Next to getting out and photographing the wild places and things of the world, I find urban photography to be an endlessly creative challenge.
As I was doing some photography organizing this week, I realized that I have not spent nearly enough time photographing our own beautiful downtown Denver. I guess I know what photo adventure I am going on this weekend. It is time for some urban photography in Denver.
When I am photographing in an urban area, I like to travel light. I usually carry one of my smaller bags like this awesome Lowepro shoulder bag, that don’t scream “camera bag.” Among other things it’s just easier to tote and to get things in and out of. I am not as prone to changing lenses and accessories as I am when I am out hiking, so it works perfectly for me. It also has room for my wallet, keys & other “stuff” so I don’t need to worry about carrying a purse or stuffing things in my pockets.
I prefer to use a wide-angle lens or a short zoom lens. Long telephotos lenses are rarely useful in a downtown landscape. I also rarely use tripods, but that’s just because I rarely use tripods. If you are more comfortable photographing with a tripod, go ahead–but do be aware that in some urban areas (I have heard New York City is one) that using a tripod makes you more noticeable and may get you cited for photographing without a permit. I do, however, frequently use a monopod and I highly recommend this Manfrotto monopod, which in addition to being easy to tote along, is a total bargain.
And to get myself ready for the outing, I have been reviewing a few images from some of my other favorite cities. Here are a few favorites, along with my best tips for getting great urban photography.
San Francisco–what’s not to love here? I could spend a lifetime photographing the streets of San Francisco. When possible I like to get panoramic shots that set the tone and give my viewer a feel for the city. This is especially great in older cities where there is a wide variety of buildings and colors.
This is a street scene from Greenwich Village. New York is another of those cities where I could spend endless amounts of time with my camera. I am so looking forward to my next trip. Cities are full of interesting architecture, so always keep your eye open for great architectural details. I also like to look for and photograph repeating patterns. I love the similarity of the buildings here and the repeating fire escapes, and I also love how what could have been an otherwise mundane row of urban buildings is broken up by all the bright colors.
Another New York City Scene. I love all these different architectural styles all squeezed together in this view between the two closer buildings. The variation in rooftops and styles and different architectural periods is what really makes cityscapes so interesting.
One more from New York City. It’s all about the color and the patterns in this one–and yes, this building really is this cool shade of blue.
I spent a week in San Antonio once. It was so cold and foggy and rainy that I still have no idea what San Antonio really looks like. But one night on the way from the convention center to my hotel, I found this great piece of urban art. It is a freeway underpass and the colors change continuously. I had a great time photographing all the different colors. Keep your eyes open for views and cityscapes that aren’t the norm. Look in the places most people don’t and you’ll find new and amazing sights. Urban Photography is all about finding and photographing the unexpected.
This is one of the few images I have from Denver. I will be rectifying that shortfall this weekend. I like finding unusual angles and playing with the lighting. Urban lighting can be tricky. Tall buildings and unusual shapes can create shadows and lighting patterns that enhance your photographs if you are paying attention. If you’re not, it’s a potential disaster.
Old Town Albuquerque is full of great courtyards, walkways and landscaping, in addition to the Pueblo-style and Territorial architecture. If your city has an “Old Town” make sure you add it to your urban photography itinerary.
I love skyscraper reflections. They make some of the coolest images. If you are lucky enough to be in a city with tall skyscrapers, walk around them and look at the reflections they make. This is an old one from my favorite downtown ever–San Diego. I grew up there and started my photography career in San Diego, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
Not all cityscapes have to include skyscrapers and busy streets. Many urban areas, like San Diego, have beautiful parks as part of their downtown landscape. This image of the Botanical House reflected in the Lily Pond from Balboa Park will always be one of my favorites. Great photography is about getting out and getting creative. Don’t let other people define your ideas of creative photography.
What’s your favorite urban landscape? What cities do you think should be on my Urban Photography must-visit list?