Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

What to do on an 11 hour layover in NYC

Interior, 1917 Lo-V Subway Car - Brooklyn, New York

Interior, 1917 Lo-V Subway Car – Brooklyn, New York

I’m finally back home in Austin after a 3 week vacation in Japan. I took a flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport into JFK airport in New York City. I landed at 6am and my connecting flight to Austin was at 5pm. So what do you do when you have an 11 hour layover in New York? Well I hopped on the subway and headed into the city.

Howard Beach - JFK Station - Howard Beach, New York

Howard Beach – JFK Station – Howard Beach, New York

Rockaway Blvd Station - Ozone Park, New York

Rockaway Blvd Station – Ozone Park, New York

11 hours seems like a long time but it’s not as much time as you might think, especially when you factor in all the wait time for the subway. Flying directly into NYC from Tokyo is a jarring experience. The old and dirty New York City subway system is quite a contrast from Tokyo’s clean and fast train system. After touching down at 6am, it was 7am before I got through customs, checked in my luggage and took the Air Train from the Airport to the Howard Beach subway station. There I waited 30+ minutes until the A train arrived. Surprisingly, it was nearly 9am until I got the World Trade Center station in lower Manhattan. Chalk it up to a couple of detours and transfers to get around some subway maintenance.

Fulton Center Construction - New York, New York

Fulton Center Construction – New York, New York

Given how long it took to travel downtown, I decided to give at least an hour to get back to the airport and I wanted to arrive at 3pm for my 5pm flight. I now remembered that it always seems to take a lot longer to do stuff in New York that other places. There is always the unexpected traffic jam or a break down on the subway system that, if you don’t leave an adequate buffer, you may end up missing an important flight. That only left abut 5 hours to do what I wanted to do. I decided to confine myself to lower Manhattan around the 9/11 Memorial Site and I also wanted to spend some time at the New York City Transit Museum in Brooklyn.

Men at Work, Lower Manhattan - New York, New York

Men at Work, Lower Manhattan – New York, New York

Picture wise, this will give me a chance to shoot some architecture, do street photography and capture vintage subway trains at the museum. Along the way, I was planning to eat a quick-lunch at some, hopefully, decent New York pizzaria. I checked my clothing at JFK but I still had my technology bag full of all my cameras and electronics. My small mirror-less Olympus cameras didn’t weigh much but when you combine that with all the extra stuff I pack such as the chargers, hard drives and the 15″ MacBook Pro, that bag got pretty heavy, quickly. Maybe 15 + pounds. After 5 hours of walking and riding the subways, I was pretty exhausted. That was on top the 12+ hour flight from Tokyo and the 90 degrees of NYC heat. Nevertheless, the chance to shoot for a bunch of hours in New York City was worth it. Despite my complaints about the mass transit system, NYC is such a great place, especially for photography. I could probably shoot continuously for a year there and not get bored.

Patriotic Boxer, Lower Manhattan - New York, New York

Patriotic Boxer, Lower Manhattan – New York, New York

9/11 Memorial, Tower 1 - New York, New York

9/11 Memorial, Tower 1 – New York, New York

After spending time at the 9/11 memorial and shooting around Wall Street, I hopped the train to Brooklyn. I found a decent neighborhood pizza place but not outstanding by New York standards. I could have gotten a better NY Style pizza in Austin (Hoboken Pie or Home Slice for example) , but I was tired and hungry. Then, close by, I spend about an hour at the transit museum. The timing worked perfectly and I was back at the airport on time. I also decided to treat myself to another local favorite, a combination pastrami and corned beef sandwich at the airport. Lots of shooting and eating some local New York food, not a bad way to spend my long layover in the Big Apple.

My Little Pizzeria, Street scape - Brooklyn, New York

My Little Pizzeria, Street scape – Brooklyn, New York


Please make sure to click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure details.

In New York City, I used 2 different kinds cameras and 3 lenses. I used the Olympus E-P3 with the 14mm f2.5 lens. I also had 2 Olympus E-PL1 cameras which are running at about $150 each. On these, I attached the fantastic Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens, one of my favorites, and the Olympus 45mm f1.8. If you are thinking of buying this equipment, please click on these links. You will get the same low Amazon price and I’ll get a small commission, which helps support this site.

4 responses

  1. Love the old 19i7 car – beautiful. I am always inclined to shoot on trains and subways. Buses too – I got one a few years back of an MTA driver picking his nose. I love stealth cameras ;-) I see you got the requisite Guys On A Subway Platform. I see hundreds of those, and love hem every time.

    The train shots are always nice but I find the heart of Manhattan is the people. Always something interesting going on there. I miss NYC and don’t get down as often as I used to.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:32 am

  2. Thank you, the Transit museum was fun. I took a bunch of photographs, certainly enough for a separate post. NYC is great. Hope to get back there to shoot again.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:53 am

  3. I like to hang around MSG and Penn Station during lunch and late afternoon on a Friday ;-) Really tired weary people just itching to leave town!

    July 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    • Good Idea. Of course there are a lot weary people in NYC in general.

      July 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm

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