Exploring Manhattan with the Canon EOS R5 and 16, 35, and 85mm RF Lenses

Street Photography in New York, New York

Two full tanks of gas, and a handful of questionable gas station snacks, later and I was smack-dab in the middle of New York, New York. I handed the doorman, the vallet, and the bellhop each a wad of cash to take care of my stuff, and with that out of the way I could get down to business: Photography! This was my first trip into New York City and I was immediately enthralled. It’s been nearly a decade since I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and, quite honestly, I forgot what it was like to experience a place where life is moving around you at an every increasing pace. But here I was, and it, this ephemeral whirlwind of human energy, was all around me – it was invigorating. 

No Startup Required

There are times when I am walking around a new city, where you sort of have to take a moment and find your bearings; where is the action at, how do I get there, is there going to be enough stuff to see when I get there? Getting up to speed for photography can often be part of the experience. This is not so much the case in a place like New York City. NYC is swirling with opportunities from the moment you step out of your hotel. It offers you almost limitless moments to capture from the get-go and it doesn’t stop offering them – ever. You merely point yourself in a direction and explore with your camera in hand. 

Focus or Furious?

So then, what is our strategy for street photography in a place like this? Do we stay focused, make a plan and stick to it, or do we just run straight ahead and capture what the city gives us? Well, I am not a big fan of planning things out in situations like this. I enjoy using my intuition as to where I should go next. If you have a lot of time in a city like New York, maybe a week or two, then planning things out may work to your advantage; helping you avoid situations where you may have otherwise retraced your steps over and over. I only had 3 effective days in New York, so I decided running head-first into the situation was my best bet, and in this case, it worked out great. 

The Trifecta (Plus 1) of Lenses

I took 4 lenses with me to NYC – 3 prime lenses and one zoom. For the zoom lens, I took the 24-105mm f/4.0 – this is an immensely overlooked lens. It has it cons, for sure, but when attached to an extremely capable camera body like the R5, it’s an amazing lens that can do 95% of everything you could ever require from a solid camera lens. But, for those moments where you need that last 5%, you are usually reliant on specialized lenses, like primes. This is why I brought along my 16mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.8, and the amazing 85mm f/1.2. The 85mm and 35mm are best-in-class lenses that offer near perfect image quality with incredible low-light performance. The 16mm offers an insanely wide field of view that lets you capture the massive verticality of the New York City streets. For the record, I used the 24-105mm on my first night, and the three prime lenses every day after that. 

It’s Okay to Look Around

Sometimes when I am walking around with a camera, I’ll start to feel guilty if I haven’t taken a photo for a few minutes, or maybe even a few seconds. Sort of like this weird personal FOMO, like I am leaving something creative on the table. The truth is, it’s okay to leave your camera by your side every now and then. Not every single moment has to be captured. At heart, I am an artist driven by inspiration, not compulsion. Every now and then you need to charge the emotional and mental batteries that live in your heart and head, and sometimes that means you need to see the world through your eyes, rather than through the lens. 

Part II Coming Soon

If you have a chance, please watch my PoV video (linked above) and, if you enjoy it, please take a moment to like, subscribe, and leave a comment. It means a lot to a small creator like me. Every interaction goes a long way. 

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Massillon, and North Eastern Area of Ohio.