Long Islanders looking to take outdoor family portraits or photos to mark special occasions should know they're in good company. Local photographers say even amid the pandemic, milestone photo shoots remain big. Luckily, Nassau and Suffolk counties have several scenic spots at which to do so.
"People still really do want to celebrate these days, but how they're doing it now is very unique," says John Salkowsky, 54, of Massapequa, who owns Lindenhurst-based wedding photography and videography company Silverfox Studios.
Photographer Tara Stephens, 35, of Islip Terrace says she’s received "so many inquiries daily from families looking to document this crazy time we are all going through. A lot of families will mention wanting to have photos now more than ever because of this virus."
Whether it's an engagement, wedding, proposal, birthday or family event, here are some scenic outdoor spots for photo-ops. Keep in mind permits and appointments may be required to shoot on these properties.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
A former Gold Coast estate, Planting Fields offers a pair of greenhouses and some lovely architecture including Coe Hall, a structure intended to appear as an English manor, for photo-ops. A pair looking for a pretty backdrop can find gardens and greens aplenty. You’ll need a permit from the NYS Parks office for photography. Outdoor wedding photography costs $200, whereas general outdoor photography is typically $100. Camellia House wedding or general photography is $300; available from April to November. (1395 Planting Fields Rd., Oyster Bay; 516-922-8678, plantingfields.org)
Jones Beach State Park
Pose on its boardwalk or by its sandy shoreline, both picturesque. Oh, and it's got a little thing called the Atlantic Ocean lapping and crashing around the clock. NYS Parks permit required. (2400 Ocean Pkwy., Wantagh; 516-785-1600, parks.ny.gov)
Walk along the Long Beach boardwalk and try for a sunset shot. Wedding and special occasion photos do not require a permit but before you venture onto the beach, you'll want to touch base with the city's Events Office at 516-705-7415 to arrange the date, time and location.
Clark Botanic Garden
A lovely pocket of horticulture, Clark is a space where cultivated plants and flowers create a serene scene. Permits are required from the Office of the North Hempstead Town Clerk. (193 I. U. Willets Rd., Albertson; 516-484-2208, clarkbotanic.org)
The Sands Point Preserve
A former estate turned county park, your jaw may drop if you’ve never seen the massive, castle-like mansions that stand here — but other photo-friendly aspects include over 200 acres of trails, gardens, open green space and a freshwater pond. Permits are required; $350 for outdoor photography (locations must be approved in advance). For photo-ops inside the historic Hempstead House, a $450 permit is required. Check website for more details and rules. (127 Middle Neck Rd, Sands Point; 516-571-7901, sandspointpreserveconservancy.org)
Celebrating couples can use the Veterans Memorial or Administration Building Garden for photos, and permits are required for any photo shoots; check the website or call 516-571-3168 for more details. (Entrances on Stewart and Merrick avenues; Hempstead Turnpike and East Meadow Avenue; 516-572-0347, nassaucountyny.gov)
Nassau County Museum of Art
The grounds include a sculpture park and a large garden area. Professional photo or videography sessions require a permit and are only permitted outdoors. Permits start at $175.00 for up to two hours; additional time is $50 per hour. (1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor; 516-484-9338, nassaumuseum.org)
The lighthouse itself is a striking icon, but it’s also surrounded by green lawn and sits on a rocky beach with incredible ocean views — and if you get the chance to take pictures during the sunset, the lighthouse can take on a beautiful orange glow. Photography is by appointment only; call to make arrangements. (2000 Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com)
Long Island Aquarium
Pictures can be taken with penguins or sea lions, inside the butterfly garden, by the indoor waterfall or in the shark tunnel. Flash photography is OK but video lights are not. Call ahead to make arrangements. Everyone must pay admission fees ($35, ages 3-12: $23, 62 and older: $26). Full celebratory photography sessions involving animals are $250; the sea lion encounter photo session is $150; aquarium staffers take the photos, masks are required. The aquarium reserves the right to reschedule sessions should the animal choose not to participate. (431 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-208-9200 (Ext. 426), longislandaquarium.com)
If you’ve driven through Babylon Village on any sort of a regular basis, you’ve likely spotted a wedding party using this spot as a backdrop, where rolling manmade waterfalls gurgle under a tree-lined walkway. To do some photo shooting, you’ll need to apply for a permit from the village; no photography is permitted in the Memorial Garden. Village residents don’t pay a fee, while nonresidents pay $100. (188-180 W. Main St., Babylon; 631-669-1500, villageofbabylonny.gov)
Robert Moses State Park
Your posing options are aplenty here, where backdrops include the shoreline, the Fire Island Lighthouse, the boardwalk and surrounding greenery; NYS Parks permits are required for photos. (600 Robert Moses State Pkwy., Babylon; 631-669-0449, parks.ny.gov)
Shadmoor State Park
Like much of Montauk, ocean access is a feature here, as are beachy plants, berry trees and bluffs that lead down to the beach. Nature abounds, but humanity’s presence is clear when you come across a pair of decommissioned military bunkers. Permits are required for photos. (900 Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov)
Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium
The Gold Coast estate and mansion, once the luxurious home of William K. Vanderbilt II, is a property packed with ornate architecture and manicured gardens. Indoor photography is forbidden, but outdoor photography is allowed with a permit; call 631-854-5568 to make arrangements in advance and for current rates. (180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport; 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org)
A popular spot to get hitched, this hotel and estate is home to an actual castle and large garden spaces. Personal photo shoots can be arranged for a fee (wedding photos are not permitted on the same day as a wedding at Oheka). Personal photo shoots start at $2,500 for two people; the permit includes an approved photographer. Call 631-659-1301 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. (135 W. Gate Dr., Huntington; 631-659-1400, oheka.com)
Fire Island Lighthouse
Part of the Fire Island National Seashore, the 168-foot lighthouse is a beautiful site, and like the rest of the barrier island on which it sits, there are water views, beaches nearby and low-lying vegetation at every turn. Call the Special Park Uses and Commercial Services Office at 631-687-4758 to make sure your photo plans are acceptable. (1 Burma Rd., Bay Shore; 631-661-4876, fireislandlighthouse.com)
Peconic River Herb Farm
While this may mainly be a plant nursery, it’s also got acres of green space and greenhouses worthy of exploration. Between its weatherworn buildings and horticultural arrangements, it’s a spot known to draw photographers. Commercial shoots can be booked for $40 between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and after-hours until 7 p.m. for $80; anyone looking to shoot should call 631-369-0058 to prepay and get a slot. Personal photos are no charge. (2749 River Rd., Calverton; 631-369-0058, prherbfarm.com)