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Landscape photography has been at the heart of American photography since its inception but in recent years is the newly emerging urban landscape photography that has become more prominent in both galleries and the public mind. Urban landscape photography is a natural fit with the modern world in which cities are rapidly emerging as the center of civilization with the process of urbanization occurring at a faster rate each year.
What is Urban Landscape Photography?
Urban landscape photography refers specifically to work done in man made built up areas. These photos can range from stunningly vast panoramic views and aerial perspectives to more close up, intimate and even minimalistic photos of objects, street life and scenes within the city.
Traditionally the genre is associated with aerial shots, large sweeping views that really portray the magnificence of the man made environment. Early photographers that marveled at the artistic qualities of cities mainly focused on the architectural and physical elements of the city but increasingly the genre is developing into a more subtle representation of life in urban areas. Consequently urban landscape photography is a celebration of architecture, street life, skyscrapers and the exciting melting pot of the modern global metropolises.
Urban landscape photography is one of my favorite types of photography. As a resident of Center City Philadelphia, I have taken more photos of the city as compared to photos of nature. It’s an popular genre of photography that is easy to get into and is practiced by a lot of people who live in the cities of the world.
Key Aspects of Urban Landscape Photography.
The following are the key aspects of urban landscape photography.
- Street Photography: Street photography is one of the more intimate aspects of urban landscape photography. Street photography is an exciting practise that involves unplanned photos of the day to day life of the people who make up the city they live in. The possibilities are fun because you never know quite what will be waiting for you around the next corner but one thing you can be sure of is that every shot will be unique. A good street photo can capture a meeting between people, an iconic scene that sums up a unifying theme or simply an interesting portrait of a street vendor. The philosophy behind the genre of street photography is to be spontaneous and create images that are exploding with vitality, movement and pathos.
- Architecture Photography: Architectural photography is a more classical aspect of urban landscape photography and is the longest practiced of the various elements. From the very earliest days photographers were fascinated by the buildings and structures that made up the cities and spent much time capturing their imposing forms. Architecture photography is a more static and considered form of urban photography that requires an excellent eye for the interplay between forms, angles and perspectives. Photos of a structure during the day and night, winter, summer and different times of the day convey hugely diverse emotions. The art of taking a great architecture photo is a tough one to master and it will take practise! There is no limit to what you can do with architecture photography. You can really explore perspectives, leading lines, shapes, patterns and forms. It takes a good imagination to pull off a really special photo however modern architecture is an exciting field of study with an amazing mix of styles and classical references.
- Leading Lines: Leading lines refers to an extremely important compositional technique that uses ‘lines’ within the frame to guide the eye of the viewer through the image. This can be used to create a sense of involvement and to draw the viewer’s attention towards the subject of the shot. Of all the genres in photography, urban landscapes are packed full of leading lines which are a vital ingredient of a superb city shot. These leading lines have the potential to reach into the imaginations of your audience to make them question what happens next, where does that ‘line’ lead and, most importantly in terms of engagement, what is the story behind this picture?
- Light Trails: There is no form of photography that can bring a scene to life with vibrant color and movement more than light trail photography. To take a light trail photo you will need to use a slow shutter speed, somewhere in the region of 1 frame per 10-30 seconds. This will allow your camera to capture the light ‘trails’ as they move around the scene. The results are a fabulous phantasmagoria of lights and patterns over time which can’t be imitated by any other means. A tried and tested, and highly successful, method of doing is to incorporate traffic tail lights in the image. This immediately brings the city’s streets to life and shows the roads as being the arteries of the modern world. You can be extremely inventive in this genre of urban landscape photography and experimentation is certainly advised!
Urban Landscape Photography Using Drones.
One of the newest aspects of urban landscape photography, aerial drone photography, gives the viewer a special perspective on the city they live in. Before you do try this out make sure that there are no restrictions on the use of drones in your area but if there are not you can have a field day taking some amazing aerial photos.
You can take off from a park, or if you can gain access, from the top of tall buildings. From your bird’s eye view you’ll get a glimpse of the city from a completely new angle and be able to show your audience something they’ll never see anywhere else!
Limitless Possibilities of Urban Landscape Photography.
You can use a variety of different techniques to create some outstanding photos in the urban environment. In the image below the photographer has used negative space and the fascinating details of the broken pane of glass to frame the fireworks in the background sky.
The city streets that can be seen through the clear window panes in the bottom section of the photo captures a strange contrast between the celebrations in the sky and the humdrum city street beneath. The overall effect produces a magical composition.
The Urban Landscape is Just Waiting for You to Explore!
Always be on the lookout for these types of once in a lifetime opportunities to really wow your audience! Of course, luck and timing will always play a part but if you’re always ready to take advantage of these rare chances then it’s only a matter of time until one drops in your lap!
Urban landscape photography is one of the most accessible and exciting genres of photography and with a little creativity you can portray the amazing built up world around you and the people who inhabit it in outstanding ways to your audience.
Which do you like more? Urban landscape photography or rural landscape photography?