New York Street Photography – Scenes From Photo Walks

New York City, nicknamed the Big Apple, is unlike any city anywhere else in the world.  New York street photography can be an amazing way to fully get the feel for this unique city.  The activities of life occur with a frequency and continuity that are unthinkable. You need to experience it in order to truly grasp its ‘flavor’.

New york street photopgraphy. Black and white image of a skateboard performer at Columbus Circle in New York City. by Luca Venturi.
SKATEBOARD performer – COLUMBUS CIRCLE There was no hesitation to stop and wait for the best moment to portray this muscular skateboarder during one of his evolutions. Though he appeared to be in his own world, he was under the curious gaze of two boys.

It appears to be a city in constant motion, both during the day and at night.It was my goal while visiting to capture its atmosphere through the life scenes that help characterize this American metropolis – document its dynamic and unique street life through my photos.

Black and white image of a saxaphone player with a girl watching at the 42nd Street subway station in New York City by Luca Venturi.
SAXACHARM – 42nd street subway platform

The musician’s skill and elegance, along with the presence of a young woman who was following with admiration, caught my eye.

You’ll notice the convergence of diagonal lines, virtually created by the arms, the saxophone and the direction of the eyes, gives the image a compositional balance. The sensuality and sense of amazement of the girl, along with placing the musician in the foreground were crucial to convey the harmony and emotional flow of the scene

As a photographer, all you have to do is pick a few great locations and you won’t have to move very far within an area to find new and interesting photo subjects. You can simply relax in one of the many benches in the Big Apple to encounter interesting and curious street scenes.

But don’t relax too much or you’ll miss the making the photo. You do need to pay close attention to what is going on around you and have your camera ready at all times.

Black and white image of two girls sleeping at a subway station in New York City by Luca Venturi.

 Tips For Great New York Street Photography

Let the subject rest – you, the photographer, must be alert at all times! While waiting for the metro at High Street Station, two girls close to me have a sudden sleep attack and assume a curious posing with their heads tilted to the same side.

Though seated not more than 30 inches from them, I do not hesitate to freeze the moment. A strong contrast in activity is depicted by including the presence of other persons in the background.

This would be my second visit to New York City. This time, before I left my home in Italy, I researched some of the most interesting landmarks from which I could create fascinating panoramic views of the city – to reserve street scenes that I thought would be especially appealing.

I wanted to give the viewer of my images a sample of the incredible photo opportunities they could find should they travel to the City themselves to perhaps also  indulge in New York Street Photography

Black and white image of a vagrant sleeping on a park bench in the gardens of the square in New York City by Luca Venturi.

I took advantage of the presence of a clochard (vagrant) sleeping in the gardens of the square to try to transmit the sensation of inertia and uncertainty – the strong contrast with the energy of the bicyclist and the old man’s indifference to his surrounding reality.

I then prepared the photographic equipment that would be inseparable during my stay in the Big Apple. Along with the Canon 5d Mark III came three lenses: 16-35 f/2.8 (typically used for landscapes), 24-70 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8 (although used infrequently).

With a desire to enter a scene as much as possible and create images with a strong expressive force, I often used the 16-35 mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens for street photography, even at the risk of getting obvious distortions of people in the foreground.

Black and white image of a man making giant bubbles and little girls trying to break them in Central Park in New York City by Luca Venturi.

Strolling through Central Park is always an enjoyable opportunity to spend free time surrounded by the green of a nature that I like to call “urban”. Roads, footpaths, squares, and bike lanes are real connecting routes frequented by street performers who, with their shows, entertain participatory and amused audiences of all ages.

It is of fundamental importance to be in the right place at the right time and be able to anticipate the action.

Quickly composing the scene before you can be a challenge, but the most important element is the subject. Is it interesting – will it tell a story, evoke an emotion or have meaning to the viewer? Is there a sense of excitement or movement in the scene?

New York Street Photography. Black and white image of an old man - flute player entertaining visitors waiting to get on a ferry to Ellis Island in New York City by Luca Venturi.

While waiting waiting for the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, I encountered this old man who, with the flute, gladdens tourists before boarding. By utilizing a shallow depth of field, the viewer’s attention remains on the action, his expressive eyes, white hair, and the character of his face and hands.

From there you’ll need to make quick decisions on how you want to portray the subject – their location, along with what surrounding elements you want to include within the image frame. You’ll need to be quick on your feet to eliminate any distracting elements.

Do you want the subject to pop out of the background using a shallow depth of field or keep all the background elements in play? Can you show any layers – foreground, middle and background elements that will play important roles in the overall scene? How does the light play on the subject?

These are just a few things to consider when doing a fast observation and evaluation of your subject and the overall scene. Whatever you do, try to compose in-camera rather than cropping and losing precious pixels during post-production.

Black and white image of an artist sleeping near his work and a man sleeping in his car on the street in New York City by Luca Venturi.

Yes, it is possible to sleep when there is the hustle and bustle of the city going on around you! There is strong contrast with the afternoon dynamism of an area situated not far from the Hard Rock Café – one of the symbols of a “city that never sleeps”.

Intending to isolate the scene to focus only on the two people who are sleeping, but still wanting to contextualize the moment through the Hard Rock Cafe sign in the background, I quickly look for the correct composition – one that will contain layers of interest from the foreground to background.

The Big Apple is a grand arena for street photographers, so be sure to add it to your bucket list of places to visit. New York Street Photography can bring a totally new dimension to your photography.

Black and white image of a young ballet dancer practicing in front of the David H. Koch Theater in New York City by Luca Venturi.
BALLET REHEARSALS Lincoln Center for the performing Arts

This young dancer is practicing her ballet routine in front of the David H. Koch Theater under the watchful eye of her instructor. I just have enough time to get closer to the scene and to make two images before this improvised performance ends and she goes inside the theater. The dancer in all her grace seems to direct the viewer harmoniously with the emblem of her corps de ballet emblem.

By Luca Venturi
Article and photos: © 2014 Luca Venturi. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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