Manhattan from Above: The Empire State Building

June 9, 2015. 86th Floor Observation Deck, Empire State Building

(Scheduled post, 4 images) I arrived in New York City about 2:00pm on a Tuesday. By 5:45pm, I had taxied to my hotel near Central Park south, checked in, grabbed a bite to eat, walked to Times Square, and then decided to visit the Empire State Building (despite not having a pre-purchased ticket). Talk about right place/right time! I was amazed to find empty lines and empty elevators. By 6:10, I was standing on the 86th Floor Observation Deck with clear views of the cityscape below me.

6:23pm — Looking northeast toward midtown Manhattan, the East River, the Art Deco Chrysler Building with its terraced crown (at 2:00), and the Queensboro Bridge behind it.

Midtown Manhattan East viewed from top of the Empire State Building

6:57pm — Looking south toward Lower Manhattan. In the distance is One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower); at 6:00 is the triangular Flatiron Building, bordered by Broadway on the left and 5th Avenue on the right, with Madison Square Park (at the bottom of the frame) just a block away.

Lower Manhattan viewed from top of the Empire State Building

As time marched on, more people began to show up and I realized it would be foolish not only to leave my prime spot, but to leave before the sun set and the city lights came on. And so I waited. And whiled away the time making friends with one of the ESB guards on duty. Two hours later, this was my view!

8:58pm — Looking south toward Lower Manhattan, Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center), and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Lower Manhattan at night from top of Empire State Building

9:15pm — Looking north toward midtown Manhattan and Central Park. Fifth Avenue runs up the middle and the slender silhouette of 432 Park is to its right — the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere, the third tallest building in the United States, and the second tallest building in New York City, behind One World Trade Center.

Midtown Manhattan at night from top of Empire State Building

To those who may follow in my footsteps: (1) Tripods are not allowed on the deck. I was concerned that I would be turned away, but security put my tripod in a bin and gave me a claim tag. (2) The deck is open aired, but there is a wire security fence that encircles it. I jiggled my little Fuji X100T into position between the ledge and the diamond-shaped wire openings at the bottom and then used my remote release. It gave me enough stability to get these 4 second shots. For those with larger cameras and lenses, you may be able to use the fence to support your lens and achieve a good result. (3) Once the sun sets and people have gotten their night shots, the lines to the elevators to return to street level become very long, so be prepared to wait. As for me? Remember that guard who I made friends with while I waited? I tapped him on the shoulder to say good night as I was making my way to the end of the line; he smiled, beckoned me with his hand, and the next thing I knew, I was being ushered straight into the next elevator. Kindness always pays!

You’d think by this time, my adventures for the day were over. Nope. Once down on the street, I spent the next 2-1/2 hours roaming the city from ESB to Herald Square and Macy’s (see photo), and back to Times Square (see photo), tripod slung over my shoulder with my little Fuji attached. I had a ball! And never once did I feel unsafe, surrounded by people even as midnight came ’round. And when I finally made it back to my hotel, I was exhausted but exhilarated, knowing that within just a few short hours I would be meeting and spending the day with fellow Monochromia photographers (and New Yorkers), Joe Giordano and Patti Fogarty!

51 thoughts on “Manhattan from Above: The Empire State Building

  1. Stacy! What amazing shots!! My daughter’s college used to be in the Empire State Bldg (The King’s College – has since moved to the Financial District – stingy ESB landlord) and she had a special pass to bypass all the lines up to the top. It was pretty cool. We felt like VIPs when we visited. Now you know why NYC is the city that never sleeps. Times Square is lit up like daytime all through the night.


    • Wow, how amazing was THAT experience! But to be anywhere in NYC for college is just fantastic! Is she still there?? And, yes, you’re so right about the city that never sleeps – I just love it!! Thanks, Mar 🙂


      • She graduated three years ago. She got married last year and had a baby this year! My oldest son also went to college in the city – Cooper Union. And he also got married last year and his wife just had a baby. Haha. I never made the connection about that they both went to college in NYC and now they are both married and parents. 🙂
        NYC has a magic of its own for sure. Have you been to a Broadway play/musical?


        • Wow, congratulations, grandma 😀 What an exciting year for you! How lovely for all!!

          And, yes, yes, yes, I’ve had the wonderful experience of seeing a Broadway show – quite a few, in fact. The last one was just a few months ago – Something Rotten. It was one of the best, if not the best, musicals I’ve seen (or at least ties with Wicked)! We’re a big theatre family – my oldest son grew up learning and designing lights for local theatre productions (ultimately getting a BFA in lighting design and is now an architectural lighting designer in, yup, NYC), my other son worked crew and had a few turns on the boards, my daughter’s been in a number of productions as well, and I worked my way up from designing and running props to stage managing, actually getting paid for those gigs 😃 Theatre was our home away from home for a good ten years! I do miss working it, but get my fix as a season ticket holder for theatre at the Kennedy Center in DC and, of course, seeing Broadway shows when we visit NYC!

          Okay, that was a long answer to a simple question (but that’s going to happen when the subject is theatre 😜). How about you?? Have you experienced Broadway?


        • So interesting! I never knew one can get a degree in lighting design. Wow, and you a stage manager- very cool. I’ve only seen 3 Broadway shows – When I was in 8th grade, I saw Carol Channing in Hello Dolly (crazy right?), Les Miserables , and Cinderella.


  2. Thanks for waiting Stacy and giving me more glimpses of a truly magical city. How it comes alive after sunset. And one of my favourite buildings – the Flatiron….. 🙂


  3. Stacy, I love your story. I never made it up the Empire State Building on my one visit to New York many years ago but you’ve made me seriously regret that. Your photos are gorgeous! I viewed them before reading and wondered how you got such clear shots. Thanks for sharing all the ins and outs of the night. I’ve no doubt that you’ve made a life-long alliance with the building guard. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

    I’m really excited your meeting up with Joe. Have a terrific time.


    • Thanks, Alys! It was such an amazing day and night – a wonderful welcome to NYC my first time out on my own. I’m chomping at the bit to go back – and now that’s happening again in just two weeks time, with yet another meet-up with Joe and Patti! Life is hectic but good 😀


        • I hope so, too, about the weather! As for fall? Well, in DC this week, we’re getting 90 degree weather – definitely not my favorite. NYC is usually a few degrees cooler. I’m hoping that by the time I go, a little fall may be in the air. Fingers crossed!


        • Fingers crossed for fall air and no humidity. We were promised cooler temps today, but it shot back up any way to 89 last I checked. It’s been humid too, not something we’re used to here. I’m dreaming of rain.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful images. I am particularly drawn to the one where the car lights make it look like a golden river is flowing between the buildings. The views from the Empire State Building are always spectacular. I went with my kids during day time in February 2014 but I would love to take them up at night some time. I was last up there at night in August 2001 which was before I had a DSLR. I would, therefore, love to return for some night shots and to show my kids what the city looks like at night from that vantage point.


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