Intimate Details: The term cityscape often conjures images of a wide expanse of buildings that paint a skyline with shapes, forms and textures. In turn, many photographers arm themselves with wide-angle lenses to take in as much information as possible. While I definitely encourage you to make the wide-angle shot, bring along a telephoto that allows you to zoom into details of buildings, capture cracks in a sidewalk, get in close to a section of a billboard, etc. You can even use it to take close up shots of the hands of a street performer or the money in a “kitty” of the starving rock star playing his drums in the perfect location to emphasize the acoustics. You may even want to leave the wide angle home and force yourself to look beyond the obvious to find the small world in the urban jungle.
Get High/Get Low: While gaining access to a helicopter is a reality for some, most of us have to resort to simpler means to create aerial perspectives of their subjects. Many large city buildings have observation decks. Plan a sunrise or sunset outing to visit one with your camera. Zero in on some of the iconic structures, look for patterns, watch how the shapes of the buildings complement each other, and find compositions that utilize both your wide-angle and telephoto lenses. While sunrise and sunset are great times for light, they may also net light that’s very contrasty. Make a bracketed series and merge the files to HDR to attain a broader range of tones. While it’s great to get high, try a vantage point not often used. Get underneath a primary subject and look up. Break out the super wide to exaggerate the perspective from where you photograph.
Rise and Set: There’s nothing like the sweet light of a gorgeous sunrise or sunset to impart beauty to concrete, glass and stone. Whether the sky is used as a backdrop to enhance a silhouette or to cast the last golden rays of the light of day onto the structures, the light that’s emitted is unrivaled. Use a specular highlight that reflects off the glass as a focal point of your composition. Position it in the rule of thirds to give it strong placement. When you post process the image, add warmth to bring out the colors even more.
Twilight and Dark: Many cities come alive after the sun goes down. Once the lights come on, the show begins. Shoot the skyline during the twilight hours when the classic cobalt blue color still lives in the sky. Continue to photograph tighter compositions of just the lights when it gets dark. As evidenced in the accompanying photo, make your nighttime shots when there’s still ambient daylight in the sky. Artificial lights are illuminated, and there’s separation between the buildings and the sky. If you wait until it’s dark, the dark edges of the buildings merge with the black sky and no separation is seen. Use a merge to HDR program if you prefer the look of expanded dynamic range.