Cities are well known for having a 'buzz' that's created by the people and traffic that move through its streets. But how do you capture this busyness? Well here are four ways to do just that.
Find Popular Spots
Sounds obvious, we know, but finding a spot full of people, such as Times Square in New York, will make your job easier. Do be warned though, sometimes places can get too busy and you'll spend more time fighting crowds then you will taking photos. You can try visiting at various times during the day to check for less busy times but don't expect to be able to turn up early in the morning and the same buzz intensity be there as chances are, most tourists / residents will still be in bed.
Long lines of traffic, underground trains or even crowds of people moving home after a day at work can all be captured to emphasis the busyness of a town or city.
Try panning with your subject, keeping your feet slightly apart, creating a sturdy base for you to shoot from. Lock your focus and use continuous focusing if your lens struggles to focus on your subject and switch to burst mode to increase your chances of capturing the shot you're after.
To really add a sense of pace to your shots, use a little bit of blur
. Blurring the background while your subject stays sharp is often the approach most go for but it can be tricky to get right.. How good you are at panning, what shutter speed you use, how fast your subject's moving and how much light's around will make this harder/easier each time you try it, however it's worth persisting with as you can create some cracking shots with this technique. Just remember to pick the right shutter speed as if you go too high your subject will look static, too slow and there could be too much blur.
Don't overlook adding a little blur to your subject as this will emphasis motion and add more drama to your shots. We say 'a little' as if you add too much, it can look like you just took a bad photo.
Try experimenting with zoom burst to deliberately add blur to your shot by twisting your zoom lens. As well as emphasising movement it can help make your subject, who's not blurred, 'pop' from the frame. A burst of light from a flashgun will help freeze your subject and add sharpness to the image. It's a fun but tricky technique that can take quite a few attempts to get right. For more tips on creating zoom blur, take a look at our Zoom Burst Photography Article
Light Trails / Traffic
Towns and cities are full of traffic and by using long exposures to turn headlights into long streams of colour's another way to create a sense of pace. To do this successfully you need to find a spot at night where vehicles will pass under/by you with their lights on. You then need put your camera on a tripod, set a long exposure and wait for the lines of traffic to turn into streaks of colourful lights. For more tips, have a look at our previous article on Photographing Light Trails
Alternative Vantage Points
Try getting in a lift and shooting from the top of a building (if possible) or, if you're on a city break and are staying in a hotel, shoot from your own window or make use of your balcony (if you have one). Look out for observation decks, bridges and even the big wheels that are popping up in cities. These usually take an hour to complete a full circle giving you ample time to get a few shots of the city below. By doing so you'll be able to capture patterns you can't see at street level such as the lines street lights form as they turn on or the shapes created as traffic moves through the streets.
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