Coney Island is a photographer’s dream come true. A quirky oasis of colours and interesting personalities combined with a rich history. I knew as soon as I had made plans to visit New York, that Coney Island needed to be part of my itinerary. So when I found out that Local Expeditions are offering photography tours of Coney Island run by a local photographer, I just had to sign up!
Local Expeditions are an up and coming tour guide company based in New York City that provide community driven adventures. Instead of taking you on a walking tour to the typical tourist attractions, Local Expeditions offer a glimpse into what life as a local in NYC is like. I always think that meeting locals helps to understand aspects of a culture that a guide book could not convey. So naturally I couldn’t wait to see what it was like to be shown around Coney Island by a local.
Christine Callahan is a native New Yorker, artist and photographer. Her expressive photography has been exhibited in galleries around the globe and she now teaches photography at the International Center of Photography, as well as giving online courses for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Christine uses her local knowledge and eye for photography to show visitors around Coney Island and helps them capture the spirit of the place from a local’s point of view.
The two hour tour starts at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog, a legendary establishment that has been on the island since 1916 serving hot dogs and other beach side favourites to locals and tourists. Of course I couldn’t resist sampling one of those famous hot dogs before the tour started. Let me tell you it was a fantastic start to an afternoon in Coney Island. If one hot dog doesn’t quite cut things for you, maybe check out their annual hot dog eating competition.
Coney Art Walls
The first stop of our tour was also my favourite part of Coney Island, the Coney Art Walls: an outdoor museum of street art in the heart of the amusement park. The collection features pieces by local painters and leading artists from the street art scene. The Coney Art Walls were the ideal spot to start playing around with some camera settings. While we were getting some tips from our guide, we were lucky enough to observe some of the artists making the finishing touches to their masterpieces. I could have stayed hours watching the artists finishing their work and getting lost in each and every one of the walls.
While I’m not the biggest fan of amusement parks, this one is a treat. The vibrant colours and iconic attractions make the Luna Park a perfect photo opportunity. In fact some of those attractions have been there since the 1920s and are now official landmarks of the city. The opening of Luna Park in 1903 came at a time where the island was symbol for a new era of amusement parks and provided a welcome break from the everyday for the city folks. Unfortunately most of the original park burned down and it had to close in 1946. Just six years ago in 2010 the new Luna Park opened marking a new era of fun in the sun for New Yorkers and tourists. The photography tour is not just passive though. Christine will gladly accompany you on a thrilling ride of the original wooden roller coaster. That is, if you have the guts. At this point I would love to tell you all about how awesome the ride was, but I chickened out.
The Boardwalk & Pier of Coney Island
After so many colourful impressions it was time for a real Coney Island ice cream. Now that is something I won’t say no to. My flavour of choice was pistachio. Thankfully the ice cream had the same colour as my skirt, because the day of the tour was a real scorcher causing my ice cream to melt faster than my flip flops.
The final stop of the tour is the boardwalk and pier of the island. The boardwalk is so much more than just a path between the spinning attractions and the beach. It’s a prime people watching spot. A place where you can capture kids laughing and running around, spot cool dudes showing off the artwork on their bodies and see teenagers practicing their skate boarding skills.
Once you enter the fishing pier it gets even more interesting. It doesn’t only offer spectacular views of the Coney Island skyline dotted by colourful attractions but you can also watch the locals fish for seafood and crabs.
The time of the tour flew by and being shown around Coney Island by local photographer Christine was the way to go. The tour was the perfect mix of local knowledge, photography tips and some great locations. There is so much of this iconic place that I would have missed without Christine’s guidance.
Thanks to Local Expeditions for inviting me to join the Coney Island Photography Tour. As always, all opinion are my own.
Have you ever been on a photography tour? Is it something that you would consider doing? Let me know in the comments below.
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