Category Archives: Guides

Guides

NewYorkitecture.com Photography Technique

Digital photography is wonderfully fast and cheap compared to conventional film photography: There’s no film to buy (or run out of!) or process – a single memory chip can store more than a thousand images, and be reused indefinitely. But digital photo display can be challenging, because digital photos don’t capture and store all of the image the same way that the human eye sees it. Frequently, what we see on the screen lacks shadow details or highlight details or both. And cameras are easily tricked by unusual lighting conditions, such as scenes with strong backlighting.

Architectural photography typically includes strong backlighting – a building with sky as backdrop – and/or shooting in bright sun, where shadows are especially deep and dark compared to the rest of the photo. Consequently, a typical building photo will have some areas that are underexposed and/or some areas that are overexposed. You won’t be able to see (on the computer screen) the details in shadows or highlights that the eye would normally see in real life.

When I started taking photos for this website I had to discard many photos because the camera meter was tricked by the backlighting. Then I started bracketing photos – taking shots that were intentionally overexposed and underexposed. The best of the three exposures would make it to the website. This was better, but still lacking.

In January, 2013 I began using High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography for NewYorkitecture.com. I was still bracketing each shot. But instead of selecting one of three images I used software to combine all three images. The normal exposure provided the photo’s midtones; the underexposed image provided the highlight details; the overexposed shot contributed the shadow details.

This technique imposes its own set of challenges: To work, the three images have to be EXACTLY the same. If the camera shifts even a fraction of an inch the final result won’t be sharp. And anything that moves between images – like cars, pedestrians, birds or planes – will be blurred or “ghosted” in the final image. So every shot has to be taken on a heavy tripod, and usually multiple times to catch breaks in traffic. But the results were often worth the extra hassles.

The software that I use can also create special effects with those three images – I’ve included a couple in the gallery above – but I only use the default “natural” setting for the galleries in this site.

If you’re interested in using this technique yourself, you’ll need: A good tripod; a camera that lets you over/under expose (preferably with an automatic bracketing mode); software to combine the images. I’ve tried a few different software packages, I like Photomatix from hdrsoft.com. They have a $39 “Essentials” version (free trial), and a $100 “Pro” version that has added features – the most important being the ability to automatically batch process hundreds of images.

In late April, 2013 I started using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 to make additional improvements – the most important being perspective correction. When you point a camera upwards to capture a whole building, vertical lines converge toward the top; the building seems to lean backwards. Occasionally, this makes a dramatic photo, but as a steady diet…. Lightroom (or Adobe Photoshop) can correct this, bringing all verticals back to vertical. The program also gives me greater exposure control than I have with HDR alone, so I can bring out even more detail. Many of Lightroom’s features are available in the free Gimp program, but Lightroom’s interface is so much easier to use.

I’ve stopped using HDR as a regular practice. I’m now using Lightroom and Photoshop to tweak exposures most of the time, saving HDR for only the most challenging lighting conditions.

GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program is available at: www.gimp.org/. Adobe now “sells” Lightroom and Photoshop together as a Creative Cloud bundle for photographers, at $9.99 per month. This may seem odd, if you’re used to buying software, but in practice it’s far more economical than the old purchase-and-annual-upgrade cycle. As a bonus, you always have the most powerful, up-to-date software. You can get the details at Adobe.com.

Posterized Photos

This gallery is just for fun – posterized versions of images used elsewhere in this site. These images all started out normally – sets of bracketed exposures. Then I used Photomatix software to apply color shifts and luminosity effects with the “Grunge” preset. (See NewYorkitecture.com Photography Technique for more information about this technique.)

The images in the gallery are of buildings in the Chelsea, Soho, Ladies Mile, Civic Center, Astor Plaza and Flatiron districts.

Historical Societies

You’ll find historical societies in all five boroughs of New York; as you’ll see, they are architecturally interesting in themselves, and are valuable resources for learning more about the boroughs’ history.

Here are some capsule reviews of each, with contact info. Be sure to get current visitor and exhibit information – some sites have very limited hours of operation.

New York Historical Society

New York Historical Society

The New York Historical Society is both the oldest and among the youngest museums in New York. It was founded in 1804, but the building was renovated and reopened in November 2011. It now includes state-of-the-art interactive displays on three exhibit floors and a spectacular multimedia show – “New York Story” – which by itself is almost worth the price of admission. (The 18-minute show screens every half hour.) The Society is also young in its approach to history – it has a sense of humor that pops up and keeps the exhibits fresh. Where else would you find a “Beer Here” exhibit?

The permanent collection is displayed on the fourth floor (which has its own mezzanine); changing exhibits are on the first and second floors; a children’s museum, library and classrooms are on the lower level. The first floor also contains the auditorium, gift/book shop and cafe. New York Historical Society goes to great lengths to make its collection accessible to all – mobility, sight and hearing impairments are all accommodated.

The New York Historical Society museum and library covers all of New York City – unlike the other societies, which focus on single boroughs. Consequently, there’s some overlap between this museum and the Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue.

Note that the Society’s library closes earlier than its museum – 3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday (closed Sunday).

Google map


Museum of the City of New York

Museum of the City of New York

This is not one of the historical societies, strictly speaking – it’s a New York City-operated museum which serves many of the same purposes.

You might also be interested in the Queens Museum of Art (which has a massive city panorama, updated from the original 1964 NY World’s Fair).

Google map


Bronx County Historical Society

The Museum of Bronx History operates out of the Valentine-Varian House, a fieldstone farmhouse built in 1758. The Society also maintains a separate archive/library and the nearby Poe House (see below). In addition, the society operates tours.

Google map


Poe Cottage

Poe Cottage

(Operated by Bronx County Historical Society)

This is where Edgar Allan Poe spent his last years; where his wife died and where he wrote some of his most memorable works. The docent gives an excellent talk about Poe, his life and times; there’s also an informative video shown in an upstairs bedroom. In the adjacent park, the Parks Department operates an educational center.

And if you need another reason to visit, the immediate neighborhood is rich in architectural treasures – including Kingsbridge Armory, two blocks west.

Google map


Brooklyn Historical Society

Brooklyn Historical Society

Founded as the Long Island Historical Society in 1863; changed its name to Brooklyn Historical Society in 1985. The building is still going through restoration – the main floor gallery is the current (as of September 2012) project; most other areas, inside and out, are stunningly beautiful. In addition to the exhibit galleries, the Society houses an impressive research library.

Google map


Queens Historical Society

Queens Historical Society

The Queens Historical Society operates out of Kingsland Homestead in Flushing, next to the historic Bowne House (currently closed for restoration). It’s a small operation, open only a few hours on just three days a week. But they do have a good selection of publications – books and pamphlets – about other historic sites in Queens. And, it’s a part of the Flushing “Freedom Mile” walking tour that includes 10 other significant buildings. (Kingsland Homestead was a part of the “Underground Railroad.”)

Google map


Staten Island Historical Society

Church of St. Andrew

Historic Richmond Town is a score of restored/reconstructed homes, farms, businesses, schools and churches, dating from the 1700s and 1800s. It’s quite rural compared to the rest of the city and very popular for school outings. There are several themed tours – consider this an all-day trip – or several trips!

If you’re very ambitious, there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home (see “The Wright Stuff” gallery.) and a lighthouse at the top of the hill overlooking Historic Richmond Town, and a beautiful church and cemetery across the street.

Google map

Other Sites of Interest

January Landmarks

These NYC landmarks celebrate their Landmarks Preservation Commission designation anniversaries in January

Types: I=Individual; S=Scenic; HD=Historic District

Type Borough Day Year Landmark Built Architect(s) Style Link
HD M 3 1984 West End Collegiate Historic District [pdf]
I M 5 1988 Ed Sullivan Theater (Originally Hammerstein’s Theater), first floor interior 1927 Herbert J. Krapp Gothic [pdf]
I M 5 1988 Winter Garden Theater, first floor interior 1885 W. Albert Swasey; Herbert J. Krapp; Francesca Russo N/A [pdf]
I M 5 1993 Mount Morris Bank Building (Later the Corn Exchange Bank, Mount Morris Branch) 1883 Lamb & Rich, Frank A. Rooke Romanesque Revival [pdf]
I M 5 1993 Washington Apartments 1883 Mortimer C. Merritt Queen Anne [pdf]
I M 5 1993 (Former) Century Association Building 1869 Gambrill & Richardson neo-Grec [pdf]
I M 8 1991 The Diller Residence 1899 Gilbert A. Schellenger Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 8 1991 The Kleeberg Residence 1896 C.P.H. Gilbert Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 8 1991 The Prentiss Residence 1899 C.P.H. Gilbert Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 8 1991 The Sutphen Residence 1901 C.P.H. Gilbert Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I Q 8 1991 Flushing High School 1912 C.B.J. Snyder Gothic [pdf]
I BX 8 2002 Begrisch Hall at Bronx Community College 1956 Marcel Breuer & Associates Postmodern [pdf]
I B 9 1979 Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church Parsonage 1853 UNKNOWN Greek Revival [pdf]
I M 9 1979 United States Custom House (interior) 1907 Cass Gilbert Beaux Arts [pdf]
I B 10 1978 Public School 111 1867 Samuel B. Leonard, James W. Naughton Romanesque Revival [pdf]
I BX 10 1978 Bartow-Pell Mansion, Expanded Landmark Site 1842 UNKNOWN Greek Revival [pdf]
I BX 10 1978 Public School 15 1877 Simon Williams N/A [pdf]
I M 10 1978 Public School 9 Annex 1895 James W. Naughton Romanesque Revival [pdf]
HD BX 10 2006 Fieldston Historic District [pdf]
I BX 11 1967 Christ Church 1866 Richard Upjohn & Son Victorian Gothic [pdf]
I BX 11 1967 Rainey Memorial Gates 1934 Charles A. Platt Art Deco [pdf]
I M 11 1967 America-Israel Cultural Foundation (formerly the William H. Moore House) 1898 McKim, Mead & White Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 11 1967 Bouwerie Lane Theatre (originally the Bond Street Savings Bank) 1873 Henry Engelbert, Steven Harris Architects French Second Empire [pdf]
I M 11 1967 Marble Collegiate Reformed Church 1851 Samuel A. Warner Mixed [pdf]
I M 11 1967 New York Public Library 1898 Carrere & Hastings; Davis Brody Bond; WJE Engineers and Architects Beaux Arts [pdf]
I M 11 1967 The Century Association 1889 McKim, Mead & White; Jan Hird Pokorny Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 11 1967 The Harvard Club of NYC 1893 McKim, Mead & White; Henry Cobb; Davis Brody Bond Georgian [pdf]
I M 11 1967 The University Club 1897 McKim, Mead & White; Peter Gisolfi Architects Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 11 1967 West End Collegiate Church and Collegiate School 1892 Robert W. Gibson Dutch/Flemish Renaissance [pdf]
I B 11 1977 Saint George’s Protestant Episcopal Church 1886 Richard M. Upjohn Gothic [pdf]
I M 11 1977 Barbara Rutherford Hatch Residence 1917 Frederick J. Sterner Spanish Colonial/Italian Renaissance [pdf]
I M 11 1977 Henry T. Sloane Residence 1894 Carrere & Hastings; RBSD Architects Beaux Arts [pdf]
I M 11 1977 Oliver Gould Jennings Residence 1898 Flagg & Chambers; RSBD Architects Beaux Arts [pdf]
I Q 11 1977 Prospect Cemetery 1668 N/A N/A [pdf]
I Q 11 1977 Allen-Beville House 1848 UNKNOWN Greek Revival [pdf]
I B 11 2011 Childs Restaurant Building 1917 John C. Westervelt Spanish Revival [pdf]
I M 11 2011 Haskin & Sells Building 1912 Frederick C. Zobel Renaissance [pdf]
I M 12 1999 Nicholas C. and Agnes Benziger House 1890 William Schickel Medieval [pdf]
I BX 12 2010 (Former) Dollar Savings Bank 1919 Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker neo-Classical [pdf]
I M 12 2010 311 Broadway Building 1856 UNKNOWN Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 12 2010 West Park Presbyterian Church 1883 Leopold Eidlitz; Henry Kilburn; Ludlow & Peabody Romanesque Revival [pdf]
I Q 12 2010 Public School 66 (Formerly the Brooklyn Hills School, Later the Oxford School, Now the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School) 1898 Harry S. Chambers; C.B.J. Snyder Romanesque, Queen Anne [pdf]
I Q 12 2010 Ridgewood Theater Building 1916 Thomas W. Lamb Beaux Arts [pdf]
I S 12 2010 Mary and David Burgher House 1844 UNKNOWN Greek Revival [pdf]
I B 13 1998 New Utrecht Reformed Dutch Church Cemetery 1653 N/A N/A [pdf]
I B 13 1998 New Utrecht Reformed Dutch Church, Expanded Landmark Site, and Parish House 1828 Lawrence B. Volk Romanesque Revival [pdf]
I B 13 1998 (Former) Colored School No. 3 1879 Samuel B. Leonard Rundbogenstil [pdf]
I B 13 2009 Hubbard House 1835 Lawrence Ryder Dutch Colonial [pdf]
I M 13 2009 275 Madison Avenue Building 1930 Kenneth Franzheim Art Deco [pdf]
I M 13 2009 New York Public Library George Bruce Branch 1914 Carrere & Hastings Georgian Revival [pdf]
I M 13 2009 The New York Public Library, 125th Street Branch 1901 McKim, Mead & White Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I S 13 2009 John H. and Elizabeth J. Elsworth House 1880 N/A Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 14 1969 The Permanent Mission of Yugoslavia to the United Nations 1903 Warren & Wetmore Louis XV [pdf]
HD M 14 1969 St. Mark’s Historic District N/A [pdf]
I BX 14 1992 MacCombs Dam Bridge (Originally Central Bridge) And 155th Street Viaduct 1890 Alfred Pancoast Boller N/A [pdf]
I M 14 1992 Ahrens Building 1894 George H. Griebel Romanesque Revival [pdf]
I M 14 1992 Broadway Chambers Building 1901 Cass Gilbert Beaux Arts [pdf]
I M 14 1992 Goelet Building (Now Swiss Center Building) 1930 Victor L.S. Hafner Art Deco/International [pdf]
I M 14 1992 Goelet Building (Now Swiss Center Building), first floor interior 1930 Victor L.S. Hafner Art Deco/International [pdf]
HD B 14 1997 Vinegar Hill Historic District [pdf]
I M 14 1997 14 Wall Street Building (Formerly Bankers Trust Building) 1910 Trowbridge & Livingston; Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I B 17 1968 Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead 1766 UNKNOWN Dutch Colonial [pdf]
I S 17 1968 Sleight Family Graveyard (Rossville (Blazing Star) Burial Ground) 1750 N/A N/A [pdf]
I S 17 1968 Staten Island Lighthouse 1912 UNKNOWN N/A [pdf]
I M 18 1966 263 Henry Street Building (A Part of the Henry Street Settlement House) 1827 UNKNOWN Federal [pdf]
I M 18 1966 265 Henry Street Building (A Part of the Henry Street Settlement House) 1827 UNKNOWN Federal [pdf]
I M 18 1966 267 Henry Street Building (A Part of the Henry Street Settlement House) 1834 UNKNOWN Federal [pdf]
I M 18 1966 Sea and Land Church 1817 UNKNOWN Georgian [pdf]
I M 18 1966 St. James Church 1837 Minard Lafever Greek Revival [pdf]
I M 18 1966 Chamber of Commerce Building 1901 James B. Baker Beaux Arts [pdf]
I M 18 1966 Fire House, Engine Company 31 1895 Napoleon LeBrun & Sons French Renaissance [pdf]
I M 24 1967 Abigail Adams Smith House (Headquarters of the Colonial Dames of America) 1799 UNKNOWN Federal [pdf]
I M 24 1967 116 East 80th Street House (formerly the Lewis Spencer Morris House) 1922 Cross & Cross Federal Revival [pdf]
I M 24 1967 Church of Notre Dame 1909 Dans & Otto; Cross & Cross Greek Revival [pdf]
I M 24 1967 Clarence Dillon House 1930 Mott B. Schmidt Georgian Revival [pdf]
I M 24 1967 Edward S. Harkness House 1907 James Gamble Rogers Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 24 1967 Museum of the City of New York 1929 Joseph H. Freedlander; Polshek Partnership Architects Georgian Colonial [pdf]
I M 24 1967 The Yorkville Branch of the NY Public Library 1902 James Brown Lord Palladian [pdf]
I M 27 1976 City Hall, first floor interior 1803 John McComb Jr. and Joseph F. Mangin Federal, French Renaissance [pdf]
I M 27 1976 Lescaze House 1933 William Lescaze International [pdf]
I M 27 1976 Municipal Asphalt Plant 1941 Kahn & Jacobs N/A [pdf]
S B 28 1975 Ocean Parkway 1874 Olmstead & Vaux N/A [pdf]
I M 28 1975 Central Savings Bank 1926 York & Sawyer; SLCE Architects Classical [pdf]
I M 28 1975 Verdi Square 1906 N/A N/A [pdf]
I M 29 1980 130-134 East 67th Street Apartment Building 1907 Charles A. Platt Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 29 1980 149-151 East 67th Street Building (Former Mount Sinai Dispensary) 1889 Buchman & Deisler; Brunner & Tryon Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 29 1980 Park East Synagogue 1889 Schneider & Herter Moorish Revival [pdf]
I M 29 1985 Former Coty Building 1907 Woodruff Leeming; Beyer Blinder Belle Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I M 29 1985 Rizzoli Building 1907 Albert S. Gottlieb Renaissance Revival [pdf]
HD M 29 2002 Murray Hill Historic District [pdf]
I M 30 2001 (Former) Aberdeen Hotel (Now Best Western Manhattan Hotel) 1902 Harry B. Mulliken Beaux Arts [pdf]
I Q 30 1996 La Casina 1933 Li-Saltzman Architects Moderne [pdf]
I S 30 2001 August and Augusta Schoverling House 1880 UNKNOWN Second Empire [pdf]
I S 30 2001 Louis A. and Laura Stirn House 1908 Kafka & Lindenmeyr Renaissance Revival [pdf]
I S 30 2001 Staten Island Family Courthouse (Originally the Staten Island Children’s Courthouse) 1930 Sibley & Fetherston Georgian [pdf]
I M 30 2006 Church of All Saints (Roman Catholic) 1883 Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell; William W. Renwick Gothic [pdf]
I M 30 2007 Horn & Hardart Automat-Cafeteria Building 1930 F.P. Platt & Brother Art Deco [pdf]
I M 30 2007 St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church 1902 William W. Renwick Gothic [pdf]