Having had a bit of a wait for the flight from Las Vegas’ McCarran airport to New York, we were pleased to finally get called to board the plane taking us pretty much the breadth of the country on an overnight flight. Even more pleased were we with the thought of catching some much needed shuteye, regardless of the abundant lack of legroom. NOTHING was stopping me from sleeping…. Or so I thought!
And so it was that no sooner had I settled myself in to my chair, in the middle of three seats (Dave having wisely chosen the window seat) an especially portly chap landed himself next to me and spent 5 minutes trying to crowbar his ample frame between the armrests, with what couldn’t fit in that area now spilling over in to my personal space. This was going to be a long 6 hour flight!
Thankfully, I still managed a couple of hours of fitful sleep and as we touched down at JFK international, I was buoyed by the fact that I would be spending a whirlwind 23 hours in what has now become my favourite city on Earth!
The exuberance was slightly dented when we collected our checked luggage though and I discovered that the zip on my suitcase had been busted open, with the bag now being only half closed! With around £15k of camera equipment in there then, I started to panic a little but having found the contents of my case fully intact and present, Dave and I concluded that my bag had been TSA checked and the zip simply needed pulling all the way around to be reset! Note to self: Buy TSA padlocks before leaving the USA!
So with that minor upset out of the way, we made our way out to get a cab and start exploring this amazing city. But first to check in at our digs, the magnificently sounding ‘Bowery Grand hotel’. Having entered the premises and climbing the very narrow, grimy stairs, it was clear there was nothing ‘Grand’ about this place! Our room, if it can be called that, hammered that nail well and truly home when we got the first glance at it. It was literally no longer the length of the bed, and under twice as wide. This time yesterday, I was staying in the 5 star luxury of the Mandalay Bay in Vegas and today, this…
(Photo credit: Hybrid Dave)
Sod it though, I thought, because with any hope I’d only be putting my head down for a couple of hours here anyway! So having dumped our main luggage in reception, we grabbed our camera bags and headed out in to the early Saturday morning sun to catch a subway to Central Park to find somewhere for a quick breakfast. That somewhere turned out to be Starbucks (of course!) on Columbus Circle.
As it happened though, this turned out to the be the best location to start out from, as it gave us ample opportunities to shoot archetypal New York traffic, some minor skyscrapers and also take a little refuge form the noise with a short walk in Central Park. It also offered me the scene I shot below, an image I actually didn’t mean to capture (Take a look at this shot on my Instagram page – @hybridpeter – for the full explanation of that!).
From here, we jumped back on the Subway and headed South towards… well, due to a mixture of tiredness and bewildered wonderment, I basically just followed Dave, as I assumed he had a plan of where we were going. Given this, when we got off at Cortlandt Street and walked through some subway tunnels, I had no idea where I was, even when I walked out in to this beautiful bright white ‘under construction’ shopping mall.
Having a huge interest in architectural photography, I was loving all the lines and angles of the roof of this building, which at the time reminded me of the wings of an angel. Shortly after, I realised the potential meaning behind that design when slowly, and ashamed at having only just realised, it dawned on me that this was ground zero of the World Trade Centre! Having found myself standing under the star spangled banner for this realisation, I took a moment of remembrance for all those who lost their lives nearly 15 years ago before quietly making our way out in to the contrasting cacophony of noise from the street. It was a very sobering experience!
Having consulted the map this time, we decided to head along Wall Street towards the Staten island ferry terminal and along the way found ourselves straining our necks up at the astoundingly huge buildings that New York is famed for.
Having made it to the ferry port, I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised at quite how so busy it was on a sunny Saturday in July, with people filling the entire terminal building. Soon enough the doors opened though and we were filing through on to the boat (which is free remarkably) to the upper most (and worryingly named) Hurricane Deck.
A short sail out, a long wait and a short sail back found us back in Manhattan with yet another tick on our to do list. By now, we were starting to feel a little weary, a little hungry and a lot in need of liquid refreshment though, so we were off to the subway again, this time pointing ourselves towards 5th Avenue and a rooftop bar that we’d discovered online. Before we made it that far though, we decided that no trip to 5th Avenue would be complete without getting a shot of the Flatiron building and so, not wishing to upset tradition, that’s exactly what we did…
and, of course, the Empire State building
When we finally arrived at 230 5th Avenue, it was around 35c (95f) and we’d each been carrying the best part of 10kgs of camera equipment all day, so it felt like manna from heaven when we shot up to the 30th floor in the lift and disembarked in to a very cool looking and actually cool lounge bar. We weren’t here for the A/C though, we were here for the views and so with a freshly poured beer in hand, we headed out on to the roof terrace, which itself was a garden oasis of calm amongst the tumult below, and rattled off a few birds eye shots of our surroundings.
(Time for a well earned break!)
Having sufficiently refreshed ourselves and with time getting the better of us, we hot footed it over to our last pre-planned stop of the day… The Rockefeller Plaza.
Having made our way up to the top, the views were astounding. With Central Park to the North, Lower Manhattan to the South and the Hudson river and Long Island/Brooklyn to the West and East respectively, we were spoilt for choice. I plumped for shooting the most iconic view of New York during our sunset session and stayed long enough to capture both golden hour and blue hour images.
Making out way back down and out on to the street, it was now fully dark and so the scene that met us lent itself entirely to slow shutter light trails. Who are we to deny such an opportunity then.
For the next hour or so we just wandered through the streets, taking in the sights and sounds of this amazing city and eventually, almost naturally, we gravitated towards Times Square.
Bizarrely, it was at this point that I suddenly remembered that I needed a TSA lock for my suitcase, so as not to have it busted open again at the airport and, as luck would have it, I found a Walgreens that was still open (at 11pm on a Saturday!) which even more luckily had one in stock!
As we walked back out on to Times Square, we both decided that enough was enough and that with barely 5 1/2 hours left until I needed to grab a taxi back to JFK, we should call it a day (photography wise, anyway) and headed for a bar, which happened to be just around the corner off Broadway.
After numerous beers and a good man-chat, we finally gave in entirely and headed off towards the nearest subway back to our prison cell! Having not eaten for some time though, we thought a hotdog from one of the cities many stands would be a good idea…. and it was!
Unfortunately though, a slight mix up on the subway (which had nothing to do with the amount we had drunk…honest!) saw us in Harlem at 4am and fearing for our imminent wellbeing, it was Uber to the rescue and we were spirited away to the relative safety of the Bowery Grand, where I bid a sad farewell to my B-FAM, Dave, who was staying on a few days longer.
As I’d hoped earlier, my time in the cell was short, as I had half an hour to get my suitcase in final order before I made my way back out on to the street to catch a taxi back to JFK. There would be no awkward and tiring wait for the plane this time though, as I had managed to blag myself a Virgin Upper Class flight home and so having breezed through check in and security, it was off to the Upper Class lounge to indulge in some breakfast and relaxation.
Boarding the plane and turning left instead of right (for the first time in my life) and settling in to my comfy bed seat, I strangely found myself in much the same position as when I’d started the journey, with legs outstretched and a glass of champagne in my hand. The added luxury was very much appreciated (and needed by this point) though.
After that, it was time to get on with some serious editing!!!
After a very relaxing and unfortunately short flight then, I found myself back in London, exiting Terminal 4 at Heathrow and running straight in to the arms of my wife and beautiful children. Man, I’d missed them!!!
All in all, I’d be missing America hugely and the amazing experience it had afforded me along with the incredible and crazy people it had allowed me to meet. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!
But hey, PSW is in Orlando next year! Now, if I can just get the wife to agree again……