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
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.
2. Broadway & Downtown
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.
An alley looking down at the public library
Lots and lots of books inside Lyrical Ballad
A miniature town on the children's floor of Northshire Bookstore
A delicious crêpe at Ravenous Crêperie
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.
Spirit of Life Statue
Saratoga Spa State Park
A car parked outside the Automobile Museum
A dam near the geyser
A wooded area in the park
National Museum of Dance
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.
Skidmore'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
Saratoga Race Course
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.
Morning workout at the backstretch
Whitney Viewing Stand at the Oklahoma Track
Sunrise at the Oklahoma Track
Saratoga National Historic Park
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.
A Deer at the Battlefield
Neilson House at the Battlefield
Cemetery next to Saratoga Monument
Citizenship Ceremony at the Battlefield
Cannon at the Battlefield
Tomb at the Cemetery next to Saratoga Monument
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.
A small park by the shore of the lake
Fish Creek Marina
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.
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?
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau
Recommended Reading: Saratoga Lost: Images of Victorian America
Related posts featuring my photos of Saratoga:
- Video: Saratoga in Autumn
- Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk 2013
- Saratoga Race Course in Summer
- Riding the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad in Upstate New York
- Then & Now: Saratoga Springs, NY
- Congress Park Photo Shoot with the Hubbs Family