Firstly congratulations to Rob Deyes for winning March’s ‘Everyday Items – Abstract’ photo challenge competition. Don’t forget this month’s winner will be announced at the start of May, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 30th April to be in with a chance of winning!
For this month’s Expert Advice article our resident photographer, Phil Surbey, set himself the task of capturing the city.
This month’s piece is simply entitled ‘Cityscape’ – and of course this provides the theme for the new Photo Challenge I am setting you. I do hope this topic inspires you to enter the competition…
So, it’s time to get out your wide-angle lens, or adjust your zoom to its widest setting, and get out and about in your nearest urban landscape. It doesn’t have to be a city per se, and apologies for those who live deep in the countryside – but we have catered better for you in the past! This time, it’s about catching an inner-city train or driving yourself into the concrete jungle for an urban safari!
Or, if you are off travelling abroad on a city break, then that’s ideal of course – your location doesn’t have to be a British city by any means! Just make sure you get up nice and early wherever you are, to ensure you catch the light. Or think about spending some quality time with your camera in the late afternoon, to capture that environment as the sun goes down.
Photographing cityscapes is, as ever, all about viewpoint and light – without these, you’ve got nothing. (I know I always say this – but it’s true!) To get good shots, you need to put yourself out and climb that hill. Because an urban environment is all about angled surfaces, variety of architecture and density of detail. But if you’re blocked in, you’re going to miss it. So, maybe seek permission to get high up inside a building? Or find your view from a bridge, or a natural high point overlooking the sprawl. It’s all about your desire to get that great shot.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with and the shots here are merely intended to whet appetites rather than provide any sort of template – the ‘Cityscape’ theme is wide open when you think about it; another great chance to get creative. Luckily for me, I was in the fortunate position of being given a commission to shoot in the fabulous city of Athens. So, I was up at dawn and hiked up one of the city’s famous hills to shoot the ’scapes here that I’ve numbered 1-4. They were all taken over a 20-minute period, handheld using my trusty LUMIX GX7, with the 20mm ASPH lens attached. The White Balance was set on ISO 100 throughout. It’s quite something, isn’t it, to see such an ancient metropolis with the modern world grafted over the top? And yet that essential Greek history is still so apparent wherever you point your lens.
My second set of shots was taken in our own capital. London looks fantastic from high up, and I took my chance to shoot over towards The City itself – the square mile with, of course, the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral sat proud amidst the modern skyscrapers. For these shots to work as I intended, I decided it had to be late in the day – to ensure the daylight was at a level to equal all the artificial lights in the various buildings.
Again, I was shooting with the GX7 with the 20mm ASPH lens. Number 5 I took to show how you don’t have to shoot a conventional view to get a good-looking image. Shots 6 and 7 were taken using a tripod, with a 0.3-second exposure, @ f7.1 and White Balance at ISO 200. There’s a lot of post-processing on these two, essentially to make them more gritty and atmospheric. I adjusted them for Colour Balance and Contrast, and Tonal Graduation as well in the sky etc. A bit of extra effort, but I hope you think it’s been worth it.
I appreciate that some of you may find it difficult to get into a city to take part in this challenge, but I’m hoping this will only encourage you to be extra-creative. There’s nothing like a tricky brief to force some lateral thinking, I find. And actually there’s nothing to stop you shooting a ‘Townscape’ or indeed even a ‘Villagescape’! Just make it visually stunning and be sure to send me your best shot.
All the best and happy shooting,