New York’s skyline may be the most photographed in the world and it is not easy to get an original shot. One thing you can do is find a less usual location. Most people shoot downtown Manhattan, either from Brooklyn or from New Jersey.
Gantry Plaza State Park is an awesome location in Queens, on the banks of the East River. It is just east of Midtown Manhattan, which means you have a great vantage point over many iconic buildings: Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, United Nations Headquarters, Citigroup Center and Trump World Tower.
It is not as crowded as the Brooklyn Bridge Park for example, because it is further away from other attractions. I think there was only one photographer when I was there during Labor Day weekend. Most people seemed to be residents of the nearby condos, which have one of the best views in the world, by the way…
It is very easy to access: take the M subway from Times Square or Grand Central and stop at Vernon Blvd – Jackson Av. Just walk west along 50th Avenue and you’ll reach Gantry Plaza and the East River.
As you can see I went for a straight skyline shot, using a long exposure to take advantage of the clouds. The image at the top was shot just after sunset (that happened behind the clouds). The light was very well balanced between the sky and the city, with very subtle tones. Sometimes I prefer to shoot before the full colors of the blue hour.
The image below was shot several minutes later, when the blue hour was full on. As you can see, the scene changed a lot in only minutes, with luminosity decreasing quickly. Low clouds tend to take an orange hue due to the street lights.
There are many possible composition at Gantry Plaza, with several piers that would make a great foreground. I would love to go back and shoot more from this location!
This is not, by any means, a secret location, but you should be able to get a shot that not too many people have. I really enjoyed shooting from Gantry Plaza and I think it is one of the best spots in NYC.