I just spent 2 hours looking at this photo

I imagine that most of you will find this photo absolutely mundane, especially if you live in a big city. However, I have spent my entire life in North Dakota, and find it fascinating. Oh, here’s the photo. Make sure it’s blown up fully for maximum effect.

I’m not a photographer, so I don’t know what you would call it when the entire picture is in focus, from near to far, and top to bottom. Deep focus maybe?

Anyway, what I find fascinating is looking at all the detail on the older buildings in the lower part of the photo. Each of these buildings makes me curious as to what goes on inside from day to day, and how the building itself functions in a mechanical way. For instance, each building has what appears to be a water tower on top, or several. I assume because of water pressure the higher you go.

I also look at things like the combination of window air conditioners and central air units.
And all of the different things on rooftops. Little gardens and tables, and vehicles on the roof that look like they had to get there via elevator.
And quaint little rooftop living areas?

I also wonder about what is inside the spire of the Empire State Building, and if people actually go up in there, and for what. It looks like a part of the spire has windows going around, and that there’s room for people in there.

The detail in the photo is good enough that I just spent two hours looking around at every little thing, and wondering about life in a big city, and wondering about all of the specialized workers it would take to maintain all of those tall buildings. I can imagine that working on some of the systems in those older buildings must be a nightmare, especially if the plumbing goes bad. I can’t even comprehend some of the things that could go wrong, and some of the stories these workers would have.

A few of the older buildings in the foreground look sort of run-down, and I wonder about the people who own these buildings, and how much it would cost just to maintain them in that condition, never mind fully renovating them. I wonder how much it would cost to rent an apartment in one of those buildings. I like how some of the older buildings have nice little architectural flourishes like pillars and archways halfway up the building.

Just a random post from a naïve country boy who is amazed that a place like this was ever built and that somehow, it keeps functioning.

And yet with all those buildings, only a few people are visible when the total capacity of what you can see is pretty staggering.

Do you like to use Google maps to explore as well? I do. I completely get where you’re coming from. See that tower on top of the Empire State Building? I’ve been in there. I was up there cleaning up renovation debris. It’s hollow and has several steel mesh platforms. You get to each platform in a tiny elevator. There’s graffiti from the late 1930s to today on various walls and columns. Literally graffiti from the workers who were building the structure.

Don’t tell anyone, okay? It’s a secret.

If you live or work in Manhattan you quickly become familiar with rooftop water towers, aeration tanks, ductwork, and ventilation fans. Even more fun to look at live when the rotors are spinning or the water is circulating or whatever. Most of the tech in those buildings is generations old, too.

As a country boy who got to spend 4 glorious years in downtown Boston, it never really stops being fascinating or amazing. I’d saw off my own right leg to go back, tbh. . .

Huh that’s wide enough for a dual 1080p desktop background - and there’s 6 or 7 (ignoring the very top that’s almost all sky) different slices you can choose from

I gotta say I admire your restraint, Rich. If I’d worked in the Empire State Building in any capacity, every other thing I said would begin “when I worked in the Empire State Building…” When I worked in the Empire State Building, I just got this steak at Kroger for 8 bucks a pound!

Total sucker for aerial views, myself. I felt somewhat sheepish and touristy ponying up the $30 or whatever for the ticket to the Rockefeller Plaza observation deck. Worth every penny. I must have spent an hour and a half up there, just drinking it all in.

So Giles, when you visit NYC, fly into LaGuardia, and there’s a bus that runs from the airport to the Upper West Side, across the Triborough Bridge. Sit on the left hand side. The view of Manhattan is great. It just goes on and on and on.

The photographer is maximising depth of field, probably using a technique called hyperfocal focusing. Basically, when you close the aperture of the lens right down (a high f-stop) you increase the depth of field. To get the greatest possible depth of field in a photograph, in most cases you’d focus at a point around 1/3 of the way between yourself and the most distant object you want in focus (eg the horizon). That point is called the hyperfocal distance. It also depends very much on the type of lens you’re using; the wider the angle, the greater the depth of field (see for example any smartphone camera). But there’s a trade-off because image quality is reduced at smaller apertures, and you might end up with more of the photo in focus but with reduced sharpness. You can also get around some of these restrictions by stitching photos together (which is possibly what’s been done here) for a similar effect. This might be a stationary drone shot too (also using photo stitching).

Its actually fun zooming it in then check each buildings :)

It’s a few years old - seems like it would be pre drone.

I never noticed how many antennas are on the ESB before. Makes sense, but still, the only thing I’m used to seeing up there is a giant ape.

Not just you.

At the time of the renovation my job was to clean up after the guys working on the inside and outside of the building. I once asked a guy how he could work 80 or some odd stories up, on a scaffold.

He said, “Anything higher than four stories is guaranteed to kill you. What’s the difference?”

I was in New York 8 years ago and we went to the top of the Chrysler Building. I took many a photo, and the when I turn on my computer every morning I get to see a panorama of New York City from the top of that building. I do find it fascinating.

The amount of wind, and the time to realize your mistake

It looks like that photo was taken from the top of 30 Rock. Not only do you get that great view of the Empire State Building to the south, but also a great view of Central Park to the north:

My favorite view of NYC is from a heavily banking plane going low over the city on the final approach to LaGuardia. It’s amazing on a clear day!

I’d add at night to that.


I have never been to NYC but that photo is amazing. What a contrast to Paris, which I have been and the view from Eiffel Tower is equally amazing but of shorter buildings all over the land.