Belvedere Castle in Central Park was closed through most of 2019 for renovations. I am happy to report, however, that the castle has finally opened, and I have all the details in today’s blog post. There are a few changes due to Covid-19 that you need to know, plus I have a full set of tips for getting the best photos during your Belvedere Castle family portrait session.
Mary and Her Family
For Mary and Andrew, Belvedere Castle is a place of special significance. This is the spot where Andrew began his date with Mary before finally asking her to marry him in Shakespeare Garden, located below the castle. Returning to Belvedere Castle – the start of their romantic journey – was especially poignant since they now had a precious little daughter to show off in front of the camera. I was so pleased to finally make this photo shoot happen, particularly since we had been trying to schedule the session since December of last year.
Things to Consider –
Covid-19 Closures, Crowds, Shade, and My Favorite Spots
During the renovations, Belvedere Castle received a full overhaul. With a thorough cleaning and historical details restored, the castle looks fantastic. But of course, thanks to Covid-19, the top of the castle turret is closed and you will not be able to enter the structure itself to see any of the interior changes. The view over Central Park, however, remains breathtaking and it is well worth a climb to the top.
While the castle is lovely and one of the most unique points of interest in Central Park, it has never been my favorite spot for photos. The reason is that the castle is quite small, so you don’t have any way to escape the crowds. In addition, there isn’t a lot of shade. You will have to remain under the portico leading to the stairs overlooking Turtle Pond, or underneath the roof covering each respective corner in the Belvedere Castle patio.
Both issues are easily remedied, however. First, make sure you schedule your Belvedere Castle family portrait session for a time of the day (and week) so as to avoid the crowds. I always recommend hitting Central Park early on a weekday. Weekends are to be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, time your shoot so that you are as close to ‘golden hour’ as possible to avoid the harsh overhead sunlight. Follow those two rules, and you should be fine.
My favorite photo spots at Belvedere Castle include shots on the grand staircase (if you can avoid the crowds), underneath the corner porticos, and in the main patio with the turret in the background. Don’t forget to also include a panorama shot of Central Park on your shot list.
The most spectacular view of the castle, ironically, is not found at Belvedere Castle itself, but across from Turtle Pond looking back on the structure. Indeed, there is a little outcrop in front of Turtle Pond set up so that you can get a perfect view of the castle with no obnoxious fencing in your way. One point to note: the grassy areas of Central Park have been closing early due to the pandemic, so make sure you take your photos in front of Turtle Pond well before dusk.
Belvedere Castle Family Portrait – Beyond the Castle
A Belvedere Castle family portrait session would not be complete without also including photos in Shakespeare Garden. Bear in mind that like Belvedere Castle, Shakespeare Garden is a quite small space. While we were there, the garden was crazy crowded with other people setting up their own photo shoots. I would have loved to have taken a family portrait around the sundial – where Andrew proposed to Mary – but there was a fashion shoot going on complete with tent and set up lights. We got in and got out, but know that you will likely not have the garden all to yourselves unless you go on a weekday at an off time.
Finally, the west edge of Central Park is right next to the bright lights, big city of the upper west side. I always like to include a little bit of the city in any Central Park shoot. The corner of 81st Street and Central Park West is a great point from which to photograph the tall buildings and the ever chaotic traffic.
Enjoy the photos, and consider booking your holiday portrait now while the weather is sublime. Drop me a line, and let’s chat!
If you would like to see more images from my family portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com