Autumn In New York City – A Photo Walk

Autumn is great for street photography…  Unfortunately it’s also great for head colds and the flu.  If street photography were like harvesting apples then this last trip, with being sick, wouldn’t have yielded enough apples to make a glass of juice.  I can’t say it was a complete loss though, each time I visit NYC I’m scouting out locations for the next Street Photography Workshop and I think I’ve got a great one planned for the Spring of 2016 (I’ll be posting next years schedule in the next few weeks).

On this adventure my wife and I stayed in the Murray Hill area, it’s a diverse area of the city close enough to the hustle and bustle but far enough to be what I would consider one of the more laid back areas of the city.  If you want the city experience without getting dry humped up and down the sidewalk I’d highly recommend this area.

JMB_1486Street photography with a head cold is like trying to drive first thing in the morning when all of your windows are still covered in frost except that small opening you’ve shaved off with your busted up window scraper…  It’s possible but dangerous difficult.  The shot above was taken as I walked out of the hotel, the Shelburne NYC hotel.  The doormen were pleasant and wore the yesteryear hats you see above.  I spotted this shot as I left the hotel to walk over to Bryant Park, Murray Hill is a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal and then a few more to Times Square.

You know, if you think about it, we are always on the look out for interesting subjects…  Subjects who are wearing funny hats, bright colors, or just out of the ordinary.  If that’s the case and we base a lot of what we know about the past on paintings and old photographs then there is a small chance that how we thought people dressed or acted back in “the day” is really how those “interesting” (i.e. odd) subjects acted.  Think about, someone walking along the street in normal clothes, doing normal things, doesn’t really scream timeless shot.  Does it?

JMB_1359One of the fist shots I took was in Times Square.  My wife wanted to partake in the Good Morning America experience so I wondered around and stole souls with my camera while she watched the show.  I enjoyed this scene because of the pattern of the people on ladders and the fact that it was rather unusual to see in such a busy area.

The photograph below stood out to me because it’s quite the juxtaposition from the way Times Square was on the other side of that wall.  On one side you’ve got that solitary man sitting on top of the wall, separated from the hustle and bustle on the other side of the wall where thousands and thousands of people are walking past.

JMB_1398When I’m in tight, busy places I like to practice layering subjects.  The shot below isn’t very interesting but it’s an example of layering.  Normally I would stop down my aperture so the subject in the foreground would be sharper but the light wasn’t ideal and using an aperture of f/11 would have caused motion blur.

JMB_1363Shots like the one above will never make it to Flickr or be shared in any other way than as an example.  It takes a lot of shots like this to capture a decent image with heavy layering (stay tuned to for an article all about mastering layering).

What is layering?  Layering, in street photography, is the process of composing with subjects in the fore, mid, and background of an image.

JMB_1509It wouldn’t be a trip to NYC without making a stop on the High Line, one of my favorite places to wonder around.  The High Line was a rail line that serviced the Meat Packing District back in the day (as well as other areas in the city) that has been converted into a walking path that is raised a couple of stories off the ground, there are still remnants of the rail way along with newly planted trees and flowers.

The photograph of the couple above was actually quite awkward.  At first I thought about taking the shot from the waste as I walked by but I definitely didn’t want to miss it.  I had to be incredibly quick because the girl kept looking over his shoulder to make sure some creepy photographer wasn’t taking their photograph people weren’t staring.  People were staring.  The shot isn’t as sharp as I’d have liked but I was quick like a bunny.

JMB_1527There are many different overlooks on the High Line, it’s a truly unique way to view the city.  Each time I walk it I try to capture a new and interesting view of the city.  I also have this weird fascination with the people who live along it…  Do they enjoy people looking into their window?

1015_untitled_031While in the area I decided to stop by Chelsea Market to do some panning shots of people riding bikes and skateboarding.  If you’ve ever done panning before you know it takes a little while to get a feel for the speed you need to pan in order to match the speed and distance the subject is maintaining.  It’s not the easiest technique to tackle.  The image below stood out to me because I feel like if it had been me skating by you’d have seen a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, maybe ankle braces, and one of those foam bed covers completely wrapped around me for safety.  There is a slim chance that I would not face plant while riding a skateboard through the already hectic city.  Kudos brave hipster.  Kudos.

JMB_1593What’s a trip to NYC without checking out Central Park.  I’m pretty sure it’s against the law.  My wife and I took a cab to somewhere near the center of Central Park, she wanted to go shopping and I wanted to walk through the park and take some photos…  That’s what we call win/win.

JMB_1607Unfortunately at this point I was running on fumes and feeling pretty crummy… I was sick remember…  The park was incredibly packed, I’m not sure but I think it was because of the upcoming marathon.  One of the first shots I took was of the guy above standing on the small wall next to the large reservoir.  The way he was standing looked like he was just waiting to have his photograph taken and then be pushed into the reservoir.

JMB_1659The last shot I’ll share with you was taken in Central Park as well.  There was a group of dancer/gymnasts doing a show and I wanted to capture a shot that was a little different from a lot of the others I’ve seen (there are groups like this all through NYC).  I put the camera on drive mode as this guy did his acrobats across the frame and on the fourth shot I caught him looking like he just fell from the sky.

New York City is an incredible place for street photography.  Keep your eye on the website and watch for the upcoming schedule with NYC workshop dates and we can photograph the streets together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts but I’m not clairvoyant… so please leave them in the comments section below.


  • Jayne Kaj says:

    Which camera did you use for the Fall Walk in NYC?

    • John Barbiaux says:

      Jayne, all of the shots in the article were taken with the Nikon Df. I took the Nikon Df and the Fuji X100T. I’m a huge advocate of taking a camera with you wherever you go so I take the X100T when I don’t feel like taking the Df (the Df is a bit larger than the Fuji but by no means a large camera).

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