Shooting Williamsburg Bridge

Among the four major bridges crossing the East River, Williamsburg bridge (aka Willie B.) is probably my favorite when it comes to photography.

Opened in 1903, Willie B was the second bridge built across the East River (after the Brooklyn Bridge). It was designed by the same team of architects which worked on the Queensboro Bridge a few years later.

Let’s start our photography journey at Marcy Ave Station a few hundreds meters from the bridge. The Top platform of the station offers superb views of the bridge mixing perfectly with the dome of the Williamsburgh Saving Bank and the Peter Luger Steakhouse mural. If you also manage to include a train in the frame you will get a solid composition. This works pretty well on a foggy day or at sunset. From June to July, the sun goes through the columns of the bridge before setting which gives a pretty awesome touch to your photo. Some photographers talk about a “Williamsburghenge” in reference to the more famous Manhanttanhenge.

“Williamsburghenge” seen from Marcy Ave Station

“Williamsburghenge” seen from Marcy Ave Station

Getting off Marcy Station by feet and walking down to the pedestrian walkaway on the bridge, don’t forget to stop by S 6th St. This street is for the Williamsburg bridge the equivalent of what Washington St is to the Manhattan bridge, without the crowds.

Williamsburg Bridge at sunset seen from S 6th St.

Williamsburg Bridge at sunset seen from S 6th St.

The pedestrian entrance is located just a few meters away, but if you like architectural photos I suggest walking further down to Kent Ave. The “belly” of the bridge can be seen from there. You will have to make the effort of climbing on top of a small wall just below the bridge on Kent Ave.

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It is now time to make your way to the pedestrian walkway of the bridge. Your first stop will be above Kent Ave when the walkway turns right. There is a superb view of both Downtown skyline and the Williamsburg bridge on your left.

Downtown Skyline seen from Williamsburg bridge Bridge

Downtown Skyline seen from Williamsburg bridge Bridge

Continue walking further to the middle of the bridge where a little passage between the walking walkway and the cycling path offers an insane view of the inside of the bridge with the train rails. There is a little hole in the fence on one of the sides of the passage. That’s where you are supposed to put your camera to take the shot.

This view is famous for the symmetry it offers and if becomes really cool if you can get a train in your shot, or even better if you wait patiently to get two trains perfectly aligned. On the weekend you can wait a very long time to get this perfectly aligned shot as train traffic is reduced. I suggest going there at peak time on a weekday. Alternatively you can use photoshop to create the illusion of perfect symmetry like I have done in the second shot below. This shot works really well during golden hour when the sun light is reflecting on the trains and rails.

Hold your camera steady as the trains are making the bridge quite shaky, and shoot in continuous mode at a fast shutter speed (I would recommend minimum 1/500th of a second).

Both sides of the bridge offer nice views of the city, but are difficult to photograph due to the fence.

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I also love to photograph the walkway which has crazy leading lines. It is particularly photogenic during the golden hour when the sun light is reflecting on the walking path.

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After walking a little further while towards Manhattan, you’ll reach a point where the walkway merges with the cycling lane. Here is a nice vantage point of the bridge with perfect symmetry. Long exposure shots work well if you can hold you camera steady.

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The view of Midtown Manhattan is also nice from there, with a deep contrast between residential towers and the city skyline.

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It is now time for your to make your way to the exit of the bridge. Welcome to Manhattan!

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