Shooting the Blue Lights, Part 1

NYC from Weehawken

Every year on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, New York City has stationed two beams of blue light at the site of the World Trade Center. As far as I understand it, there’s no firm plan for the lights after next year’s tenth anniversary. While I’m sure they’ll continue for a long time to come, I didn’t want to take the chance of missing them. So this year, on Saturday September 11th, I took the bull by the horns and went out to shoot the lights.

As the crow flies, I guess I live about 20 miles west of the city. When I walked out of the house, I saw a bright light in the middle of the clouds across the street. The moon was a beautiful crescent shape, clinging low to the horizon and looking huge — but in the opposite direction. That bright patch of light came from the WTC.

I’ve been to the Weehawken/Port Imperial section of New Jersey often enough, to take the ferry ride over the Hudson to the Jacob Javitz Convention Center. Being somewhat familiar with that area, I planned on shooting the lights from there. Worst case scenario: I pay the parking fee to park at the ferry terminal lot to take pictures from the sidewalk that lines the Hudson.

Luck was on my side in one way, though: There’s a park next door to the ferry area that had free parking. It was a small parking lot, but at 8:30 on a Saturday night, it’s not a problem. After a smooth ride in (slowed down only by a bit of the Lincoln Tunnel traffic), I found a parking spot and unpacked my tripod and was ready to go.

Silly me, though, missed one important geographic problem. Port Imperial is across the way from the Empire State Building, about 30 blocks north of the WTC site. The light wasn’t shining in line with most of Manhattan. Instead, it was way far over to the right, due south more than east.

I wasn’t even sure when I got to Weehawken that I’d have a decent shot of it.

Tomorrow: Taking some backup shots first.