Any web search on New York City will likely result in tons of images of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. With its beautiful, gothic style masonry, pointed arches and impressive suspension design, it is surely a marvel of a bridge. The awe-inspiring landmark has been featured in many films, TV shows and songs and is a fantastic, limitless subject for painters, photographers and any other variety of artists.
I'm ashamed to admit that for 16 years I've lived just 15.2 miles from the Brooklyn Bridge and visited for the first time last week. Intimidation and fear of the unknown have stopped me from exploring but I decided that 2023 was going to be a year of more adventures.
This legendary bridge was the first on my list.
I'm always up for spontaneity but when I'm on a mission, I tend to plan things out. To expand my session offerings, I wanted to explore and photograph the bridge at sunrise. I pleaded with my daughter and her friend to accompany me and thankfully they agreed so I began my search on how to visit. This article was the perfect start for me and I thought I'd share some of my own tips and bits from my own visit.
Decide on the time of day you want to shoot.
Thousands of pedestrians and bicyclists cross the bridge every single day. That's a lot of people so if you want to avoid a big crowd, it's a good idea to decide what time of day is best for you before starting your trek. The Brooklyn Bridge offers spectacular views of sunsets but that's also when it can be the most crowded, especially when the weather is pleasant, so I decided a sunrise golden hour would be best for me for this particular day.
Light is a critical component in creating mood in photography. As a natural light photographer, I keep an eye on the weather forecast so that I can plan according to the vibes I want to create. I was seeking a sunny, golden hour sunrise for my first-time-Brooklyn Bridge visit and Mother Nature did not disappoint. If a moodier vibe is calling you, try scheduling for a day forecasted to be overcast or cloudy.
Knowing when the sun rises and sets is important so I recommend looking up the sunrise/sunset times on the date you plan to visit and start your foot journey on the bridge a minimum of 30 minutes prior to that time. It's a good idea to get "a feeling" for the bridge and get familiar with the angles before you start shooting. The view from every angle is pretty spectacular up there so I'd pad in a few extra minutes to delight in the scenery.
I visited on January 4th and the sunrise time was 7:20 am. You can see from the photos above that the sun was already fully lighting the sky only 12 minutes later. By the time we passed the first set of arches, the sun was generous with her gorgeous, magic morning light. That's when it's time to take full advantage of your views and angles and get the shots you've dreamed of!
Plan ahead for transportation, parking and your meet-up spot.
One entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is in Manhattan and the other is in Brooklyn. Both entrances have great views. If you're shooting in the morning and you want the sun to be behind the subjects, then the Brooklyn skyline will be your background. On the other hand, if you wish to shoot in the evening with sun behind your subjects, then Manhattan will be your background. If you're shooting on an overcast day, you can face your subjects in any direction. Either way, the views are beautiful.
That being said, I recommend planning your entrance ahead of time. This way, you can determine if you'll be walking, biking, driving, or taking public transportation from your original location. And, knowing this ahead of time will help you coordinate a meet-up spot with your creative partners who are joining you.
Since I wanted to spend some time in Brooklyn that morning, I decided we should enter the bridge from the Brooklyn side and planned ahead for parking using the always helpful SpotHero app. I found that 100 Jay Street was a great location for parking as it is only steps from the pedestrian entrance to the bridge. The staff was very friendly and helpful. Thumbs up!
Expect photo ops aplenty.
This is New York City! There are photo ops everywhere you look. Intriguing structures and fascinating architecture both modern and historical are within sight from any location. I'm an opportunist so if I have a camera and am presented with something that grabs my attention, you bet I'm taking a picture of it. I tell you this so that you can plan accordingly with regard to camera lenses, outfits, shoes, etc. You know, in case you want to turn one photo session into two. :)
One advantage of entering or exiting the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn side is the opportunity to explore the DUMBO area which is within a brief walking distance from the bridge entrance. DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass and is a cool, trendy Brooklyn neighborhood chock full of picturesque views. One of the most famous of photo op spots is the view of the Manhattan Bridge from Washington Street. From here, the Empire State Building is in sight, framed by the steel arches of the lower half of the Manhattan Bridge. Tourists and photographers from all over the world travel to get shots of this view and I encourage you to see it for yourself if you're anywhere near the area.
We stopped here first on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Wear your walking shoes and bring your sunglasses.
While it seems trite, heeding this simple tip could keep your great day from turning sour. Photo sessions in New York City often involve a considerable amount of walking. Stilettos and peep-toe platform wedges look great in photos but are not-so-smart choices for walking wooden platforms, cobblestone, or long distances. My suggestion is to wear comfortable shoes and bring those for the photos in a bag.
In addition, have your sunglasses handy on sunny days. With all of that open space on the bridge, it's difficult to shield your eyes from the strong sunlight which can be blinding to some. I have blue-gray colored eyes which are sensitive to light and I forgot my sunglasses so I struggled to enjoy the views of the walk back to the entrance of the bridge. It didn't wreck my day thankfully (just walked with my eyes closed hehe), but for those who tend to get headaches from the sun, it's best to have protection.
Oh, one more little tip: street vendors set up shop near the bridge entrance so you may want to have some cash on hand just in case you spot something that suits your fancy.
MORE VIEWS AND ANGLES
I was always a bit intimidated to have a photo session on this bridge but now that I've been there, I feel confident and can't wait to go back for more. Hopefully this will help you for your first visit! Please reach out if you'd like to create with me! How fun!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this one about Central Park. There's so much to explore!
Coming up: Tips and photos from sessions in other areas of New York City (including DUMBO!) so follow for more. :)
What areas in NYC would you love to explore? Leave a comment and let me know!