Photographing the Urban Scene

I have had many city assignments around the world, notably Sydney, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and as part of country or state stories I have covered Berlin, Seattle, Caracas, etc. I have included one image on this website (the Cloud Gate Sculpture, Millennium Park, Chicago)  from these assignments, as generally cityscape images are too complicated for a wall hanging.

December 2011 and January 2012 were travel months for me, but generally for family gatherings over the holidays and a special birthday celebration in Yosemite NP in California. These trips included two visits to New York City and one to Los Angeles, where both scenes, while different, provided interesting subject matter.

In the past 20 years, professional photography of landmark buildings has become more difficult, as owners trademark specific images of their structures. The list includes the Chrysler Building, the Trans Am Building, and The Willis Tower amongst others. In addition, since 9/11, many stores and buildings with interesting public areas forbid pictures perhaps because of terrorist threats, but it is hard to know, as the arbitrators of the rules (doormen, clerks) most often did not make them.

Some National Parks and public grounds such as the Vietnam Memorial and the Washington Monument require professional crews to obtain special permission or they are shooed off. All that being said, it is still possible to capture cityscapes that reveal the flavor of a particular town.

My friend and I walk almost everywhere, which allows me to come upon many situations that would be difficult if I was in a car or cab. Lately, I have become more and more mobile – not taking my larger DSLR if there is no assignment or a specific subject that I am covering. My “cameras” range from my 8 Mb iphone to my Canon 5D (21.5 Mb) and include a Canon S95 (10 Mb) that my friend owns. The smaller “amateur” cameras surprise me many times with their versatility and that can make up for their shortcomings with lenses and small file sizes. All do well with details that often give insights on the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For instance, in NYC I captured the traditional holiday chestnut vendors, the ceiling of the New York Public Library, a bookshelf at the library, a worker in front of a tony Fifth Avenue store, and the 9/11 Memorial amongst many others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Los Angeles, images from this trip included the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall , the Getty Center and the Getty Villa .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A photo tip: If you photograph a building in its entirety, most often you show the architect’s vision, and not yours. If you are selective with your camera, often the interpretation of what the architect was trying to accomplish is evident in the details, and the image becomes “yours”. Sometimes less is more.

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