Exposures: Jake and Alex capture Times Square in 2020
Two WSN photographers revisit a mid-pandemic photo shoot at New York City’s iconic Times Square from one year ago, diving into the thought process behind the photographs
August 29, 2021
On Sept. 5, 2020, we went to Times Square, then walked to Radio City Music Hall with our DSLRs and tripods to get some long-exposure shots of the city lights. We’re revisiting this shoot almost a year later to review what we captured in the hub of the city during the midst of the pandemic. Join us as we compare the shots we each ended up with after editing.
Though we set out with the same prompt and location, our differing equipment, framing and editing styles show how two photographers on the same assignment can produce different images.
We tried to closely match the pairs of photos we chose, and we describe our thought processes below.
Equipment (camera, lens, tripod)
Alex: Canon 500D, 18-200mm, Compact Aluminum Manfrotto Tripod
Jake: Nikon D7500, 18-55mm, Joilcan 65” Aluminium Tripod
Alex: There were so many people that we had to set up next to two trash cans. My main focus was the light trails from cars on the street, so I decided to set the shutter speed to eight seconds after trying 10 seconds and five seconds.
Jake: Due to the number of people in the area — an unusual sight considering the status of the pandemic at the time — we set up shop close to the street. I kept my shutter speed relatively low, between one and four seconds. I accidentally bumped into the tripod with my hand, creating this shot.
Alex: I raised the contrast on this shot to emphasize the overwhelming feeling of the constant movement and glaring advertisements. A guard was supervising the line for the red stairs where we originally wanted to shoot, so we had to change plans.
Jake: I wanted to get an extreme wide shot of the area from atop the red stairs, but that ended up not being an option due to the security there. I shot this from near the trash cans where we took our first shot.
Alex: I can’t remember what made the tallest white light trail in this shot, but I think the end product with the three clear-cut lines turned out really cool. I kept the lighting warm because I think it feels more alive that way.
Jake: I intentionally kept my shutter open for 30 seconds to capture as many lines of light as possible. When I saw all the cars passing by this area, I knew I wanted to shoot here.
Alex: The shutter speed for this shot was 10 seconds and the broken light trails were created by a large group of protesters on bicycles. I know there’s a way to change the wide-angle perspective and straighten the shot, but I like that it shows curved movement.
Jake: This shot also had a shutter speed of 30 seconds. Instead of speeding cars, however, these streaks of lights are actually a large group of protesters on bikes going down Sixth Avenue.
Alex: I shortened my tripod so much that my camera was practically directly on the marble. I didn’t want to see a sheet of water, so I put the shutter speed at two seconds, bringing out the lines in the water’s flow.
Jake: For this shot, I lowered my tripod as low as I could to capture the buildings as well as the fountain. I created a shot similar to this last year without a tripod and wanted to attempt it again to capture smooth water.
Alex: This is my favorite shot of the entire shoot because I can show what my astigmatism looks like. I love how every light looks like a star against the darker background and how the glowing Radio City Music Hall letters look like they’re popping right off the signs.
Jake: In front of Rockefeller Center was a parked car with a man inside watching TV on his phone. At the same time, speeding cars were passing by, so I wanted to capture the contrast between the two.
Alex: I love the framing of this shot even though I’m not excited about the two poles on the left. The car hood reflecting lights, the different lengths of the light trails reaching across and the angled perspective produced a surprisingly cohesive shot that I was initially nervous to try.
Jake: I wanted to take another shot of Radio City Music Hall as I had done before in one of my previous shoots. I shot vertically to capture the building’s full height.
Follow the photographers on Instagram at @noelle.png and @capriotti.jake.