When in New York last week I decided to get my own tourist photo of the New York skyline
For the last week I had been able to see the highest building, the Empire State Building from my bed at the Ace Hotel five blocks away. And when a friend recommended that it was actually worth going through the painful experience of being a tourist to see the amazing architecture, I decided "why not?"
My view from the ACE Hotel in New York. Leica M9 with Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
But when researching on the net how to get up there the least touristy way, I stumbled over a blog where it was mentioned that one could photograph from the Empire State Building at 33th Street or The Rock 49th Street (The Rockefeller Plaza).
The Rock has the advantage that if offers a view to the Empire State Building, as well as a closer view to Central Park. Why stand on top of the main attraction when you can get it in the image by choosing another building.
Hence on the day where it was overcast I booked a scheduled tour at 4 PM for 25$ and walked the twenty streets up to The Rock equipped with a Leica M9, a 21mm and a 90mm lens. I got the ticket by e-mail so they could scan my iPhone.
It took about 30 minutes to get in and up to the top (you have to skip the cue that offers a group photo of your self with other tourists which you can then buy at a counter on the top where they yell "Get your Kodak photos").
On the two lower observatory levels you can photograph through the spaces between the thick glass.
On the first of three observatory levels (about 70th floor that is) you can walk out to either side and photograph towards Central Park or the Empire State Building through the spaces between the thick glass. The same goes for the higher level, wheras on the upper level that is smaller, there is no glass walls (because you can only fall two floors down). This top floor offers the most unhindered shot as you also have more space in the bottom of the frame when shooting with a wide angle.
The view from the absolute top of The Rock offers the absolute unhindered view without glass. Leica M9 with Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
I tried different things with both the 90mm and the 21mm lenses. As I had choosen an overcast day with the light coming from the backside of The Empire State Building it wasn't clear enough to make some breatthtaking photos with the 90mm lens. But perhaps anohter day I will do it again and try to get some 90mm shots with straight angels by shooting directly at the buildings, but also snap some photos down at the street where you can see people, taxis and all nicely framed by skyscrabers.
Even there is a free view from the top, the Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 captures some of the building in the bottom with it's 90° angle view. And the good or bad thing is that is is so razor sharp and detailed so that all the windows, lines and details almost become too sharp.
The way to get straight lines is to hold the camera in an upright position. If you tilt the camera up or down you will get tilting lines; the wider a lens, the more the lines will tilt. And you want straight lines because that is how the buildings are standing.
The above is a ca. 35% crop of an image with the Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 where I have cropped the details from The Rock in the bottom away, as well as the sides.
I had to tilt the camera down so as to get more buildings at the bottom, and to compensate for that I then adjusted the vertical lines +49 in Lightroom so as to get the lines straight again. You can see the picture right here.
Shooting cityscapes like that is different if you don't know the city from that viewpoint. I learned a few things when reviewing the photos and might spend a little time on my next visit figuring out interesting views, taking the position of the sun and other things into account.
Hope this inspired you to find some tall buildings whereever you visit and play with it..!