Friday, August 1, 2014

The Photographer's Guide to Saratoga Springs, NY



It's August, which means summer is in full swing in Saratoga, bringing an influx of tourists from around the world, eager to visit Race Course, the springs, and the other attractions this fine city has to offer.  Fairly centrally located between Boston to the east, Syracuse and Buffalo to the west, Montréal to the north, and New York to the south, you could easily make a day trip or a weekend to Saratoga if you live near one of these metropolitan areas.  If you don't live within driving distance, Saratoga is conveniently located just about 30 miles from Albany International Airport.

If you're planning a trip to Saratoga, I've compiled a list of my ten favorite locations to photograph around the city.  This guide is geared towards all photographers, whether you're using an iPhone or a Canon 1DX, or something in between.  While I will note which lenses are my favorites to use in certain areas, any camera or lens you have with you is capable of taking beautiful photos in Saratoga.


1.  The Springs

Taking a Drink at Congress Spring

Saratoga's springs, which are thought to have health benefits, are what first made the city a tourist destination, even before we had the race track.  Since many of the springs are housed in pavilions, this is a great place for architectural photography.  It's also fun to take portraits of people drinking from the springs.  Some of my favorite springs to photograph are Peerless (located downtown next to the Farmer's Market), Congress (pictured above, located in Congress Park), Columbian (also located in Congress Park), Hathorn (located just outside Congress Park), and Big Red (located inside the Race Course).  A complete list of Saratoga's springs and their locations can be found here.

Columbian Spring

Big Red Spring at Saratoga Race Course

Hathorn Spring


2.  Broadway & Downtown

Playing the Mandolin
Saratoga's lively downtown area is probably better know for its abundance of shops, restaurants, and bars than it is photo opportunities, but if you overlook it, you're missing a great opportunity for street photography! There are so many details in Saratoga's downtown, that I primarily use my 50mm f/1.4 to capture them and blur out the background (an exception being the photograph at left, for which I used my 135mm f/2). Start on Broadway, then be sure to make your way down Phila and Caroline Streets. There are lots of great things to photograph in the stores and restaurants too.



Happy early birthday to me! Thanks mom!
French pastries from Mrs. London's

Saratoga Alley

An alley looking down at the public library

Lyrical Ballad 5
Lots and lots of books inside Lyrical Ballad

The Little Hot Dog Stand
A miniature town on the children's floor of Northshire Bookstore


A delicious crêpe at Ravenous Crêperie


Congress Park

A Tree in Congress Park

While most would consider Congress Park part of Saratoga's downtown, it definitely deserves its own section.  With a carousel, a war memorial, as well as lots of trees, benches, fountains, statues and people, there is no shortage of things to photograph here.  In the middle of the park is Canfield Casino, which you can tour, however photography is not allowed inside.  Lots of people walk their dogs here, so there's a great potential for pet photography.  Several springs are also located in Congress Park.  This is also another place that's good for portraits.


Canfield Casino

Congress Park Carousel

The Hubbs Family

A Dog Walk in the Park

The Rolls Royce

Spit or Spat
Spit Statue

Spirit of Life
Spirit of Life Statue

Saratoga Spa State Park

The Bench at Spa State Park
Saratoga Spa State park includes the Hall of Springs area (pictured below and at left), picnic pavilions, the geyser area, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), National Museum of Dance, Automobile Museum, Gideon Putnam Hotel, two pools, several springs, and Avenue of the Pines.  You won't be able to see all of this in one day!  The Hall of Springs area is my favorite.  I like to set up my tripod next to the reflecting pool or near one of the arcades and capture long exposures with my neutral density filter.  Most of the rest of the park is a doable walk from this area, although there are a number of parking lots throughout the park.

Light After the Rain

Saratoga Spa State Park at Night

A Classic Cadillac
A car parked outside the Automobile Museum

The Dam at Saratoga Spa State Park
A dam near the geyser

A Walk in the Woods

A wooded area in the park

SPAC
SPAC

The National Museum of Dance
National Museum of Dance

North Broadway

A Fall Stroll in Saratoga

North Broadway, with its tree-lined sidewalks and spacious homes, is a treat for the eyes. While there are a number of great examples of beautiful architecture in Saratoga, I count some of the homes on North Broadway as my favorites. I like to use a long lens here, like my 135mm f/2, to capture the trees in separation from the background, or a wide-to-normal lens to capture the architecture. I'll admit, fall is my favorite season to photograph North Broadway, but it looks good any time of the year.

A Stroll Down North Broadway

North Broadway on a Fall Evening

The Leaves Are Falling

Yet Another Fall Stroll






Skidmore College

The Path On CampusSkidmore's tranquil grounds feature a number of interesting and modern buildings to photograph.  Trees line the pathways that take you around the campus.  A small foot bridge, a covered picnic area over Haupt pond, and the many trees and benches around campus are some of my favorite things to photograph at Skidmore.  Some of the many programs at the college that are open to the public offer further photo opportunities.  There isn't one lens I use more than the others here; wide angles are great for the architecture and fast telephotos are great for separating the benches or the trees from the background.




Arthur Zankel Music Center

Haupt Pond, Skidmore College
Haupt Pond

The Bridge to Bokeh


Saratoga Race Course

The Crowd at the Track

The track, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, runs from late July to early September, every day except Tuesday. You don't have to be a fan of horse racing to enjoy the track; the ambiance (and the many opportunities to take photos) make it worth the visit for just about anyone. If you'd like to see the horses work out in the morning, having breakfast at the track is a must. Then take a free tour of the backstretch to learn about how the horses are cared for. The Oklahoma Training Track, just down the street from the main track, is another fantastic place to watch horses work out. The viewing stand allows you to get a higher vantage point, but I actually prefer being down lower.

Here They Come!

007
Morning workout at the backstretch

Oklahoma Track Viewing Stand
Whitney Viewing Stand at the Oklahoma Track

The Winning Tickets

Golden Morning at the Track
Sunrise at the Oklahoma Track

Saratoga National Historic Park

Fife & Drum Corps Play at Saratoga Battlefield

the Saratoga National Historic Park encompasses the Saratoga Battlefield, the Saratoga Monument and adjacent Victory Woods, and the Philip Schuyler House. While not actually in Saratoga Springs (it's in Stillwater, a neighboring town), the area, due to its name and close proximity to the city, is closely associated with it. The Battle of Saratoga is considered the turning point in the American Revolution, and as such, those of us from the area take pride in knowing that our countrymen made substantial contributions to the fight for our freedom right in our own backyard. Fittingly, 4th of July, a citizenship ceremony is held outside the visitors center at the Battlefield. Just a short drive north to Schuylerville is where you'll find the Philip Schuyler House, the residence of a general during the Revolution, and the Saratoga Monument.

Saratoga Monument at Sunset
Saratoga Monument

"Wildlife" at the Saratoga Battlefield
A Deer at the Battlefield

The Neilson House
Neilson House at the Battlefield

Tall Pines
Cemetery next to Saratoga Monument

We Are All Americans Now
Citizenship Ceremony at the Battlefield


Cannon at the Battlefield


Tomb at the Cemetery next to Saratoga Monument


Saratoga Lake

Saratoga Lake Drenched in Sunlight

Saratoga is one of several towns that surround Saratoga Lake.  It can be difficult to find a place to stop and photograph the lake if you don't own property along it, but there are a few spots here and there.  Fish Creek, which feeds into the lake, is a popular spot for fishing and kayak rentals.

Evening at the Lake
A small park by the shore of the lake

Evening at Saratoga Lake


Trees by Saratoga Lake

Fish Creek Marina Sunset
Fish Creek Marina


Yaddo


Stormy Skies at Yaddo

Yaddo, once the residence of wealthy locals Spencer and Katrina Trask, today serves as an artists' retreat. While the Yaddo Mansion is not open to the public, the gorgeous gardens are. I love photographing the details around the garden, which include gates, statues, and many flowers, with one of my fast lenses.

Gardens at Yaddo

Flowers in Bloom at Yaddo

The Gate at Yaddo

Statue of Winter


Yaddo Gate


If you've never been to Saratoga, you can see by now that the city has lots to offer.  I feel very fortunate to live in a community with a such a rich history and a vibrant mix of different photographic subjects.  If you've been to or live in Saratoga, what's your favorite place to photograph?

Helpful Links
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
Saratoga.com
Recommended Reading: Saratoga Lost: Images of Victorian America



Related posts featuring my photos of Saratoga:

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