Shooting Urban Landscapes
Written 8 years ago by Mark Evans
The urban landscape presents some unique and challenging subjects to photograph. Mountains have been replaced with towering buildings and tranquillity with the hustle and bustle of the city. These different surroundings can make for some pretty exciting shots and it can be just as exciting to shoot them too. Here’s some tips for taking pics down town:
To add to the challenge of photographing in the Big Smoke, there’s always a handful of strange people thrown into the mix, just to make things interesting, so make sure first and foremost that you are safe wherever you choose to setup; I know I’ve seen some pretty moody looking alleyways that would make a great shot, but never felt safe enough to pull my camera out! Secondly, make sure your gear is secure, it would not be a good day at the office if someone did a runner with a piece of your kit! It’s always good to have a bag to stash all your gear in so it’s kept all together on your back; I’ve got a Crumpler and it does the job admirably.
Look for Angles
Snooping around, you’ll find some great shapes and angles formed when parts of buildings, lamp posts or other objects intersect. These can make for interesting shooting and can produce nice results as these types of shots can be without a reference point and can look quite abstract, making for thought provoking viewing.
It can be hard treating a scene in the city like your usual ‘landscape shot’ but surprisingly there can be more than a few similarities; for example, there’s usually lots of straight sharp lines around in the city, so try using hand rails, fences and roads to lead the viewers eye into your main point of interest. Also, a city background may be a bit plain on it’s own so try including foreground interest such as fire hydrants, bollards or even a piece of rubbish to create more interest.
In contrast to the crazy atmosphere out in the street, try heading indoors to the relative calm of a nearby building. Many interesting shapes can lend themselves well to a nice shot; for example, stairways and staircases that spiral upwards can look great when shot from a different angle. Also, try shooting the archways of a grand church – these can look stunning when shot in a soft light.
On all my trips to big citys’ I’ve always noticed one thing: There’s so many people around! Maybe that’s why I try to stay away from them (citys). Try to use this to your advantage though, by incorporating some people in your image; try extending your shutter speed to produce a slight motion blur or include people in a shot from on top of a building to emphasise height. You could even get up close and personal for some portrait shots; there can be some pretty interesting characters about but do make sure you have their permission first!
High rise buildings are covered in glass, so it’s not surprising that with all that glass about you get a lot of reflections. Use these to your advantage by zooming in on a building that’s reflecting another – In this context the reflection can become the main subject of an image and some pretty interesting and quirky shots can be had.
Check out this article from FreePhotoResources.com for reflection inspiration.
Shoot at Twilight
Ahh, there’s nothing like being in a big bustling city in the evening. For me it brings back memories of wandering around Singapore – a superb example of an Urban Landscape. So many more opportunities present themselves and longer exposures can be used to great effect here. Moving objects such as boats and cars can produce light trails with long exposures so try including a busy canal, port or motorway in your shot – the results can be amazing. Buildings themselves can also be a nice subject when lit up at night, they seem to have more personality, and with a few grouped together, they can make for a classic city shot.
Shooting Urban Landscapes may not be quite as relaxing as being out in the mountains, but some stunning scenes still exist to be captured in and around the big cities. Its a matter of thinking slightly differently and keeping your eyes peeled for new and unusual material. If you find it hard getting out to the countryside for landscapes, then the Urban Landscape maybe all you need, just watch out for the weirdos!
This article was part of the Landscape Photography Series.