The Big Apple, shot on an iPhone (plus, things to do with a baby in NYC)

It’s no secret that I’m a big-city girl. I love everything about a booming metropolis: the people crowding the streets, the buses and subways, the public green spaces, the village-like feel of the neighborhoods. So I’d always been a little sad that the only trip I’d ever made to New York City was on my high school’s band and choir bus trip when I was a freshman–just fourteen years old. I didn’t exactly get to live New York City life that time around, which is why, when I found out that my dad and my brother and sister-in-law were spending Memorial Day weekend in the Big Apple, I immediately made plans to crash their party.

It was a three-day trip: Ben, Quinn, and I flew into LaGuardia on Thursday morning and out on Sunday morning. It was an unusually cold and rainy weekend, which meant that there were a lot fewer people out and about than normal. So we missed out on some of the bustling big-city experience, but on the plus side, it was a lot easier to get around.

Speaking of “easier to get around,” I was like a packing Jedi for this trip, if I do say so myself. I managed to get all of our things into just one suitcase and one carry-on (Quinn’s diaper bag). But then when it came time to pack my camera, I realized that I was out of space. If I wanted to bring my DSLR, I was going to have to pack an extra bag to hold my camera, a couple lenses, extra batteries, and memory cards–not an insignificant piece of luggage to carry around. Plus, then I’d have to haul that bag around New York CIty with me while simultaneously wrangling Quinn, his diaper bag, and his umbrella stroller. And the weather forecast was calling for rain, which meant wrestling with actual umbrellas too. So it was undoubtedly going to be inconvenient to bring my DSLR on this trip, but dared I leave it at home?? I’d never done that before! It was very, very scary, but after a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally decided that I would forego my DSLR and rely solely on my iPhone to document the trip.

And you know what? It was a great decision. I’m so glad I did it. For one thing, it felt very liberating to not be weighed down by a bunch of heavy camera equipment. And its absence made me a lot less conspicuous too. Everyone’s always taking pictures with their phones, so I didn’t stand out as a tourist quite so much–which was nice for a change.

But the benefits weren’t just travel-related; there were some nice photography benefits too. One was that shooting everything on my iPhone forced me to concentrate more on composition and lighting than I usually do. It can be easy to get lazy with a great piece of glass on my DSLR because its ability to shoot at a shallow depth of field (rendering just a few things in sharp focus and turning the rest into a pleasing blur) often does the lion’s share of making my photos look good. Not so with the iPhone: without the ability to control its aperture, I have to rely on composition and light to create an interesting image–which makes me work a lot harder. It was actually a fun challenge.

But the iPhone also helped me to be a little bit lazy too. Usually when I get home from a trip I have gobs and gobs of images on multiple memory cards that I have to transfer to my computer, cull down, and then edit before I can share them. To be honest, it’s a daunting prospect. But when I shoot on my iPhone, I just spend a little time while lying in bed every night choosing the day’s best photos and editing them in AfterLight. Then I can post them immediately on Instagram and Facebook, giving my friends and family a real-time look at what we’re up to on vacation. Plus, I’m not faced with an overwhelming photo-processing project when I get home. Win–win!

Before I show you the results of my great iPhone experiment, I also wanted to point out that this post may give you some ideas for things to do with your babies or toddlers in NYC. Quinn had just turned a year old a few weeks before our trip, so we obviously didn’t get to go to any shows or fancy dinners, but we still managed to have a lot of fun. He was at a slightly awkward age–extremely interested in everything going on around him but not yet walking–so we stuck to places where (a) we could take his stroller, and (b) other people wouldn’t be bothered by a little noise. It worked like a charm.

And now for the photo dump. First, the view from the apartment where we stayed. I love a good city scene: And I have an obsession with those yellow cabs, as you will soon see. Here’s Rockefeller Center:
And me standing on a subway grate:
Grand Central Terminal:
And Times Square on a rainy Thursday evening:
New York City is just so darn pretty:
(I’ve been obsessed with Dean & Deluca ever since “Felicity.”) And oh yeah, here’s another yellow cab:
My homage to the New York CIty subway:
Man, I love public transportation! More pretty city stuff:
We ate breakfast one morning at The Standard Grill, which was absolutely delicious and gorgeous and maybe my favorite part of the trip:
Yes, that is a penny-tile floor made of real pennies!
Then we walked through the beautiful High Line park for bit:
before heading over to Washington Square:
Then I got to cross something off my bucket list: shopping at ABC Carpet and Home. Why didn’t anyone tell me how enormous that place is?? Six floors and a basement! I needed to spend a week there. (And win the lottery first.) Here’s the view when you walk off the elevator on the second floor:
Gah! We also hit up a lovely children’s bookstore called Books of Wonder, and then found this awesome blue wall on our walk back to the subway:
Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the MoMA on this trip (and missed the Rain Room, which I really regret), but we did hit up the MoMA Design Store across the street. It didn’t occur to me beforehand that everything inside would look like a toy to Quinn, but luckily we were able to get out of there without incident.
The only thing we stood in line for all weekend was to go to the Top of the Rock observation deck for the very best views of New York City. Doesn’t Central Park look amazing??
And the beautiful Empire State Building:
Back down on the ground again:
We ended the evening with some Famous Original Ray’s pizza:
The next morning we went to Brooklyn:
We saw the iconic Brooklyn Bridge:
And Quinn rode the carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park:
We caught a glimpse of the Midtown Bridge from DUMBO:
And then we went back to Manhattan for lunch at Momofuku (Ben’s choice):
Quinn’s restaurant! Next time we’re eating there:
Then we capped off our visit to New York City with a walk through Central Park:
Such a fun trip, and I love having these images to remember it by. I hope my positive experience shooting this trip on my iPhone inspires you to perhaps push yourself out of your comfort zone and see what kind of art you’re capable of creating!

  • Stephanie Cleveland

    Beautiful photos! Loved seeing this! The Clevelands are headed to NYC in October. We will be taking several of your great recommendations!ReplyCancel

    • Oh Stephanie, I hope y’all have the best time!! I’d love to visit NYC in the fall…ReplyCancel

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