Photographing New York: Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront

Manhattan Bridge, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)

Walking the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn waterfront, and the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most spectacular walks in the city. You can do this at any time, but I highly suggest starting 45 minutes before sunset or sunrise. The walk can take anywhere from two to four hours depending on your pace and if you decide to see everything mentioned here. If you do not have the energy for the entire route, I suggest doing the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn waterfront and then taking a taxi from there back into Manhattan. Taxis are very easy to find by the waterfront. This area is safe to photograph at night, but as always be careful, and it can’t hurt to bring a friend. A tripod will be necessary at night.

Start on the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, and take the path on the right (the south) side. Keep an eye out for the occasional bicyclist, and make sure not to suddenly step backward without looking as you might clip one coming by. There are grates along the bridge that can block a clear view for your lens. The lenses on mirrorless cameras should fit through the grates, but for SLRs and larger lenses, if you kneel down, you can fit your lens easily through the large openings below the grate. This will allow you to photograph everything without a blocked view, but be careful and make sure to look up before you stand up, as you do not want to impale your head on the bottom of the grate. It could potentially cut you.

Manhattan Bridge, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography

Manhattan Bridge, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography

As you walk the bridge, you will see the old tenement buildings of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, wonderful street life below, and the grand skyscrapers of the Financial District in the background. Keep an eye out for the graffiti, as it is one of the best graffiti walks in the city. At the halfway point of the bridge, you will have one of the best views of the Brooklyn Bridge in the city. This is one of my favorite spots in all of New York since you have such an iconic view, but it does not have the tourist traffic that the Brooklyn Bridge gets. Often you are alone there or only near a few people. Walk the remainder of the bridge stopping in a few spots as the light continues to change. At your the first opportunity, walk down to the street from the bridge.

New York Skyline, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography

From here, you will want to head south towards the waterfront and west a few blocks. Be careful crossing the street here and use the bridge as your guide to lead to the waterfront. GPS can be valuable, but it is only about an eight or nine block walk. Make your way over to Washington Street and Front Street, where you will see the iconic view of the Empire State Building through the legs of the Manhattan Bridge from the middle of the street.

Manhattan Bridge, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography

Brooklyn Bridge, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography
Walk towards the water on Washington Street and into Main Street Park, where there is a tiny beach with some of the best skyline views in the city. It should take a couple hours to get to this point and you will have covered a majority of the best views, so you may be tired and want to catch a taxi, but if you want to keep going there is more to see.
Walk along the waterfront, past Jane’s Carousel and towards the Brooklyn Bridge. From here, you can head directly to the Brooklyn Bridge or you can take a detour under the Brooklyn Bridge towards Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can walk along the water on Pier 1 but a more direct route will be to walk straight instead of going around the edge. Once you get to the far side of Pier 1, head to the water and you will see the iconic view of the old rotted pier poles with the Manhattan skyline behind them. After, walk back the way you came to old Fulton Street.

Brooklyn Bridge, Two Bridges and Brooklyn Waterfront, New York Photography

You will want to walk along the bridge to the corner of Prospect Street and Washington Street, where the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is. It should be a five block walk, give or take. Walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge towards Manhattan and be careful to stay in the pedestrian lane. The pedestrian path is very narrow on the bridge and bicyclists go very fast, so it is easy to get into an accident. Look before you make any sudden lateral moves. If you decide to use a tripod on the bridge, particularly at night, be extremely careful. Tripod legs splay outward and bicyclists cannot see the bottom part of the legs, so they can easily trip over it and hurt themselves. Stay to the pedestrian side and do not splay the legs out all the way. Make sure the width of the legs is not larger than the width of your body, so the bicyclists can correctly judge where they can safely pass you.

After you cross the bridge into Manhattan, you will be next to the gorgeous Manhattan Municipal Building. The 6 Train is right here to take you back uptown.

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)