city. Walking through the various areas, you get amazing views of the older buildings contrasting with new and modern ones. My favorite spot was passing through a building that was lit with purple lights and various coloured chairs. Some of my favorite shots of New York were shot here and I will be blowing some up for display in my studio.
After a long walk through this beautiful and trendy part of town, it was off to bed as I had an early start the next day at Grand Central Station. Walking through the great hall brings you back in time or to some of the movies that have been filmed here. Grand Central Market is a European Style emporium that is a little pricy, but offers very high end products.
My next mission was to find the best Cupcakes in New York. Seeing as how I was training for a fitness competition, my intake of sugar was very limited. This time around, I only visited one of the many famous shops. I had heard that Magnolia Bakery was among the frontrunners in baking the best cupcakes. I ordered a Red Velvet and a Double Chocolate. Seeing as how I am in front of an endless supply of cupcakes at all the weddings I shoot, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on them. Magnolia’s double Chocolate was one of the most delicious I have ever tasted.
From there it was back into the bowels of the New York Subway system to make my way back to ground zero. Every time I am in NYC, I visit the World Trade Center area to remember the people that were murdered here 10 years ago. When I think about it, ten years have passed in a blink. In just a few days from now, September 11 marks ten years since that tragic day. On the spot where the twin towers stood, construction is well under way of the “Freedom Tower” and is set to open before the summer of 2012. Everyone remembers where they were on that day. My grandmother had called me the when the first plane hit, so I went home and switched on the news. I actually saw the second plane hit on live TV. To this day, it still gives me chills when I see any of the footage being replayed. We must never forget that day as it changed the entire world, especially for anyone who travels as much as I do.
Over the next few days, I decided to live like a local and get a taste of New York culture, of which there is a lot! I visited the Brooklyn Flea, which is an open air market selling everything from vintage clothing and cameras, to pickles with habanero spice. I also visited the Brooklyn Smorgasburg, which is located on the Williamsburg waterfront. This is another open air market where vendors are selling their culinary creations. There are not many healthy choices here, but these food artisans can really make your taste buds pop! Even though I was on a very strict diet, I had to try the fried chicken biscuit. It was a double chicken breast, deep fried and then put on a hot and fresh southern style biscuit with bacon and homemade ranch dressing. I needed an extra two hours on the treadmill for that one! As I walked around, I saw the Bocata stand. I could not pass up their Grilled Chorizo sandwich with a side of pan fried shishito peppers. Add another 90 minutes of treadmill time!
The next item to check off my list in NYC was to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. The views of the city skyline are amazing from the bridge, but the bridge itself is a gorgeous thing to photograph. I put a bluish vintage tint on a few of the images below and I will have some enlargements made of this series as well.
After the long walk over the bridge and hundreds of shutter clicks, I arrived under the bridge at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. It is located in the area known as Dumbo, Brooklyn and is said to have the best pizza on the North American continent! It was featured on the Travel Channel’s TV Show “Food Wars” and they do not sell slices, only six or eight slice pizza pies. They take their ingredients very seriously, as they only use San Marzano tomatoes, imported directly from Naples, Italy. After waiting about an hour in a line that went down the street and stretched almost all the way into the East River, I was seated by a very lively host. I found out his name is Ernie Barry. He is a musician and known as “Man of a Thousand Songs” and he is also the father of one of the head writers of the Jimmy Kimmel show. Anyways, back to the pizza… I have to say, their traditional margarita was definitely near the top of my list. It was definitely worth the long line and another 90 minutes on the treadmill that evening!
The waterfront of Brooklyn is a gorgeous place now, but it used to be a treacherous area run by the New York Mob. Some of the most beautiful real estate I saw in NYC was in Brooklyn Heights, overlooking the East River and the city skyline.
Now for the part I was dreading… Subjecting myself to the masses of wide-eyed tourists in a day of pure hell for a guy who aims to stay off the beaten path and away from the masses. I decided to actually board one of the “hop on, hop off” tour busses because it was the most economical way to see the entire city. As much as I hate doing things like this, it wasn’t that bad. The two day ticket only cost me about $50 USD and got me a tour of the city by boat as well. I got the see the entire city from a relatively high vantage point, heard a little bit of the history of the city and managed to get some great images. I guess that is what you could call me looking on the bright side! It is a far cry from sitting in the back of a tuk tuk, being driven from farm to cock fight in the back roads of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
My next stop was the crescendo of tourism: Times Square. Aside from all of the advertising and banners, the first thing I noticed was the massive police presence. I actually liked it and felt safe, that is until they completely cleared the area due to a bomb scare! Right after I heard this, I made my way back onto the tour bus and headed for Uptown and Harlem. After a good 2 hour tour I arrived back at Times Square to photograph it properly. Thank goodness the bomb was a hoax!
The next day was another day of exploring, including a riverboat tour of the city where I got some great views of the various bridges and landmarks from water level. My last stop on the “hop on, hop off” tour was another famous and popular spot and also cost me a good 90 minutes on the treadmill. Katz’s Deli was founded in 1888. During World War 2, Katz’s encourages parents to “send a salami to your boy in the Army” and they still have the signs displayed everywhere.
I ordered the classic Reuben, but to my surprise it was not grilled! I watched as the chef carved out the perfect portion of Corned Beef and assembled this deli masterpiece. I was served a side of Katz’s homemade pickles and it was the perfect complement!
I have been to NYC many times and now that my sister lives there, I know I will be going back many more. You could spend years there and still not experience the city to its full potential. This is what makes NYC such an amazing place… You can keep going back, over and over and it is always new!
In just a few days, I leave again, bound for sunny California and Sin City! I have always wanted to attend Olympia weekend and next weekend that will become a reality. Stay tuned to the blog and follow me on Twitter for real time updates!