Central Park in Black and White and in Colour

central park boaters copy

Last fall, I did a 7-part series in this blog featuring images of New York. It’s such a visually rich city and I had such a good time shooting it that I was thrilled to have the chance to make another trip this fall.

Last year I signed up for a photo safari called “Iconic New York.” It was a great fun to discover key spots in Midtown Manhattan with fellow photographers and get tips to improve my photo skills. You can read more about it here.

Me and my sister on the Bow Bridge. Photo by Rob, Photo Safari leader.

As I was going to be travelling with my sister Elena this time, who enjoys photography as much as I do, I suggested we sign up for another safari — this time in Central Park, a place we both love.

Ever since my very first trip to New York back in the early 80s, I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Central Park. I appreciate its enormity, its diversity, its intelligent and beautiful design and the way it is open and accessible to everyone.

Public green spaces are vital to liveable city life — and Central is one of the most exceptional examples in the world of how that works. New Yorkers love it — and so do visitors from all over the world.

Our group met at the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace and concentrated our first shots around that area. Leader Rob, a professional photographer, offered useful pointers and suggestions before and after we made our images. I particularly enjoyed discussing composition with him. He gave us demos and also gave us plenty of time to wander on our own.

There were four of us in the group, which turned out to be very congenial — two Canadians (my sister and I) and a man from Australia and a woman from New Zealand.

We then gathered under the arches and practised shooting in low light and high dynamic range situations.

After that we moseyed on to the Bow Bridge, which proved to be a great vantage point for shooting the boaters on the Lake and the Loeb Boathouse. The day had been forecast to be rainy, but we did not get one drop. It turned out to be gorgeous with lovely light.

Before we parted 2 1/2 hours later, we also spent some time in the famous tree-lined Mall.

Elena and I spent the rest of the day continuing to explore areas of the park we hadn’t been before (such as the Ramble) as well as returning to spend more time around the Bethesda Fountain.

This is where I made some of my favorite images — and happened to look up just at the right time to catch a young couple ready to kiss. It was a “decisive moment” as Cartier-Bresson would say.

The whole area was packed with people taking pictures and enjoying themselves and the excellent free entertainment. It was obviously a magnet for romantic wedding pictures as everywhere we went we saw brides and grooms posing together. To get my images with fewer people in them, I had to be patient and wait for just the right time.

The colours in stone and tile work under the Terrace are beautifully soft and subtle, which makes for lovely colour pictures, but the stone arches and interesting architecture and light also suits black and white photography perfectly.

So I did both.

It was a still a bit early in the season for the really vibrant fall foliage (not to self: go a bit later in the fall next time), but there was enough of a change to make the background scenery pop a bit.

I found that alternating between my wide angle zoom (24 to 85 mm) and my telephoto zoom (70 to 200 mm) gave me a good variety of focal lengths to capture the images I was drawn to.

These are only a small group of my images of Central Park, as you can imagine. I just may have to do another post on this very special place!


I surprised myself by being fast enough to capture this “decisive moment”.

arches band

The Terrace arches in black and white.


With their beautiful light, couples flock to the Bethesda Arches for wedding pictures.


These giant bubbles must have looked magical to the little ones. Hey, they looked magical to me!


The Loeb Boathouse reflected in the waters of the still Lake.


My sister focusses her camera on some of the beautiful details of the Arches.

sherry and rob

Elena took this one of me and Rob discussing a shot.

The New York Series, Part 7…

My photo safari in New York City


The iconic Chrysler Building from below

Before I left for my recent trip to New York City, I made a shot list, and on it were several of my favorite places. In previous posts I’ve featured the Flatiron Building and Central Park, which were right at the top.

But I also wanted to shoot Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, Times Square, the Chrysler Building and the Grace Building, all places I had been before, but wanted to see again through my camera’s lens. But I doubted I’d have the time to shoot all of them since my visit was quite short.

Luckily I stumbled on a solution. I found out about a small group photo safari offered by a knowledgeable photographer. It was highly rated by Trip Advisor and so I signed up for it online. It was a three-hour tour of iconic places and buildings, many of which were on my list.

Zim: we couldn’t have had a better or more passionate instructor/guide…

The morning of the safari, I met up with my group of seven at a breakfast spot across from Grand Central Terminal. I got there early, after figuring out my way on the subway with no problems. The first two people I saw with cameras  were a lovely mother and daughter team from Birmingham, England.

Over coffee I learned that Sharon was treating Molly to a trip to New York to celebrate her 18th birthday. Sharon was enthusiastic about photography and just learning her new DSLR. Molly was on a point and shoot. They had arrived in New York City the day before and were still adjusting to the time change and the overwhelming sights and sounds.But they were gung ho to make the most of their week in the Big Apple.

Gradually the others arrived and then we met our fearless leader, Zim, and did a round of introductions. In addition to Molly and Sharon, on the tour were three Australians, one American living in Singapore and me, the token Canadian. Some of us had DSLRs, some point and shoots and some smart phones. Jack, a serious hobby photographer, told me this was his fourth photo safari during his three-week trip to New York. He was shooting with a wide angle 10-20mm lens that made me drool with envy.

But Zim did not discriminate. Her safari offered something for everyone — at all skill and experience levels — and we all left with wonderful images of New York City after the three hours, which just flew by.

Zim had a route that she followed to cover the major icons, but she left plenty of room for spontaneous shooting. As she led us, she walked ahead, but backwards, so she could talk to us.

NYPD blue

Zim encouraged us to shoot icons like taxis and police cars and dispelled the idea that it’s illegal to photograph police or their cars.

Every so often she would stop and point and say: shoot this! We would snap away, and because the group was so small, she could easily do the rounds to comment on our composition and exposure etc. and make very helpful suggestions to improve our captures. One of the things I liked most about this photo safari was the immediate feedback you received and the easy tips that you could put into practice right away.

It was crazy busy on the streets of midtown Manhattan. A true New Yorker, Zim did not wait for lights to cross the street. She just charged ahead in the middle, followed by her merry band. At one point, as we all forced the oncoming traffic to stop for us (yikes, I hate jaywalking!), I waved to the fancy black sedan in thanks. Zim called out: “You didn’t just wave thanks to that car did you?” And I called back: “Sure I did, I’m Canadian!”

I’m definitely going to do another safari in New York (next time it’ll be Times Square at night) — and other places as well, where I can. I highly recommend the experience. I came back with so many images that I haven’t even begun to process. If you have any questions about this photo safari, please feel free to ask me in the comments.