Stunning photo of NYC's last 2013 sunrise


BB pal Scott Matthews took this magnificent photo of New York City during the last sunrise of 2013. The view is looking east from Morningside Heights, across Harlem and Central Park, toward the smokestacks at Queens' Astoria Generation Station. Click to see it larger. Scott says:

(I used) "manual focus" (rather than auto-focus) and "fast prime lenses." Manual focus, because how can a camera know what YOU want to focus on? And fast prime lenses for the ability to shoot with narrow depth-of-field, which can help to isolate a subject (that blurry background/foreground look). So, for example, with the smokestacks I manually focused on the rising smoke and used a fairly wide aperture to help isolate them (landscape photos are most commonly shot with a narrow aperture for a deep depth-of-field).
Scott Matthews' photos

Notable Replies

  1. That is a nice picture.

    Scott's writeup is kind of interesting, though. He's factually correct, but ignores that as the focus approaches infinity the depth of focus becomes proportionately deeper. Despite his comment of manually focusing on the smoke, objects closer to the camera are still in sharp focus, meaning that he's shooting with a relatively wide focal length (probably 35 or 55mm) and it all ends up in focus anway.

    As a fellow photographer (albeit amateur), this speaks to me more about the importance of composition and timing. It's got a great framing, and there are only a few moments where he could've captured this.

  2. yeah, was just going to say the same thing. the only salient part is that the lens is fast and so the shutter times can be short, making handheld photography in low light viable. of course i didn't read the link, perhaps he's using a tripod anyway.

    anyhow, the subject is so far away that everything is in focus: the online DOF calculator at says that even at f/1.2 with a 55mm lens, everything 118 meters away from the camera is in sharp focus.

    signed, the internet pedant squad

  3. Ha! But now re-reading, I actually think what I wrote was technically correct, so I still lay claim to my Internet Accuracy Seal-of-Approval... smile

    But in the interest in Higher Truth, a wide aperture is going to show a deep depth of field for distant subjects.

    In fact, I took this with the smokestacks at the center of the frame, where I would get the sharpest image, and then cropped. If I had put the smokestacks at the bottom-right, I wouldn't have been able to get them as sharp with the wide aperture.

Continue the discussion

6 more replies