Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Top 10 Places for Photography in New York City

     One of my favorite things to do before going on a trip is deciding where all the amazing photography spots are.  I have been fortunate enough to have been able to travel with friends who also make photography a priority on a trip.  Other things high on the priority list include food, museums, and perhaps the occasional super touristy things to do.  As a nostalgic throwback, and also to help people who are also looking for the best places for photography, I've decided to do a regular "Top 10 Places for Photography in <insert city here>" series.  

     Anyone who truly knows me, knows that my favorite city (ever) is New York City.  I first went to New York City with a few girl friends in 2005.  It was a whirlwind 24 hours in Manhattan, and all it did was make me long to keep going back.  And I did ... many times. I love this place.  There is just an energy in New York City that I've yet to feel anywhere else (so far).  Around every corner is something cool to see and photograph.  The following photos are from my personal top 10 of places to photograph.  This, of course, is subjective to each photographer, but I think this list provides a balanced mix of everything photography-wise. So, in no particular order, here they are!

1)  Times Square - Okay, I thought I'd get this one out of the way.  If you've never been to New York City (or heck, even if you've been!) you know that Times Square is one of the iconic places you have to have pictures of. I usually don't stay in Times Square long, but I'll always make sure to pop by and see the hustle and bustle of it all. 

Must Have Shot:  A wide shot of all the buildings and lights and a long exposure of the people and cars going about their business.

Times Square (2012) - 5d Mark II

2)  View From Staten Island Ferry - If you've always wanted a shot of Manhattan, with it's iconic skyline, taking the Staten Island Ferry is a great way to do it.  I can't recall if it was free, but if we paid to take the ferry, it was no more than just a few dollars.  It's a great way to get a skyline shot when the clouds are amazing, and then you can go explore Staten Island a little bit before returning to the city.

Must Have Shot:  Shots of boats and ferries, and a skyline shot of Manhattan.

Staten Island Ferry (2012) - 5d Mark II

3)  Coney Island - If you love photos with lots of vibrant color, then Coney Island is a must do.  I've photographed it both in the colder months as well as the summer.  I highly recommend the summer if you're looking for colorful photographs and great street photography.  It's less than an hour away from Manhattan if you take the subway, and while you're there, you might as well get yourself a Nathan's hot dog!

Must Have Shot:  Wide shots of the rides, and street photography along the boardwalk.

Coney Island (2012) - 5d Mark II

4)  Brooklyn Bridge Park - Brooklyn Bridge Park is by far one of my favorite spots in New York City.  It's a bit more peaceful than being in Manhattan, and you can't beat the view of the NYC skyline from this park.  There are bars nearby, as well as the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory if you're looking for dessert.  An added bonus is the Shake Shack that is a very short walk across the street.  It's not as crazy busy as the other Shake Shack locations!  Also, if you're looking to burn off these calories, you can walk over to Jane's Carousel and get more photos from a different perspective. 

Must Have Shot: NYC skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Jane's Carousel.

Brooklyn Bridge Park (2012) - 5d Mark II

5)  Brooklyn Bridge - It doesn't get more iconic than the Brooklyn bridge.  Photos here will look different at different times of the day.  My favorite time is in the early morning, or late into the evening when there aren't so many people around.  I love taking photos of the bridge with the city as its backdrop.  

Must Have Shot:  Wide shots of the bridge and cables, long exposures of the traffic below, shots of the NYC skyline behind all the bridge cables.

Brooklyn Bridge (2012) - 5d Mark II

6)  Rockefeller Center - I'm not gonna lie.  This place is so touristy.  However, this post is about the best places for photography, so it has to be on the list.  Yes, it's a lot of money to pay to go up to the top of a building, but the views of Manhattan that you will get are totally worth it!  From here, you can get shots of the Empire State building, One World Trade Center, and Central Park.  These are the kind of photographs that you can enlarge later and proudly frame.  It doesn't always work out, but I usually try to wait for a day where the clouds are out in full effect, or if possible, I'll go in the early evening to catch some beautiful magic hour light. 

Must Have Shot:  Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, Central park.

Rockefeller Center (2012) - 5d Mark II

7)  Lower Manhattan - I couldn't just pick one area, so I'll include just about everything in Lower Manhattan.  Wear comfortable shoes, and make it a day of street photography.  Everything from Little Italy to Soho and Chinatown, and more!  There are so many opportunities for great street photography here.  Let's not forget that when you get tired, amazing food is around every corner.  I'll even let you in on a little secret. Prince Street Pizza (27 Prince Street).  You can thank me later.  Get yourself two squares of the pepperoni pizza (and a Diet Coke if you're me) and then you can call me and thank me for sharing this little secret with you.  I once ate here for lunch and dinner in the same day.  Their pepperoni tastes like pepperoni married bacon. It's $4 a square, and by NYC standards, it's a steal! Seriously...Prince Street Pizza. Just go.

Must Have Shot:  Street photography, graffiti, a picture of your Prince Street Pizza square ;)

Little Italy (2014) - Leica D-Lux 6

8)  The Highline - This is a quaint little park that was converted from an old above ground railway, I believe.  If you like botanical gardens, flowers, and the like, you'll love this park.  It's a nice peaceful stroll, and if you tire of it, there are stairs your can take back down to the madness of the city.  Bring your macro lens and make an afternoon of it.  There's even this little spot where you can sit and watch the traffic go by towards the north end of the Highline.

Must Have Shot:  Macro flower photography, gardens against the buildings.

The Highline (2014) - Leica D-Lux 6

9)  Bryant Park - I was hesitant to include Bryant Park because while I enjoy this park quite a bit, it's during the winter that I really love it.  They have these little Christmas shops set up adjacent to the Bryant Park skating rink during the winter months.  It's one of my favorite places if I'm visiting during the winter months.  

Must Have Shot:  People skating, Christmas shops.

Bryant Park (2015) - Leica D-Lux 6

10)  Washington Square Park - During the summer months, this is a great place to do street photography.  Again, if you tire of that, there are so many great places to eat just a short walk away.  There is also a cute little dog park here, so if you're a dog lover, stop by and watch all the cuteness!  I once stopped by and played fetch with the most adorable black lab.

Must Have Shot:  Wide shot of the fountain, street photography, Washington Square Arch.

Washington Square Park (2016) - Leica D-Lux 6

     I hope you've enjoyed this list, and that it gave you some ideas of where to go for photography.  I know everyone's taste for photography is different so I tried to include a mix.  Also, I had to limit it to 10, or else I would've included so many more places.  You really can't go wrong when it comes to photographing New York City.  If it's your first time in the city, these are some great places to start with, and most of them are free (or budget friendly).  If you have some favorite spots in New York City, please feel free to share them with me!  :) 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Review - Evecase Camera Backpack

UPDATE:  Immediately after publishing this post, I ordered the Peak Design Everyday backpack!  Can't wait til December!!! :D

     Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good bag...any kind of bag, whether it be a purse, backpack, or even luggage!  One of the backpacks that I've been coveting is the new Everyday Backpack from Peak Design.  It's sleek, modern, and looks really functional while being comfortable to carry around.  The only problem?  It's not available to ship until December! :(

     Since I had a whirlwind 24 hours in the bay area to survive, I decided I needed to find something affordable that would allow me to take the gear that I needed, as well as a few extras like a change of clothing and a small bag of toiletries.  First I decided to go small and look for something compact.  I ended up ordering the Case Logic cpl-108 backpack from Amazon.  However, they sent me the wrong backpack (the Case Logic cpl-109 on the far left below).  I quickly discovered that the cpl-109 was too small to hold everything I needed to take with me.  That, and an unsolicited remark from a total stranger in a public restroom that my backpack was a strange shape, easily persuaded me to order the actual cpl-108 (in grey in the middle below) backpack.  

     I packed up the cp-108 and while it held the gear I needed to bring, it was pretty much packed tight that one of the seams ripped on the left side.  I didn't feel like I exerted excessive pressure to cause the seam splitting, so I chalked it up to poor craftsmanship from Case Logic.  When I contacted the seller through Amazon, they said they would be willing to return or exchange it.  I actually really liked the cpl-108, but it just didn't hold enough.  Enter the Evecase DSLR backpack (far right below).

     While this backpack was a bit larger than the others, it seemed really functional.  Since I was pretty much desperate, this appeared to be my best option since I had 3 days before I had to leave for the bay area.  It has a compartment to fit a laptop, one large access pocket in the back, one top access pocket at the top, one side access pocket on the right side, and an accessory zipped compartment on the left side.

     The back access compartment functioned well.  It allowed me to see everything, and more importantly, fit everything that I needed to bring with me.  I brought the following gear with me:
  • Canon 5d Mark III body
  • Canon 5d Mark II body (as a back-up)
  • Canon 24-70 f2.8
  • Canon 16-35 f2.8
  • Canon 50 f1.2
  • Canon 135 f2
  • Canon 580ex II flash
  • Canon G7x (for fun!)
  • Shootsac Lens bag
  • Pelican card holder
  • Extra batteries, blower, cleaning cloth

      Okay, so now that you know what I fit into this backpack, you KNOW it fits a TON of stuff!  Don't get me wrong, it was heavy, but not because of the backpack itself.  I was also able to fit these additional items:

  • One change of clothes
  • One small bag of make-up/toiletries
  • My wallet

     I know, I know...I've got skillz. I still couldn't believe it all fit! 

     The top access compartment was REALLY useful.  When going through the airport, I was able to easily access my wallet and cards, or my G7x if I needed it. 

     The side access pocket was a nice touch.  This really reminded me of the features of the Peak Design Everyday backpack (except the Everyday backpack has this type of opening on both sides.  Since I was doing some shooting in the morning with one of my photography friends in San Francisco, this was a great way to easily access my DSLR if I wanted to snap a shot of something.  I was also able to just use my Shootsac to fill with a few lenses, while carrying the rest of my gear on my back.

     The left side pocket could've been a little roomier, but I was able to fit my extra batteries and my Pelican card holder in here easily. 

     I opted to not bring a laptop with me since I wouldn't have any time to do any editing, but if you wanted to bring a laptop with you, the compartment on the Evecase is well padded to hold a laptop or a tablet.

Here are my final thoughts:

Design (4 out of 5 stars):  For the price, Evecase really has some well thought out design elements in this backpack.  I love the variety in access points, and I love that you can easily reconfigure the padding to suit your needs.  That being said, I felt that the velcro could've used some more attention.  There were times the velcro came apart, and while nothing happened to my gear, it was a pain to have to reattach it. 

Comfort (4.5 out of 5 stars):  Let me just say that the straps on this backpack are SO comfortable!  I never once felt uncomfortable.  They didn't skimp on the padding for sure!  I only wish they did something to manage the straps on the backpack a little better.  There were some smaller compression straps on the actual backpack pads that dangled.  I didn't know what to do with them, and sometimes they were just annoying.  I've thought about just cutting them off.  It also comes with a waist strap, but I didn't even undo those, and I didn't notice it causing me any discomfort at all.

Quality (4 out of 5 stars):  Overall, this backpack is well-made.  You definitely don't get the feeling that it's a cheap backpack.  However, because of the velcro situation mentioned above, and the fact that the zippers could be a little better quality, I had to remove one star.  

     Would I recommend this to a friend?  Absolutely!  The mere fact that I was able to fit what I fit into this backpack makes it a great value for the money.  It's also very comfortable to carry around.  It's not as sleek looking as the Peak Design Everyday backpack, but the Everyday backpack is also almost $200, so for 1/4 of the price, the Evecase is an amazing value. 

     Some of you may be wondering why I didn't just bring a rolling camera case with me.  I considered it, but I also made the mistake of booking a Spirit Airlines flight.  Any of you familiar with Spirit (because I wasn't) know that they have strict bag restrictions and charge an arm and a leg for anything outside of their bag parameters.  I did realize later on though, that I spent more money trying to find a backpack for this trip because of Spirit's bag rules, than I would've had I just paid the extra bag fees and brought my rolling case!  That being said, I had to hike up a small mountain and later on in the week, I had a portait shoot on terrain that would've been hard to navigate with a rolling case.  Overall, I'm super happy I have this backpack for when I need to pack more, or for when a rolling case isn't the best option.  Does that mean I won't be the new owner of a Peak Design Everyday backpack in December?  Hahahaha, I can't guarantee that...because I'm a bag fiend. ;)