Paul Seibert spent much of 2018 hovering thousands of feet over New York City. He was taking photographs for the social media accounts of the helicopter tour company FlyNYON, and over the course of the year Seibert shot the city from almost every imaginable angle. But even though he shared multiple vantage points, the images that always performed best on social media were those taken from a single spot: high over Harlem, looking south over Central Park, the skyscrapers of Midtown, and Downtown Manhattan, with the East and Hudson Rivers converging at the top of the frame.
Seibert shot the city from that spot month after month, season after season, which eventually gave him the idea to create a split-screen image contrasting Manhattan in winter and summer. When that image ended up looking too artificial, he hit upon the idea of creating a composite photograph in Adobe Lightroom showing the transition between the two seasons in a single, seamless landscape.
The two photographs were actually taken at slightly different elevations, the winter one at 7,500 feet and the summer one at 6,500 feet, so Seibert first had to make sure the two photographs matched up. “There was a lot of time making sure the perspective was right and that all the focal points your eye goes toward, especially the strong lines in the grid of Central Park, were all in line,” he says.
Next, Seibert went to work blending the two images so the city would appear to be changing seasons. He decided to blanket much of the lower-lying parts of the city in snow while leaving the skyscrapers sunny. “I wanted to play with the idea of winter pushing against summer, and vice versa. I was thinking, if I can have winter come in over here I can let summer sneak in over there.”
After posting the final image to his Instagram account, it quickly went viral, attracting hundreds of awestruck comments. (“I have no words, this is just incredible,” reads a typical response.) Not everyone understood the concept. Some people criticized Seibert for failing to color-correct the image; others asked why the Hudson River was brown and the East River was grey.
“People were like, ‘Man, the Hudson River is disgusting,'” Seibert says, laughing. “But hey, if it happens to make the river look dirty, then maybe it will get some environmental attention for the poor Hudson.”