Travel Photography, New York’s Roosevelt Island Tram


Greg Goodman is a travel photographer and writer. His web site, Adventures of a GoodMan has grown from a simple text email update to a full-color online magazine of his life, and travels.


PHOTOGRILL: Please tell us about your passion for travel photography.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Photography and exploring the world always have been interconnected in my life. My parents were passionate travelers and instilled that love in me at a young age. By my fourth birthday, I had albums filled with photos from family trips across Europe and continued to snap away throughout a childhood spent visiting exotic locations both home and abroad.

For me, travel photography helps draw my attention to all the small details in a location I might otherwise miss. Even the most commonplace scene has a myriad of photo opportunities hidden within: especially when visiting developing or far away nations. It’s these images I most want to share with those back home, as they offer a unique insight into a completely alternative way of living.

PHOTOGRILL: Why did you take the Roosevelt Island Tram photograph?

PHOTOGRAPHER: It may be the most special one I’ve ever taken. I grew up on New York City’s Roosevelt Island – the sliver of land underneath the Tram in the photo – and spent my childhood shuttling to and from Manhattan by way of this aerial cable car. For one brief moment in every ride, the two Trams are next to each other and everyone in both cabins smiles and waves to each other. This always has been my favorite part of the ride, as evidenced by the hundreds of other versions of this photo in my collection.

PHOTOGRILL: Were you after this particular image, or were you photographing everything?

PHOTOGRAPHER: While traveling, I am rarely afforded more than a few moments to see a scene, set up my shot and capture the memory. That’s why I take photos of everything and later match them to the stories I write.

Taking this photo was a completely different experience. Past attempts taught me that pressing my camera against the angled corner window was the only way to avoid reflections and glare. Furthermore, I had to be on the cabin closest to the Queensboro Bridge while heading away from Roosevelt Island with a lens wide enough to capture the island, river, oncoming Tram and tower in one shot. It was a photo years in the making.

PHOTOGRILL: It looks like it was against the light, how did you deal with that and get a full set of tones in the tram?

PHOTOGRAPHER: As the Tram approached, I quickly took a light reading from both the cabin and the sky behind it and went for something in the middle. When I looked at the results, I was very pleased with the composition but felt the images lacked a certain pop and relegated them to my archives. It took another few years and teaching myself Photoshop before I revisited the photo and realized all it really needed was a few dozen layers and masks.

The original image was captured using a Nikon D80 with a 12-24mm lens set at 14mm, 1/200s exposure, f/7.1 and ISO 100. Once in Photoshop, I used Hue/Saturation, Exposure, Curves, Levels and Brightness/Contrast layers, as well as various Smart Filters.

PHOTOGRILL: What has happened to the Roosevelt Island Tram?

PHOTOGRAPHER: In 2006, a complete power failure resulted in the two Trams being stuck in the air for 13 hours with no food, water or bathrooms. Eventually, a small metal cage was hooked onto the Tram’s cable and manually cranked over the East River to the cabin.  

Passengers had to climb out of the Tram window and into the cage, crossing over a few feet of open space before being safely inside. No one was hurt, but the Tram was shut down for months after and has since been replaced with a new modernized cabin and cable system to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again.

PHOTOGRILL: What experiences have you had while travelling?

PHOTOGRAPHER: My travels usually go a little something like this: buy a one-way ticket, stuff some clothes and shoes in one backpack, gently place my camera gear and laptop in another, and head out along with my amazing fiance Carrie.

As I’m often on the road for months at a time, a typical adventure usually finds me exploring entire continents, such as recent trips through India, SouthEast Asia and Central America. Storytelling opportunities present themselves daily and along the way. I’ve volunteered in small rural villages, gotten to know protestors making Molotov cocktails, spent the night on train floors, studied meditation in monasteries, motorcycled across the countryside and chased a naked thief out of my hotel room and through the River Kwai in the middle of the night.

PHOTOGRILL: What else has happened to you while making your travel photography?

PHOTOGRAPHER: One rainy evening in Cambodia, I found myself holding on for dear life as the open-aired auto-rickshaw I was riding in lost control and skidded out down a muddy hill. Backpacks went flying and I braced myself for the inevitable crash, but then we suddenly came to a jarring stop. Hopping out of the taxi, I was both thrilled to be standing on my own two feet and mortified at the site before me: my camera bag wedged beneath the hill and the back wheels.

It was my 70-300mm lens that took the brunt of the impact and probably saved me from serious injury. Best of all, it still took pictures! Sure, the protective UV filter’s glass shattered and its ring is now permanently jammed on the lens ring, but looking at it makes me smile ever time as I recall the wild experience.

PHOTOGRILL: What’s your single most important travel photography tip?

PHOTOGRAPHER: Travel photography with a good camera is a commitment and I’m often jealous of fellow travelers who use only a point and shoot or have a DSLR with just one multi-purpose lens. However, when I look at my images every night, I am constantly reminded of just how worth it the extra weight is.

My gear consists of a Nikon D80, 10.5mm fisheye, 12-24mm wide angle, 50mm fixed and a 70-300mm super-zoom plus a point and shoot, laptop, mini-tripod and large assortment of accessories and chargers. Transporting it usually means one big bag on my back and another strapped to my chest, equating to nearly 60 pounds of extra weight every time I’m on the move.

Perhaps the best advice I can offer is to accept that at any minute you can lose it all. Upload high-res versions of your images whenever possible and put your most precious images on disc and mail them home. This way, you don’t spend your days consumed with the safety of your gear and can feel comfortable leaving your camera bag in your room when you go out at night. After all, there’s no stress allowed on vacation!

PHOTOGRILL: Tell us how your website fits in with your travel & photography.

PHOTOGRAPHER: What better excuse to travel than, “I need new content!”. It’s a way for me to tell my stories on the go and keep in touch with friends and family. To some extent, my site also helps keep me sane while traveling. When confronted with absurd, frustrating and potentially stressful situations, I calm myself by writing the story in my head as it happens. Also, the knowledge that a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity might be around the corner keeps me pressing on, even when I’m hanging off the back of a pickup truck trying to squeeze in my seventh city in five days.

While I do not currently have my next trip planned, South America is really calling me. I would love nothing more than to backpack around the continent, meet the locals, see the sites, use my Spanish and document the whole adventure on my site. Stay tuned…


Many entertaining stories of Greg Goodman’s world wide travels can be found at: Adventures of a GoodMan: Photography, Storytelling and Travel by Greg Goodman



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3 Responses to “Travel Photography, New York’s Roosevelt Island Tram”

  1. Bonnie Goodman says:

    You have taken your love of photography and turned it into a body of work that makes the world available to those who have not had the opportunity to explore in the way that you have.

  2. Greg Goodman says:

    Thanks so much for featuring my work and interview! The post looks great.

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