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Thinking Outside the Box: 6 Places in New York City to Take Incredible Urban Landscape Photographs

For photographers, location can be a make or break. These locations and strategies will help photographers continue to hone their personal style even in the least convenient locations.

Max Salk Photography | The Netherlands, 2012

My career in finance requires that I live close to big cities like New York City, but that doesn’t stop me from finding landscapes to photograph. As a landscape photography hobbyist, I have traveled throughout Thailand, the Netherlands, and the United States to photograph stunning landscapes of all shapes and sizes. So when my career brought me to New York City, I had to get creative if he wanted to keep taking photographs. Sure, I could leave the city and go in search of natural landscapes in upstate New York, but as any New Yorker will tell you, once you’re in the city, it’s tough to leave.

Rather than putting away my camera, I put on a new hat as an urban landscape photographer. And for any urban landscape photographer, New York City is far from short on subject matter, both natural and man-made. To prove it, here are six places where you can be sure to capture a beautiful urban landscape.

Teardrop Park

A couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site and behind the Battery Park City Ball Fields, you’ll find urban landscapes aplenty at Teardrop Park. Even the play structures in Teardrop Park are integrated seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. A large wall of rocks taken from New York State presents lots of opportunities to play with the light that dances through the four high-rise buildings that surround the eastern and western edges of Teardrop Park. Plus, by walking out of Teardrop Park just a short way towards the water, you’ll be able to catch the sunrise.

Brooklyn Grange

You will have to travel outside Manhattan for the incredible landscape photographs you’ll be able to take at the Brooklyn Grange, but it’s well worth the trek. This 5.6-acre rooftop farm grows vegetables and honey while providing stunning views of Manhattan on the horizon. The combination of urban sights with the visual of rows of vegetables growing on top of a roof makes for a compelling, eye-catching photograph that any landscape photographer would love to display on their website or social media.

Green-Wood Cemetery

The Green-Wood cemetery actually inspired the competition that led to the design of Manhattan’s Central Park. With its chapel, sculptures, and gothic architecture, along with almost 500 acres of diverse topography, Green-Wood cemetery offers beginner and expert urban landscape photographers plenty of subjects, perspectives, and angles to play with. A particularly notable place in the cemetery is Gown’s Heights, which is also known as Battle Hill. This hill boasts one of the highest elevations in the entire borough of Brooklyn. As you’d expect, the elevation provides interesting views of the cemetery itself with the backdrop of the city forming an interesting, contrasting background which landscape photographers can leverage with a variety of framing techniques to create memorable photographs.

The Winter Garden

The Winter Garden is about as large as the iconic main concourse of Grand Central Station. It’s a wonder of architecture with gigantic glass windows. You can see the outside of the atrium from the river and admire the way the light plays off the panes of glass which number in the thousands. The atrium is so large that it fits gigantic palm trees that are clearly not native to NYC but make for unique subject matter for any urban landscape photographer. The Winter Garden was actually previously attached by a walkway to the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attacks. Since that walkway was destroyed, it’s been replaced by an opulent staircase that provides a fantastic view of the site of the World Trade Center.

Central Park

Of course, you can’t list out the top spots to take incredible landscape photographs in New York City without mentioning the gigantic expanse of Central Park which runs right through the middle of Manhattan. Created in the mid-1800s, you’ll have no problem finding unique landscapes mixed with nature and city in Central Park. There’s the Delacorte Theater, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the Central Park Carousel, and Bethesda Terrace, among many other, man-made wonders that photograph quite well in various times of the day.

In addition to photographing the man-made structures in Central Park, you’ll have a chance to take purely natural landscape photographs in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, the North Woods, or the Ramble, which are all expansive woodlands inside the park. In these wooded areas, you’ll feel as if you’ve exited the city and gone to one of the densely wooded areas that I traveled through in Thailand to snap pictures of the rugged, natural landscape.

Clay Pit Ponds

For a place to take landscape photographs that don’t feel urban at all without leaving New York City, you can head over to Clay Pit Ponds on Staten Island. This state park is the former site of quarry operations. In the place of the abandoned quarry pits grew an eclectic mix of wildlife and vegetation that provides a refreshingly natural landscape for NYC’s urban dwellers to photograph. There are two trails which you can hike to find the perfect angle for your photograph called Ellis Swamp Trail and Abraham’s Pond Trail.

Photographs Wherever You Are

Each of the places introduced here will provide plenty of opportunities for landscape photographers to take frame-worthy photographs. But as I can attest, in the fast-paced city of New York, it can be tough to find the time to travel to each one of these spots, even if it’s just a subway ride away. So don’t feel as if you have to go to a park or find some famous landmark; walk around the city, wherever you live, and look for opportunities for a truly unique urban landscape photograph.

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