Urban landscape photography was not a photography genre that I paid much attention to until recently.
I considered landscape photography to involve mainly natural elements such as mountains, rolling hills, lakes, trees and sky or a coastal environment such as sea and cliffs.
Alternatively, in my mind, there was street photography in urban locations.
During the last few weeks, I have found that opportunities for traditional landscape photography have been scarce. The weather in my part of the world has been dull and grey, with flat light and very little sunshine. In such conditions there is nothing to bring a landscape image alive.
However, I have wanted to get out with my camera and since I don’t live close to a busy street area, I decided to try urban landscape photography, rather than street photography, by attempting to document aspects of the human made environment.
There are a few advantages to this type of photography:
(a) Although good light, or shafts of light among the shadows, does enhance any image, this type of photography can also work in dull, or even wet, conditions.
(b) It doesn’t require expensive equipment and can work well using just one or two lenses.
(c) It can help us to practise different skills and get creative in new ways.
(d) Urban landscape photography encompasses aspects of street photography and aspects of architectural photography but it is broader and not as restrictive in nature. It therefore gives more scope for regular photography outings in an urban setting.
Urban landscape photographs are often wide-angle shots, taking in more than one subject. They can include busy streets, often shot from an elevated viewpoint, skylines, or cities at night. But they can also focus on single subjects, such as interesting structures, or even parts of subjects; the small details that make up the bigger picture.
While traditional landscape photography involves finding appropriate locations which are conducive to good compositions, urban landscapes can be easier places in which to compose images since they are designed by people who specialise in working with shape, form, line, scale and pattern. In fact, the main elements of photography are also dominant elements in architecture and design, so working with the geometry of buildings can produce some pleasing images.
I have had difficulty in recognising geometrical patterns in rural landscapes so studying shape, line and pattern in urban landscapes should have a knock-on effect in developing my skills in this area.
I have come to realise that regardless of the type of photography we do, it is all about exploration.
We explore the wider world in landscape photography, we explore the small world in macro photography.
In street photography we explore the nooks and crannies of the street environment we find ourselves in, while in urban photography we can take that even further to explore buildings, structures, busy streets and all that makes up a bustling urban environment and the people who inhabit that environment.
In an urban environment there is a lot happening, above us as well as around us, so it offers us unique opportunities to practise our observational skills and to capture images of subjects that others may not notice.
We can make use of different perspectives, use leading lines, look for interesting patterns and repetition, explore shapes and unusual features.
Sometimes, disrupting a pattern can add emphasis to our image!
We can shoot from a single focal length, emphasise texture, shape and pattern by shooting in black and white, get out during a rain shower or photograph at night to see the city through different eyes.
As always, it is worthwhile to look for guidance from professional or semi-professional photographers who are producing work in this area.
James works in areas such as Halifax and Bradford and he produces some interesting urban photography images making use of the shapes and patterns he sees around him in these urban settings. He will often limit himself to one lens or photograph entirely in black and white for a more formal study of the urban landscape.
Urban landscape photography is a fascinating type of photography once you begin to immerse yourself in all that it entails.
Urban landscape photography is about structures and buildings, but it is not solely about structures and buildings.
Urban landscapes include shop windows, buses, cars, bicycles, crowded streets.
They include street signs, graffiti, litter, advertisements and umbrellas!
They include colour, creativity and drama.
We can include all these elements in our exploration and try to find ways to turn them into interesting images.
By seeing the urban landscape in the same way as we see the traditional landscape, and by being open to exploring all that we find there, we are opening ourselves up to a whole new world of photographic opportunities.
Why not try some urban landscape photography for yourself.