10 Uncrowded NYC Photography Spots

I moved to New York in the winter of 2014, but picked up my first DSLR just earlier this year. Even before my first shoot, I (like most locals) knew that the city was about much more than what you see in Times Square. Yet these touristy areas are the only photos and memories visitors take from their time here.

As I fell deeper into photography, I spent my weekdays researching NYC photography spots, and my weekends practicing the craft in various locations around New York. Once I got sick of shooting the typical Central Park scene and the pedestrian-filled streets of Manhattan, it became increasingly more difficult to find unique places for photo ops. I wanted to write this blog post for anyone who may find themselves in this position, or anyone looking to find some off-the-beaten-path recommendations for shooting New York City.

What makes these locations particularly unique is that there are fewer crowds, making them gems in a densely populated city like New York. That means less people get into your shots, less competition for the best composition, and less likely that someone will bump into your gear. Not to mention all these spots are free for public access.

1. The Little Red Lighthouse

Remember the children's book, "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge"? Well, it was based on this location. As the last standing lighthouse in Manhattan, it's positioned next to the Hudson River and overlooked by the George Washington Bridge.

How to get there: By train

2. Fort Tryon Park

A wonderful park that sits atop a hill in Washington Heights. In the park, you'll find a grand stone archway serving as the last remains of a mansion burnt down in 1925. Trek to the top of the archway and you'll be at the ideal location for shooting the sunset, light trails coming down the highway, with the George Washington Bridge in the backdrop – all in one shot!

How to get there: By bus

3. Tudor City

I found Tudor City by mistake while on a mission to practice shooting light trails for the first time. I exited Grand Central and walked toward the East River on 42nd St until I saw an overpass. Here, you can shoot light trails with the Chrysler Building on one side, and Long Island City on the other.

How to get there: Take the train to Grand Central. Walk East on 42nd until you see the overpass. Take the stairs to the top.

4. Hell Gate Bridge

I love Astoria for two reasons: The cajun restaurant Sugar Freak, and my favorite bridge in NYC –Hell Gate Bridge. From Ralph Demarco Park along the East River, you can shoot both Hell Gate Bridge and the Robert F Kennedy bridge in one shot. If you plan to shoot from the rocks down near the water like I did, bring bug spray.

How to get there: By train

5. Roosevelt Island

Within minutes, a tram can take you from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island for just a few bucks. Position yourself next to the side windows to shoot during the tram ride, or wait for the many photo opportunities on the island itself: the lighthouse, entrance to the NYC Insane Asylum, 
Four Freedoms Park, abandoned small pox hospital, and views of the skyline and river.

How to get there: Directly by train, or take the train to the Roosevelt Island Tramway and take the tram across the river.

6. Prospect Park

While designed by the same architect, Prospect Park is much lesser known than its Manhattan counterpart – Central Park. Though I only have good things to say about the latter, Prospect Park offers much to be appreciated. I personally think shooting the waterfalls alone is worth the trip to Brooklyn.

How to get there: By train; to find the waterfall above, check out the map in this article.

7. Long Island City

Not to be confused with Long Island, Long Island City is located on the western edge of Queens. Walk along the East River and you will get one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. Shoot the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building from the pier, capture draping trees in Gantry Plaza Park, or snap the beaming red Pepsi Cola sign.

How to get there: By train; walk along the river to see all the spots mentioned above

8. Carl Schurz Park

This park goes mostly unnoticed by everyone except for those living in the Upper East Side, which is how I came across it. You won't find any postcard shots here. But, what you will find are simpler concepts that you can put your own twist on as you walk along the East River. Typically mundane things like old pier pilings, and far-stretching empty park benches, can become interesting focal points.

How to get there: By train

9. Calvary Cemetery

It's not everyday that you'll see a cemetery with a backdrop like this one. At Calvary Cemetery, you'll find old head stones as far as the eyes can see, and the Manhattan skyline displayed just behind them. Fall and winter is the ideal time to shoot here as the cemetery closes around 4, which should give you just enough time to capture the sunset.

How to get there: By train

10. Manhattan Bridge Arch and Colonnade

Maybe it was the cold fall night, or the fact that this is a car entrance for the Manhattan Bridge, but I came across almost no other people while shooting in this location. My favorite part about this spot is that you can get very close to the cars without stepping off the sidewalk. This makes for very vibrant light trails running through this beautiful 1912 construction.

How to get there: By train

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