Tips for Photographing Urban Landscapes & Architecture

Exploring an urban setting is enticing.  So much is occurring as movement, color, smell, taste in the air and flavor on the table.  There are millions of sites to indulge the eyes upon, whether you’re creeping down an alley to a reserved local restaurant or venturing across a sweeping bridge to view the waterways of floating traffic, its languid chorus and panoramic views.  Without doubt, taking in a new village, town, city or metropolis with camera in hand is one of the most creative experiences upon the traveler’s road.  But within these possibilities, you don’t want to get overwhelmed.  You want to enjoy it, capture the city-life, feel it’s hustling pulse and bustling vibration, and present its’ personalities to your audience.

On my first trip to India, it took me 45 minutes to ground myself on the hostel rooftop before I felt comfortable entering the New Delhi chaos.  This is the most important rule in any new city.  Get grounded.  Find your bearings.  Take a few long deep breaths before leaping into the crowds of a foreign culture, especially in a massive population.  Activate and calm your senses.  You’ll need them not only for photography, but for your basic survival.  Realize the earth is beneath you, and then jump into the fray.

When photographing a city for the first time, everything looks new and enthralling.  Get warmed up and start snapping.  Approach the city streets with intrigue and view each subject as a creation of civilization.  Men and women built it with their hands.  This rudimentary understanding will give a whole new perspective to architecture.  It has personality.  It has angles, unique to its design.  It has caricatures within its face.  Find them by stopping and observing.  Take your time before walking around, circumnavigating the towering building while exploring with the eyes and lens.  Squat down, crane your neck and view it from various angles.  Then stand tall.  Find the highest vantage point.  Every change in your personal viewpoint will present a new element within the building or cityscape.  It is a structure of artistic design.  See it with as many eyes (or perspectives) as possible and don’t forget to explore all of its features, from the historical districts and monuments, to those mundane alleys with debris, dumpsters and unexpected surprises.

From the gallant, most gawdy form of spires and gargoyles to the elementary adobe huts of a nomadic tribe, architecture is an expression of a civilization’s art history, whether practical or conjectural.  However, the thrill will eventually wear off.  Here is where your skills are put to the test.  Go to the same building or viewpoint, but witness your subject during a different time of day when the light will effect mood, reflection and personality.  Lit up at night in the quiet of darkness or active under the bright sun of rush hour, your subject will always give you something new, rain or shine.  A good practice is getting out and walking your own hometown.  Do this as much as possible and rewire your vision to see the new in what has been called “the old”.  Step back and see your main street from afar and then creep in to find the most intimate details of cracks in the paint.

The key to capturing the essence of any city is within your mind.  See the beauty surrounding you.  Everyday is a new chance to wake up and live as if it were your first and your last.  Carry your camera as you explore.  Squat.  Stand tall.  Lay down on the ground.  And climb high for more vantage points.  Be that insect and be that bird.  And most importantly, have fun, enjoy, keep your feet moving and be safe.  Cities have hidden jewels to inspire as well as the darker characters to cause fear.  As a photographer, writer or traveler, you need to have your head on your shoulders and both feet on the ground.

Cameron Karsten Photography offers professional imagery. With a unique eye for composition and lighting, Cameron draws excellence into any industry, specialized to help make your business, family and event shine in the light of infinite creativity. Whether requiring the finesse of a skilled photographer, updating old image archives for your website or looking to spark your new product with eye-catching advertisement, utilize Cameron Karsten Photography to professionalize your life, business, product or marketing material.  For more imagery, please visit the following link:

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