One Day in New York City: A Self-Imposed Challenge in Lowlight/Night Photography

When my company announced that I was chosen for a negotiation workshop at the headquarters in New York City, I was all about it.  Not only is negotiation my favorite aspect of being a lawyer, but couple that with travel to one of my favorite destinations in the US and taking this trip was a no-brainer. 

This excursion held several “firsts” for me.  One, I had never been to our company headquarters so I wanted to see how the executives “do”.  Second, I usually drive to New York but opted for taking the train this time.  Third, I had never been to the financial/waterfront district of New York, so I was excited to see a new part of the City.

I knew that I was only going to be in New York for one day, but I took my camera anyway.  As a photographer, I kick myself every time I leave it at home thinking that I won’t have time to shoot because of other obligations. That lesson has forced me to carry it along no matter what.  If I take some shots, then excellent!  but at least I’m not coming home with regret and crappy cellphone pics.

I took only my 50 mm lens and created my own little photography challenge.  I knew this lens would be very limiting in what I could produce in images but it’s lighter to carry and I didn’t want to be weighed down lugging all my stuff around the City.  Also, my train wasn’t getting in until late afternoon when I would be faced with low and night light making the faster lens perfect for this situation.

To be honest, I’ve been struggling with low light shots and this was the perfect time to take the bull by the horns.   I also left the tripod at home.  This might have been a mistake but that was part of the challenge.  It forced me to improvise and really play with the settings.

These images document my day in pictures in my self-imposed challenge.

Empire State Building

3p: I left Penn Station in New York City and was delighted to discover that B&H Photography store was only a few blocks away.  I’ve been shopping for a new lens to add to my collection and was a little hesitant to buy online without ever having held or tested the lens on my camera.  I stupidly deleted all my shots of B&H.  If you’ve never been to this store, it’s photography mecca.  You’ll understand that my head was spinning when I left there.

On my walk to the subway, this beautiful building was glowing in the afternoon light and I couldn’t resist taking a shot.  I didn’t know at the time that it was the Empire State Building.  Does this make me an idiot or a genius for recognizing its beauty? I’m not sure…

4p: The City is decorated for Christmas with these lovely shooting stars.  I took this one on the walk to my hotel.  It’s a little fuzzy at 100% but I love the scene.


5p: It’s a bit darker now. MLYNN_2014_NYC-12_BlogWithout a tripod, this street scene was difficult to achieve.  This was the clearest shot I could manage and just accepted the guy on the scooter as part of the overall busy-ness of New York.

6p:  I’ve finally made it to the Financial District!  It was quite a surprise to see the Seaport area was hosting a giant Christmas tree and ice skating rink…

Seaport Tree and Ice Skating Rink

Seaport Tree and Ice Skating Rink

It was so dark through my lens, I didn’t even see the person standing on my right.  I can’t crop him/her out or I’d lose too much of the image.  The people were moving but they don’t have three heads so I’m calling this shot a win.

Across from the Seaport was the water.  I ventured over there to find the Brooklyn Bridge!  Again, I’m not an idiot – just unfamiliar with the area and winging it.  I wasn’t there to sightsee but managed to accidently see a few very popular tourist attractions.

For this shot, I set the camera on the railing, did manual focus and I’m pleased with the result.


And here’s bit of fun…


630p: Dinnertime!  What would a lowlight photography challenge be without a shot indoors?


The Next Day – 730a: I’m not a morning person but I knew I’d be inside all day long so I forced myself to take a few shots of the waterfront in the early morning light (730a is early for me!)

6p: I booked it uptown to meet my bff for dinner.  Forgot about the camera…..sadly, didn’t get a shot of us together…

930p: And…the day is over.  What do you do when you wait around for your train to arrive at Penn Station?  Practice, practice, practice!

I hope you enjoyed this post.  I had a lot of fun challenging myself with this one.  My pics are not that great, but respectable IMHO given the circumstances.  I’d love to know what you think.  What are your photography challenges?

If only I had received these tips on low light photography BEFORE I went to New York…

I am happy to report that I bought my new lens today from B&H and I’m looking forward to upping my photography game in the New Year….

For more awesome and “almost free” tips on things to do in New York City, check out fellow blogger’s Almost Free NYC website.


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