Sunset over the Hudson


There are many things I expect to photograph when I’m in New York City. Architecture … street scenes … skylines … bridges … the city is filled with interesting locations and features just begging to be photographed.

But sunsets in New York City? Nah. That’s more of a beach/desert/mountain thing, not a big city thing.

Still, I do have three New York City sunsets in my files.

One, a shot of the sun setting on the horizon behind the Empire State Building taken from atop Rockefeller Center, was planned days in advance. I checked the sunset time before arriving in New York and planned my arrival at Top of the Rock so I could be in position before sunset.

The second, a shot of the sunset reflected by windows of a building in the World Financial Center taken through a hotel window, was also planned. I had noticed the scene as I was leaving for dinner the night before and knew I could shoot it the following night.

But this photo, the subject of my photo of the week, was far from planned.

My wife and I had arrived in New York City mid-afternoon and grabbed an early dinner at one of our favorite pizza places. We had no plans for the evening — it was our only unscheduled evening of a trip filled with Broadway shows and U.S. Open Tennis — so we decided to take a walk along the Hudson River Greenway, a pedestrian walkway along the west side of Manhattan. We’ve walked a lot of areas in New York City, including the southern portion of the greenway, but we had never walked along the midtown section of the greenway. 

We were enjoying the walk, but I wasn’t seeing much of interest to photograph. About 30 blocks into the walk the sun was dropping low over New Jersey across the river and we were ready to turn east toward Broadway to head back to our hotel. 

That’s when I saw this collection of sailboats moored in the Hudson River. The sun was beneath a thin layer of clouds and just above the buildings in Hoboken when I pointed my camera at the scene. I exposed for the highlights — the sky and the reflections on the water — knowing that the silhouetted masts and hulls of the sailboats would still be recognizable. I grabbed a couple of shots as the sky began to fill with color. I liked what I saw.

Then magic happened. Or, more accurately, physics happened. The sun reached a point where the buildings and clouds were diffracting the light, creating visible rays above the warm colors on the horizon. I could see the rays through the viewfinder and I crossed my fingers in hopes the camera could capture them.

It could. And I had another New York City sunset shot.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: Aug. 28, 2016,7:23 p.m.  
Location: 40°45’10.998” N 74°0’28.997” W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II  
Lens: Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (22mm) 
Aperture: f/4.5
Shutter: 1/2000th second
ISO: 200