Valerio Berdini

This image is part of a gallery about New York, built around the concept of rethinking the American flag. Every time I take photographs, even if I'm on vacation, I need to follow an idea. This photo is the opening image of a gallery of 20 pictures.

All of these photographs were intentionally shot horizontally, in color, with a geometrical composition that recalls the shape of a national flag.

The "circular" concept I followed was to depict New York City through the geometry and colors of the flag of the United States of America, to redesign the flag itself with unequivocal images of the Big Apple.

The idea came to me when listening to Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I always thought that rendition of the anthem would make a beautiful, provocative modern version of the US national hymn, and I applied his transformation using New York City as an inspiration.

I am not a landscape photographer―as Henri Cartier-Bresson put it in an interview, “landscapes are eternal; I am in a hurry.” Thankfully, I wasn’t in a hurry when I took this picture.

I got on the Staten Island ferry on an early afternoon to have a look at New York City's famous skyline, and I took some snaps. When I reviewed the photos, I realized the minimalist view would be perfect if taken just after sunset.

I went back to Manhattan and strolled around downtown for few hours, and then jumped back on the ferry at the right time to have the Statue of Liberty standing on a gorgeous late June sunset (good bonus: the ferry is free to ride).

At the beginning I was frustrated to have been late but, once the sun disappeared below the horizon and the warm colors of the sky made space for the colder blues and reds, my landscape was there, waiting to be framed.

Technically speaking, being on a moving boat, I had to shoot handheld. Nikon's vibration reduction of the 70-200mm lens is impressive, as it is its sharpness at f2.8. With the subject far away I didn’t have issues with depth of field, and I shot at maximum aperture to prioritize the lowest ISO I could afford with a shutter speed around 1/100 of a second.

I don’t do a lot of post processing. The photo was shot in 2012 and I was using Aperture 3.2.3 at that time. The main edit in the photo was to tune the white balance to get the flag colors closer to the red/blue, silhouetting the statue and the vegetation in the background and adding a bit of saturation.

I took fewer than a dozen shots (I’m not a burst shooter), and before long the perspective I wanted was lost. This is my favorite; the gallery closes with another one taken on the way from the island back to Manhattan, the sun has set and the sky makes a version of the flag that’s almost black. 

Gear Used

Technical Details

  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shutter: 1/100s
  • ISO: 450

Valerio Berdini's work has been published in newspapers and magazines, including Condé Nast Traveler (US), L'Espresso (Italy), Travel Photography (UK), Bizarre (UK), L’Actualité (Canada), Grazia (France), Rhythm Magazine (UK), Artrocker, Veri.Live (Australia), The Daily Telegraph (UK), The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer, Evening Standard, and Il Corriere della Sera.