Monday, February 7, 2011

Photo Challenge Round 1: Cityscape/Landscape Photography

Naturally, when most people get a camera in their hands their inclination is to go and photograph people. People are interesting and versatile subjects. They have expressions that change constantly, no two people look exactly the same, people create movement, and people can convey emotion.

Many aspects of photography can be very intimidating but for me it was landscape photography. Growing up I can remember that my example of landscape photography was Ansel Adams. His images were very strong and poignant, perfectly exposed, beautiful light resting on the edges of mountain tops, lakes and rivers with that glisten across the top and well composed with good contrast. Sounds like perfection just describing it, right?

When I was presented with the landscape/cityscape assignment last semester I was nervous because my past experience with this arena was seeing an appealing sunset on a road trip and trying to snap a picture from the back seat of the car. This resulted in, well = FAIL. Either the sun overpowered the image and it was washed out and overexposed, everything was blurry because of the fast movement, the general scene was completely out of focus, or you had the glare coming of the car window.

For my past assignment I armed myself with a few things to achieve great success and I'd like to share my limited "wealth" of knowledge and advice with you.

1) Gather inspiration. This is always key no matter what you subject is. Don't be limited by the average lake in front of a tree line, although generally beautiful, discover new places. Run down, dilapidated buildings can take on a surprising beauty of their own. Drive around, look at blogs, do a google image search. Here's a great link to view some of the best cityscape shots out there.

2) Think about perspective. I live in St. Louis. One of the most popular places people flock to for pictures is the Arch. There are thousands of images of the Arch head on with the Old Courthouse underneath. What other ways could I photograph the Arch?

Here's one that obviously has the arch in the background but I wanted my main focus to be on the Old Courthouse and I wanted to try to photograph it from a corner angle instead of straight on.

Take even a simple building or set of buildings. You could stand directly across the street from them and photograph them head on OR you could stand at the corner on the same side of the buildings, get lower down to the ground and now that mundane set of buildings can become architectural art. You may be limited by your lens on your camera but move around, try different focal lengths and see what could potentially be something different.

3) Think about textures. Buildings and landscapes can create natural textures that can really enhance an image depending on the way in which you take the picture. If there's a field in front of you and the wind is blowing, set your shutter speed higher in order to freeze the movement of the plants or grain in front of you. This can create a nice texture resembling a piece of flowing fabric and can be more appealing to the eye rather than just some grain standing straight up. Look at the architecture in buildings like broken down barns or old city buildings and envision it not as a building but more as fluid shapes that may have some kind of repeating pattern.

I'll use this picture as an example because I really liked the way the light highlighted the texture in the grass and the fluffiness of the clouds. Use light to your advantage. Look for how it highlights and accents what is in front of you.

4) Go armed with a tripod. I have yet to capture what I'm about to talk about but I'll find a picture to show an example. Moving water can really be appealing to the eye and a great way to achieve capturing movement is by bringing along a tripod. Set up your camera on your tripod and set your shutter speed to at least 1/8th of a second and go down from there. Each lowering of your shutterspeed will dramatically affect the look of the water in your shot so play around with different shutter speeds to see which one works best for the movement you are trying to capture.

Credit to Dave FitzSimmons.

Another benefit of having your tripod is capturing the sunset. Say you want to capture a series of images of the sun going down over a particular location. If you set up the camera on a tripod you can be sure that you will get the same exact image each time the only difference will be the position of the sun in the sky. Plus as it gets darker and you continue to adjust your settings to accommodate for the lighting available, you'll want to avoid camera shake and the tripod can solve that problem for you.
5) Speaking of sunsets, what's the best way to capture those beautiful vivid colors in the sky?

We will use one of my pictures from that assignment as an example. This has had some post processing but really only to burn some of the sky to enhance the texture in the clouds.

The colors in the sky are nice and bright and vivid and not too muted and the best way to achieve this with the silhouetted landscape is to meter your camera off of the brightest point in the sky, adjust your ISO, Shutter speed and f/stop off of this point in the sky and then recompose your camera to get what you want in the frame.

Here's a great and easy to understand article with more information on photographing beautiful sunsets.

Here's a couple more examples of some landscape/cityscape photography that I've done and if there's anything I didn't cover or something you have a question about, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom. I'm by no means a professional, but I will do my best to help!

Oooh. One more tip I forgot to include that my dad suggested when we went out to shoot that day was when you frame an image with clouds, don't always settle for shooting it horizontally. Think about turning your camera vertically and that way you can really capture the direction/movement of the clouds. Great tip dad!

Happy Snapping- Audrey

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