LAST MONTH WE challenged you to look up at the night sky to try your hand at astrophotography, which involved heading away from civilisation and the obligatory curse of light pollution. This time round we’re asking you to turn around and head back into town and to go searching for cityscapes, which can be a rich vein of inspiration once you really start looking.
You might imagine that it’s impossible to extract pictures of buildings in the middle of town that aren’t full of people, but by carefully choosing your angle and focusing on such things as pattern, reflections, detail and colour, you can create some extraordinary compositions. Modern architecture in particular is often loud and flamboyant and all about making a statement and, by tuning into what the architect involved was trying to say, you can capture some glorious and stylish imagery that will speak volumes about the modern urban landscape.
If you’ve been following this series you’ll know the ground rules by now. We’re running Pro Academy in tandem with the excellent Nikon School and the good news is that we’ve now extended the series by a further six challenges, so as we head into 2022 you’ll have plenty more chances to earn those coveted certificates! As always, you’re cordially invited to enter just one challenge or, if you fancy, you can go the whole hog and take part in them all.
We’re inviting you to send across your best single shot from the assignment to our expert team at Professional Photo and, if you’ve met the required standard, we’ll send you back an e-certificate to prove the fact. Let us know that you’ve successfully completed the first six assignments and you’ll receive a further e-certificate to confirm that you really are an excellent all-round operator, and there’s now the prospect of receiving an extra one if you’re one of the heroes managing all twelve! It’s not a competition, there are no prizes to be won but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your skills have been recognised and it’s a chance to dip into some fresh genres.
How to Take Part
You don’t need to be a professional photographer or a Nikon user to take part in Pro Academy, and don’t feel shy about sending in the best shot you’ve been able to achieve, even if it’s perhaps not up to the high standards of the work you can see here. It’s all about learning and rest assured we will be making allowances for newbies! Enter your photo below by clicking on the green submission box.
Challenge number Seven
CITIES ARE INCREDIBLY buzzing places, full of life and energy, and home to some extraordinary architecture. Look around and you’ll find landmark buildings all around you, which have been designed not just to be functional but to impress.
Our expert this month, Ben Moore, specialises in seeing the beauty in modern architecture, and a glance through his portfolio reveals just what a rich source of great imagery this subject can be.
Contemporary architects love geometry and playing with style and shape, so expect to come across beautifully thought through and executed structures, where the materials have been carefully chosen to enhance the architect’s vision. In particular, look up and look down and focus in on detail and observe the way the light is affecting your subject. Just like a gorgeous landscape, what’s in front of your camera will be changing all the time, as the light moves around and alters in intensity and colour, while shadows will also exert their influence. You could come back to the same building over and over and yet still come away with something unique every time. It’s a very special challenge, and the more involved you become the more you’ll realise there are pictures to be found everywhere you look!
Technical Tips with Neil Freeman
CHOICE OF LENS will have a huge influence on the look of the cityscape images you achieve, and you should always be aiming to be in control of your end result rather than simply opting for a particular optic to ‘get everything in.’
“A wide lens, even something like a 14mm, can be employed if you’re looking to accentuate parts of the scene that are closer to your camera,” says Neil, “and you can even tap into its natural distortion for a particular effect. You can always correct this in post, of course, but sometimes it can add to the overall feel of the shot.
“For an architectural-style shot you can always employ a specialist optic, such as the Nikon PCE 19mm f/4 tilt/shift lens, which will straighten up converging verticals, but very often with cityscapes you’ll be looking for a result that has been created more for the aesthetic.
“If this is the case then you could look to use a longer lens, such as a 200mm, 300mm or even a 400mm, to allow you to step back and to extract a more distant perspective where buildings appear more compressed. If you picture something such as a moonrise, for example, where you’re positioned perhaps a few miles away from your cityscape subject, then you could achieve a stunning result where all the buildings in your frame will be on top of each other, with the moon at an exaggerated size behind them.”
Learn with the Nikon School
WITH MANY OF its courses now online, training via the Nikon School really is open to everyone, with a wide range of well-priced learning available to photographers at all levels and using any brand of equipment – although Nikon users will get particular value from the content. Head to the Nikon School website to take a look at what’s on offer and to see what you could sign up for, with everything from lighting technique through to running a digital darkroom, mastering as particular piece of Nikon gear, filmmaking and even one-to-one tuition all available, along with location courses and experience days in the UK and overseas
Submit your photograph here.
Ben Moore Cityscape Specialist
Each month, we’ll feature a top professional from the genre we’re covering to get some idea about what they find so compelling about their chosen speciality.
Ben moved from the Nikon D3000 up to the Nikon D90 and then the D300S, coupled with a 17-55mm f/2.8, His first full-frame camera was the D800, and first real professional lens, the 24-70mm f/2.8. More recently he’s moved on to the 45.7MP full-frame Z 7, with the 24.5MP full-frame Z 6 serving as his back-up. Currently he’s using three Z series lenses: the 14-24mm f/2.8 S, which is a must for any architecture and landscape photographer; the 24-70mm f/2.8 S, used for events since it’s so versatile and lightweight and the 70-200mm f/2.8 S, which he only recently acquired and totally loves. He also still has two F-mount optics – the 85mm f/1.4 and the 50mm f/1.4 – which he uses on his mirrorless cameras with the FTZ lens mount adapter.
BEN MOORE HAS an eye for architecture, urban street scenes and compelling aerials that instinctively draw in the viewer, and it’s made him a highly sought-after commercial photographer, with a host of big brand names under his belt and a role as a Nikon Z Creator. Yet he only got into photography when he bought his first camera, a Nikon D3000, on a whim because it was the one gadget he didn’t happen to have in his collection.
Cityscapes have always fascinated him, and his advice to anyone wanting to follow him into the genre is to continually practice. “Find something you love about cityscapes and carry that into your photography,” he says. “Then, whenever people see a building photographed in a certain way, they will know, or will think, that it’s one of your images. It essentially becomes your photographic identity, and it’s where finding your own style comes from.”
Ben recommends that if you’re serious about cityscape you need to immerse yourself in the genre and take on board the work of past and current photographers. “Research the tricks they used to get certain shots and take notes,” he says.
“Look online and you’ll find an array of talented and amazing photographers that you can interact with, but impose your own style and don’t just copy them.”
In terms of tips, Ben reinforces the point that lighting plays a huge part. “When I visit somewhere, I’m always focused on the time of day,” he says. “I love using shadows to create leading lines in my photos, and also look out for rays of light coming through the windows of buildings, as it all heightens the moment. What you achieve then becomes more of a work of art rather than a straightforward documentation of the building, because the light at that particular moment is unique.
“When I’m shooting in the field I’m also looking out for leading lines, symmetry and geometric shapes. I have a big thing for lines, which I’m getting known for, and I want that to become my signature look. I also like to shoot in the golden hour, since I love the warm tones you can get at that time. I might also go to the same location three or four times to see how the look and feel is changing.”
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