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Exploring the Urban Jungle - Robin Whalley shares his city photography tips.
For many of us, when we decide to get out an about with our cameras we automatically turn to the countryside. But with the majority of the population living within easy reach of a major Town or City, is that really the right decision? For me, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are all within an hour drive and Blackpool is just 10 minutes more. All these locations have produced great work and they are always full of surprises.
It’s great fun just walking around a city taking shots of literally everything but if you want to capture great images you need to go with a plan and a bag of kit including a couple of lenses and a tripod.
Cities have so much variety to offer the photographer that it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the choice. My favoured approach is to pick one or possibly two themes and then explore an area looking to fulfil this self imposed brief. Here are some ideas you might like to consider.
Dereliction is a popular choice and you don’t always need to leave the main area. This shot of City Buildings in Manchester is right next to the Train Station. It also demonstrates how buildings reflect the way we live with the covering of posters, which is another possible theme.
Iconic architecture. There are many old and new iconic buildings and these can produce some great images especially if the light is right. Watch out also for the past icons that have become worn and faded. This image of the Futurist sign was shot in Liverpool and shows how this once iconic cinema has fallen into disrepair. It’s well worth shooting images like this to record the passage of time as on my last visit to Liverpool the sign had been replaced by a new white board with “Futurist” written on it in red lettering. It doesn’t have the same appeal.
Patterns are another great subject. Cities are literally awash with patterns everywhere you look. Here a simple set of steps and handrails caught my attention and whilst it probably won’t win any prizes I really like the image; and that’s what photography is about.
So you have decided on the city to visit and the subjects you will try to shoot. You now need to decide what kit to take with you. The best advice I can offer you is travel light and stay discrete. You don’t need lots of lenses when shooting a city. On a recent trip to Manchester the only lens I used all day was a Canon 24-105mm. Don’t take lots of equipment just in case you might miss a shot, rather modify your subject matter and shooting style to suite the kit you have with you. This minimalist approach to shooting can help improve your success ratio.
Remember also to stay safe. Where possible I like to shoot with a second person, especially if going out of the main shopping areas. Camera equipment is expensive and pulling out a new DSLR with a huge white lens makes you stand out. Whilst I often like to carry my gear in a back pack I will also use a shoulder bag which I always ensure has my head through the strap as well as my shoulder. This makes it easily accessible and less of a target for potential thieves.
Follow your common sense and you will have a great day and capture some wonderful images.
Find the tripod to suit your needs at www.manfrotto.co.uk.
Words and images by Robin Whalley.
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