As a photographer, when you hear the word landscape your mind will most likely conjure up images of lush valleys, looming mountains, and majestic, sweeping vistas. With good reason, as the natural world can be a place of staggering beauty. But done well, a different type of landscape photography, the urban landscape, can produce shots that are equally as compelling as anything Mother Nature can throw your way.
The major city lends images a vitality that can’t be found anywhere else. There are so much movement and life in the urban environment, and the best city shots capture that buzzing vibrancy.
Shooting urban landscapes also has plenty of practical advantages too. Every type of photography is all about the light, and that is one thing cities never run out of. You can shoot in the artificial glow of the metropolis long after you’d have been forced to pack up your kit and make your way home from a day in the countryside.
Couple that with the fact that, for the most part, cities are a lot more accessible for the majority of us, and shooting urban landscapes is the ideal activity for photographers during those long winter months.
So here are our top tips for getting the most out of your time pounding the sidewalks.
You wouldn’t embark on a traditional landscape photography outing by jumping in the car, heading for the hills and hoping for the best. Likewise, the success of an urban landscape shoot depends largely on how well you plan.
Your home town
Even if you’re off to capture the town or city you grew up in, putting in the effort to do a little research up front usually pays dividends.
For example, when I wanted to get a shot from high up, overlooking my hometown of London, I didn’t foresee any problems in finding a suitable viewpoint. However, after a little digging, I learned that while London isn’t lacking in tall buildings offering amazing views, the number you can actually gain access to, that are also well suited for photography, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The vast majority are either restricted entry or in the case of The Shard (seen at the top of this article), cursed with a viewing gallery shrouded with ultra-reflective windows. A few minutes directed me to a lesser-known church tower on the banks of the Thames with unrestricted views downriver, saving me hours of fruitless searching.
Visiting another city
If you’re visiting a city for the first time, it’s a good idea to spend a little longer familiarizing yourself with the place before you go. Drawing up a shot list of the locations you want to photograph is a good idea as well.
But all that being said, don’t make yourself a slave to it. Few things are more exciting or rewarding in photography than allowing yourself the freedom to meander through a new landscape, get a little lost, and allow whatever happens to happen.
One word of warning: depending on your location, be sure you know where you can and cannot shoot. Many places these days are understandably sensitive about strangers waving cameras around. If in doubt, ask.