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Finding inspiration in your city

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Sometimes we take the city we live in for granted. We ignore the concrete jungle that is crammed with cultural characteristics; historical buildings, fine art galleries, poetical scenes and enchanting musicals. As familiarities become invisible, so do a host of photography projects.

Where to begin

The distance of one or two blocks is all you need to capture the soul of a city. Panoramic skylines, energetic street scenes, restful parks and appetising restaurants. Are enough to get you started.

Image source: Susan Yin

Frame elements of the past and present as you walk the cities inner streets. Take contrasting pictures of textures, colours and architecture;how a fast modernising city admires its history. In one shot focus on a famous landmark that gives the city its identify and in another capture a hidden coffee shop that holds the town’s secrets. Put aside your wide-angle lens and opt for a telephoto lens; In order to get closer to urban subjects. Concentrate on intricate details that are easily missed when shooting wide.  

Image source: Jason Betz

Become familiar with daily routines. Capture the same location twice at different times of the day or week. A generally quiet road on the weekday will turn into a crowded flower market on Sunday. Deserted morning restaurants will be buzzing with energy in the evenings. Try standing at the same location when you make your second visit. Place the final photos side by side to visually share the difference.  

Cities in motion  

City environments would be incomplete without movement. Most places are known for their congested traffic jams. London wouldn’t be the same without its overly crowded sidewalks. Busy locations are perfect for photographers to blend in with the crowd.  

Walk the city streets, bridges and pedestrian overpasses; capture movement from different vantage points. Compare the images to see which viewpoint works best for you. A higher position will give stronger importance to congestion, while street-level works well at emphasising single subjects.  

Image source: Victor Sánchez Berruezo

Image source: Molly Porter

If you can adjust the camera shutter speed to a slower setting, e.g. 1/60 second or slower. Hold your camera steady and capture the blurred effect of people moving past a static background. Or you can be more experimental by panning shots. move your camera at the same time as your moving subject (tip: you can lean the camera on a railing or whatever is close by to you to or wrap your camera strap tightly around your wrists to provide stability).

City by night  

New life takes over the city as night shifts in. Shoot after sunset when artificial streetlight becomes the prepotent light source. Pay attention to deepened shadows, muted colours and well-lit subjects. Document the differences between day and night and how it makes you feel. Night photography gives images extra dimension. It adds drama to subjects that normally seem bland in daylight.  

Image source: Artem Kovalev

With a DSLR, experiment by setting the camera’s exposure time to 20 or 30 seconds. Adjust the ISO to 1600 or 3200 to take great night photos. If you can place your camera on a nearby surface or try holding it still to prevent unwanted blur. With the right desired setting your camera will capture a lot of light, even in the dark.

Feeling inspired

Your city provides non-stop interesting and challenging photography opportunities. The beauty of it, it’s all free and available on your own doorstep. Therefore, step out, take advantage of your surroundings and control of your camera. Start off with a single theme such as contrast, movement or night photography and create a series of photographs. You never know what interesting subjects are waiting to be photographed.

Feature image: Fred Mouniguet

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