URBAN PHOTOGRAPHY: HIT THE STREETS
The stark, cold light of winter is perfect for architectural and urban photography, and the chances are you’ll have the streets to yourself.
Tip 34: Abstract architecture
David Queenan’s compelling image gains its strength from the simple shapes and converging lines. The trick is to try to see past the literal subject matter and look for shapes, lines and compositions instead. The more you can leave out the better, and by pointing his camera upwards David has excluded all the street-level clutter. He’s also used an ND filter to allow a long exposure, which turns the clouds into a wispy blur.
Tip 35: Signs and humour
Documentary photography can be about environments as well as people, and quite often the details say more about a place than the wider shots. Why not take a ‘portrait’ of your home town, showing both the good and the bad in a series of images? These could form the basis for a photo story. The ‘low-filook’, demonstrated here by Michelle McMahon is very popular, simulating the supersaturated colours and vignetting associated with cheap Eastern European cameras.
Tip 36: Super wide angles
The kit lens that comes with your camera might be fine for everyday use, but for architectural and urban photography you need something wider. If you have a full frame DSLR such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Sony A900 or the new Nikon D800 and D4, take a look at some of the wideangle full-frame lenses available. Super-wide angle lenses let you shoot in narrow streets and cramped interiors, and can produce marvellously exaggerated perspectives.
Tip 37: Derelict interiors
Derelict buildings are a particular hobby for James Charlick, who took this picture of the main staircase at the old Sheffield Crown Court building on his Nikon D3000, fitted with a Tokina 11-18mm super-wide zoom. With wide-angles, keep the camera level to avoid converging verticals. It’s best to use a tripod, but with shorter focal lengths you can sometimes get away with slower shutter speeds. This was taken handheld at 1/4sec.
Tip 38: Urban sports
Andrew Whyte’s clever use of ambient lighting and flash lends colour and movement to this shot of a skateboarder. It’s a technique you can apply to other sports too – look out for people riding BMX, trials and fixed-wheel bikes. You’ll need the power and flexibility of an external Speedlight, a willingness to experiment and some volunteers to act as subjects. The trick lies in the way you expose the image. Instead of relying solely on the flash, you extend the exposure so that the ambient lighting is recorded too.
Quick tips for altering your perspective
Tip 39: Converging verticals
These aren’t the lens’s fault; it’s how you use it! They happen because you’re tilting the camera. If you can’t avoid converging verticals, make them a feature by choosing a viewpoint that exaggerates them.
Tip 40: Wild perspectives
Use wide-angle lenses to make foreground subjects look bigger by getting right up close.
Tip 41: Shoot at ground level
This is a good tip for finding interesting angles and works particularly well if your digital camera boasts an articulated LCD!
Tip 42: Tilt lenses
Lenses such as Nikon’s PC-E lenses and Canon’s TS-E lenses use tilt and shift movements to correct the perspective in architectural shots. Other manufacturers, such as Hartblei and Schneider-Kreuznach, also offer similar lenses.
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