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Friday, 11 May 2007

What to Photograph? #1: The City

The city (any city) offers some great photo locations and I find that there is an image around every corner. From a photographic viewpoint, cities are graphic element on graphic element.

Your job as a photographer, is to recognise these elements and how they interact with each other to make a visually appealing composition.
Day time, night time or in between when the light is soft... the city changes moods with each period, going from a harsh jungle of concrete and glass in the day, to a fairyland of twinkling lights at night.

The image on the left, is an example of where a graphical element has been used to lead the viewer through the image to the main point if interest, being the lights and movement of people.

Selecting the right time of day for this kind of image is vital. This shot would be nothing if shot during full daylight, as there would be very little colour, no reflected glow and more than likely harsh shadows.

Similarly, if this was shot in full darkness it would not be as good... sure we would maintain the colour and reflected glow, but the sky glow would be lost as would our definition in the graphic element.

In this example, I have again used the last remaining ambient light and mixed it with the colour of the city.

With the fading light longer shutter speeds are required (time for the tripod) and this will or course lead to blur in moving subjects. This is not all together a bad thing, as it can, at times, be used to the photographer's advantage.

Here you see movement in some people, while others stay still and this gives the image life.

Oh... and be ready for anything! The city is a rich blend of races, cultures, personalities, situations and levels of sanity.

I forget what I was shooting at the time here, but I remember dropping that and hastily setting up for this when I saw this women coming down the street.

I found it "quirky" that she be caring the instrument case and I knew that my location would provide an interesting silhouette.

When starting out in the city, most people will plan on doing a traditional "cityscape" eg a wider view showing the city skyline reflected in a river perhaps. These are great pix to have in your library, as they are used regularly in advertising etc. The best tip I can give you here is "don't wait until dark", as the skyline itself will be lost into the darkness.

Plan to start shooting a skyline about 30 mins after sunset, this way, the remaining ambient light will maintain some detail in the buildings, will keep colour in the sky and will also allow for the city lights to be effective.

While this image is not the classic "skyline" as mentioned, it does display a good mix of ambient light, city light and after sunset sky glow.

This image has good graphic content, but sadly I arrived too last at this location and I failed to capture any sky glow, so I don't feel that this image is a strong as it could be.

Get in close and don't be afraid of picking out smaller sections of your subject.

- Please be aware of your surroundings and try to stay in a place where there are a number of people, as even the safest of cities has it's undesirables and it's best they be avoided. If you are able to take a friend, please do... "safety in numbers" and all that. ;-)


Australian Digital Photo Of The Day:

Photography help for beginners - Film & Digital Camera Techniques - Post Processing - Photography tips and tricks.

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