From the Bottom of the Rockefeller Center: Travel Photography from NYC, New York

By August 29, 2013 Travel No Comments

We had a list of photographs to take in New York City. We’d gotten the Statue of Liberty at Sunset. We’d gotten Times Square at night. Tonight was the city skyline from the top of Rockefeller Center.


The plan was dead in the water. We found our way into the building and figured out which hallway led to the elevator. That’s when we saw the line. It wasn’t happening. It just wasn’t. We’d spent the entire day walking around the city. We were tired, and Dannie had blisters on both her heels. I’m willing to climb a mountain to take a good photograph, but not if there’s a line of people the whole way up, all waiting to get the same shot.


Actually, it was liberating. Quickly resolving to take some photos from outside the building instead didn’t feel like quitting so much as adjusting to the circumstances. We decided to practice HDR photography, which we had recently learned how to use, and a quick internet search yielded few HDR images of Rockefeller Center, which meant this was a good opportunity to create something fairly original.

Looking up at the building I began to set up my tripod. I’d just extended the legs when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned, expecting to see Dannie, but instead found a man in a black jacket wearing a badge. It wasn’t a cop but a security guard. It seems the reason there are so few HDR images of Rockefeller Center is that HDR photography requires a tripod, and tripods are not allowed on the premises.

Given the volume of foot traffic outside the rule was reasonable but inconvenient. I asked him if monopods were ok, and he said yes. How about tripods with only one leg extended? He said he thought that would be acceptable. How about tripods with all three legs extended but really close together? He said I was pushing my luck, but if I kept out of the way he would allow it.

I moved to the far side of the walkway which was where I needed to be anyway to get the whole building in the shot. I was using an ultra wide angle lens, but even still it’s a very tall building. I opened the legs ever so slightly, just enough so that the camera could stand up without my hand on it. I had a cable shutter release to reduce shake, which was good because pushing the shutter would have tipped the whole thing over. I was ready to make a diving catch in case there was a gust of wind.

I composed my shot and started making exposures. I checked the first set and saw that the histogram was too far to the left, even on my “overexposed” shot. I made an adjustment and started again. As I waited for the final exposure to finish, a man stepped in front of the camera and addressed me.

“No tripods,” he said.


If you’ve ever heard a whiny child protesting “but Mom said I could do it,” you can imagine what I sounded like explaining what the other security guard had told me. This was so unfair! The other security guard was so much cooler!

Ok, I wasn’t that bad, but I definitely wasn’t very convincing because I soon found myself packing up my gear and moving on to photograph the gardens nearby.

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