Chelsea Waterside Park and its neighbor next door, Hudson River Park, are perfect locations for a family photo shoot. The only tricky part is proper timing. Both parks are very popular on the weekend and late afternoon, as the Hudson River waterfront is the best spot in the city to view sunset. Early mornings are your best bet to have the parks all to yourself, as illustrated by photos I recently took of Ruben and Joanna’s family. I’ve got all the details of their Hudson River Park and Chelsea Waterside Park family portrait session in today’s blog post, so let’s dive in to get you prepared for your own photo shoot.
Meet Ruben and Joanna
Let me start by introducing you to Ruben and Joanna. These two might look familiar, as I photographed their fantastic wedding on a Long Island city rooftop in 2014. These two were a real life 90-day fiancé story, and their love story actually made the London Times, Joanna’s home newspaper! They now have a precious little son, who at one years of age is a fantastic little model. It was such a pleasure to see them all again and see how their family has grown.
Hudson River Park & Chelsea Waterside Park Family Portrait –
A Typical Photo Shoot Itinerary
You have lots of background options for photos in this area, though half of your locations are right out in the open and you are subject to the harsh rays of overhead sunlight. My recommendation is that you take advantage of the shady spots. The first great patch of shade is located on either side of the entrance just as you are walking into Hudson River Park at 12th Avenue and 23rd Street. Jump right in and take care of your individual shots with the children and family group shots in this forested area. And don’t be tempted by the playground you pass at Chelsea Waterside Park – you should visit this later. I never recommend that you start a family portrait session at a playground, as you’ll never get outside the gate once you enter with little children. Better to use a trip to the playground as a reward for a end of the photo shoot.
Next up is to check out the rock garden area. When I was at Hudson River Park with Ruben and his family, the grass in the first shady area was very wet thanks to morning dew. I didn’t want anyone to get to dirty at the very start of the session, so I saved my individual shots of Ruben’s son for the rock garden area. This was a great solution as Ruben’s son found the perfect rock to perch on for his individual photos. The rock garden area does not have a lot of shade, but if you stick to the rocks on the edge of the area, the tall foliage can give you a little bit of protection from the overhead sun.
From the rock garden we then ventured over to waterfront – the money shot at Hudson River Park. The waterfront is beautiful. It’s not the New York City skyline view from Queens, but the New Jersey view is lovely nonetheless. For our 8:00 a.m. photo shoot the riverfront area was a bit too bright out for my taste. To hit this area at the perfect time of day requires scheduling session exactly at ‘golden hour’ – either just after sunrise or just before sunset. Bear in mind, however, that bright sunlight can create great shadows, so don’t be afraid to use these shadows to your advantage during your shoot. Also, definitely make use of the NYC skyline view as you look away from the waterfront. While the view over the water may be too bright in the morning, the view back towards the city is just glorious. Case in point, these photos above of Ruben and Joanna alone were taken in the meadow area behind the waterfront, looking away from the water.
Finally as promised, don’t miss the amazingly creative playground in Chelsea Waterside Park. The playground has a sea life theme to it, a personal favorite of mine. There is a little trail behind the fountains in the back of the playground that is wonderful for photos, and the fish face slide just begs to bet the center of attention. One word of caution: there are many fountains in this park that can be turned on by a quick press of a button on the ground. Don’t get surprised, and don’t get your camera equipment wet, if you are in the back fountain area of the playground.
Other Photo Shoot Locations Nearby
We ended our session with a walk down 27th Street. Ruben and Joanna were very fond of portraits with a graffiti background that I had taken on the streets of Soho for their wedding. So of course we tried to recreate this setting, now with their little son in tow! If you are looking to have the same artistic background in your own photos, stroll down 27th Street and check out the walls in front of the McKittrick Hotel and the Selina Chelsea Hotel, near the High Line.
The Hudson River Park has a huge skateboarding arena, so if you are a fan of either watching skateboarders perform or having them as a creative prop in your photos, definitely make a pit stop here. The only disadvantage of getting to the park so early in the morning for Ruben and Joanna’s shoot was that the skateboarders were not up yet.
Finally, if you have the stamina, I suggest tacking on a walk through the High Line. Currently you have to have a reservation to get on the High Line and you can only enter at 16th Street, but the exit for the park is at 23rd Street. From here at Tenth Avenue it is a quick walk over to the waterfront. If you’ve got the time, why not do both in one session?
Chelsea Waterside Park Family Portrait Tips
As far as tips and tricks for your Chelsea Waterside Park family portrait session, I can only say that the park is typically very crowded, especially on the weekends. Early mornings are really the ideal time to have any amount of privacy during your photo shoot. Make sure you look twice before crossing the active bike path, and know that due to COVID-19, the public restroom at Chelsea Piers is currently closed.
Enjoy the photos, and I’ll have more interesting sessions to share next week. In the meantime, if you’d like to set up a family portrait session of your own, drop me a line and let’s chat.
If you would like to see more photos for my family portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com