Thursday, June 25, 2015

High above New York - The view from the top of the new Freedom Tower (World Trade Center)

Last week I was back in New York City to record a couple more video presentations for the B&H Photo's YouTube channel. Both of the presentations should be posted online in the next week. Keep an eye out on my video page.

As you know, whenever I am traveling, I love to go out and shoot photos when I am not working. This trip was no different.

As luck would have it, my brother and his family were in NY on vacation with a couple of days of overlap. Since I have been to New York more times than I can count, I became their tour guide. I presented at B&H Photo late in the afternoon, and then met up with my brother and his family to go out and walk the city.  Since I was playing tour guide and not wanting to slow them down with my photography, I took only my Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm lens and (gasp!) no tripod. At one point, we were crossing a street (I think it was Lexington Ave) when I looked up and saw this color in the sky. I set the ISO of my camera to 2000, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/100 sec. I shot as wide as I could (24mm) to get as much of the purple sky as I could. I used the buildings to frame the shot.

As we continued our walk down Park Avenue, I turned to get this shot of the Helmsley and MetLife buildings. Even though it had gotten darker, I kept the ISO at 2000 and held tight as I took the photo at 1/15 sec.

The next day, after meetings, I met up with Dave and the family to visit the World Trade Center. If you read the blog a lot, you know that I have visited here many times. But this time, things were different. The new Freedom Tower is open and visitors can go to the One World Observatory at the top. That was our plan!

We purchased our tickets for the One World Observatory, but had an hour to walk around before our time slot was called. I walked them over to the two fountains (placed where the original twin towers once stood). Since I have photographed these fountains many times, I decided to shoot something different, focusing on the names of some of the victims, with the new subway station in the background.

We also walked over to Ladder Company 10 which is the fire department right next to Ground Zero. I stood across the street and framed the camera to include the two garage doors. I set the ISO to 100 and the aperture to f/22. This gave me a slow shutter speed of 1/13 sec. My goal was to wait for a small number of people to walk into the frame and get some motion blur. As luck would have it, this gentleman walked into the frame, wearing this hat. Perfect!

When walking back towards the Freedom Tower, we passed by the 9/11 Museum. I saw these two Port Authority policemen and liked the composition of them and the reflection behind them. After looking at this on the computer, I determined that this would look better in black and white. Using NIK SilverEfex Pro, I did the conversion.

Funny story. I posted this photo on my Facebook and Instagram pages, and the one office (closest to me) happened to come across this, and emailed me asking for the photo. Of course, I was more than happy to send the photo (in color and B&W) to them. He said that the photo "has become a real hit at my department." I love that.

As we approached the Freedom Tower, I looked up and saw these dramatic clouds in the sky and reflecting off the buildings.

This is the worker's entrance to the Freedom Tower. I really liked the colors here, so I stood back across the street and waited until I had a clear photo, without cars or people walking through the frame.

And then it was time to go up to the 102nd floor...

The elevator ascends 102 floors in only 45 seconds. But the real treat is the virtual reality video show inside the elevator which depicts the area through the last couple of centuries. The video begins with renderings of what this area would have looked like before anyone inhabited the area, and then transitions through the years with all the buildings being added (and sadly subtracted).

My first view, after exiting the elevator, was of the lower East Side of the city.

And then I moved to a vantage point to capture images of the upper East Side, which included the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge in the foreground and the Williamsburg Bridge far off in the distance.

For all of these photos, I used the Canon 5D Mark III with a 28-300mm lens.

I really wanted to get a clean photo of the fountains below us. I stood as tall as I could and strained to get a clear shot without any reflections. This is the best that I could do. You can see some reflections in the lower left hand portion of the photo. (Photographer's note: For all you photographers looking to get the best photos from the top of this building, or any building where you do not have outside access, bring a large hood or dark shirt to shield the light around you. I am hoping to make another trip to this vantage point, with a lens skirt.)

I took this vertical shot to show the distance between the World Trade Center and midtown. Unfortunately, the weather had deteriorated and midtown was not as sharp as I would have liked. But, you get what you get...

For this horizontal shot, I zoomed in a little closer to midtown, and I used some tricks in Photoshop to increase the contrast in the distant buildings.

You are probably looking at this photo and thinking "what the heck was Jeff focusing on?" Here we were, 102 stories above the ground and I see a bug crawling on the outside of the window. And I was thinking "Hey, if this bug flew all the way up here, it deserves to be photographed and put on the blog." Maybe it will see this and ask for a copy of the photo. :) BTW - I shot this at f/14 to make sure that the city was recognizable behind the bug.

Before leaving the 102nd floor and heading back down, I quickly grabbed this shot to show you what it looks like on the observation floor.

After making the 45 second descent, we walked over to the Brooklyn Bridge.

I have photographed here many times, and was not really taking too many images. Until...

I saw this really eclectic couple coming towards me, and I quickly raised the camera and started taking some photos. I didn't even have time to switch to servo focus, so I had to keep refocusing and shooting in quick succession. Like the police shot, I decided that this photo was stronger in B&W, except that I really liked the bright colors the couple were wearing.


I created a layer mask in Photoshop and make a "selective color" shot. I know that some people are cringing right now. When I posted this on Facebook, someone (Jamie - I am talking about you) already gave me some grief about it. But I like to play around with the photos I take, and this one works for me. Go ahead, chime in. What do you think? Too gimmicky? Fun?


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Jeff said...

Hi Jeff:

As usual, you have provided wonderful pictures along with an informative essay. Regarding your use of "selective color"... I personally like this type of accent in a photograph. The colors are not overdone and I think it does a great job of focusing attention much like a vignette would do.

I enjoy your creativity and I think many of your readers would concur. Don't stop expressing yourself in a variety of ways. That is what makes photography an art form!

Thanks again!

J. Ross

Jordan said...

I concur with J. Ross regarding your use of "selective color". I think it is striking and if the purists thumb their noses at you, so be it. Keep up the great work. I enjoy your blog and videos very much and I'm looking forward to studying the new ones soon.
Your photo of the bug made me chuckle.

Jordan Cait
Toronto, Canada

Unknown said...

Jeff; great photos and wonderful explanations to go with them. Your last shot with the selective coloring is different and I normally don't care for this type, but in this case, it caught my eye and it works for this photo. Nicely done!
Since subscribing, I have enjoyed your newsletters and always come away with additional knowledge, even at 70.


Joe Allen

Byshanel said...

Hi jeff,
Thanks for your sharing.
very nice pictures you took.
sophia wu

Unknown said...

Jeff, I just finished watching one of your great B&H sessions Pixels After Dark: Shooting the Night. It got me to look up your blog and check out some of your fantastic work. I too have found some of my own work is sometimes under appreciated by others, so when I saw your comment about this selective color shot I thought I would chime in. One of my photography instructors once told me to ignore what others think is good unless you want to be a slave to their whims. If you like it, then it is good. I live by that feeling now when I take and post process shots.

I have done a few selective color shots that I like, but I too don't do it that often. This one works in my book, but I just told you not to listen to us. LOL

Keep up the great work and I will continue to follow your blogs now that I found you.

Kent Smith