Every city's history is scattered with stories of loss and triumph, ruin and renaissance and tales of shifting cultures and communities. Details from the past are often left behind and with a little digging and watchful eyes you can discover these visible reminders of how a city used to be. These are certainly worth exploring as they can make remarkable photos.
• Using a wide-angle lens
• Using telephoto (zoom) lenses
• Juxtapose old and new
• Choose a different viewpoint
• Spot metering
• Monochrome and sepia pictures
Using a wide-angle lens
Capturing architecture in cities is made simpler by using a wide-angle lens. You will get more of a building in the frame even when it is not possible to get further away from your subject. Remember you can turn the camera to portrait orientation to get taller buildings in the frame, but watch you don’t tilt the camera a long way back - it will make the building look as if it is falling over.
Vincent Desjardins: New York City
Using telephoto (zoom) lenses
Longer lenses have a dual capability. They isolate details to pick out the remaining older architectural elements (e.g. gargoyles, Art Deco flourishes or roof steeples) and compress the scene. Used from a greater distance, a telephoto lens will flatten the scene.
Tip: If you want to make the new building look closer to older buildings in the background, to help tell a story of change, take a few steps backwards and zoom in with a telephoto lens.
Juxtapose old and new
To convey a sense of city history, look out for contrasts in people and their surroundings. A group of smartly dressed office workers or modern transport can make a striking contrast to old or abandoned buildings.
Mike Kniec: City Square
Choose a different viewpoint
Try a range of different viewpoints to tell a historic story about your city. You could either get low down to the ground to capture cobbled streets, or climb the stairs of an old monument to find the optimum composition for strong, powerful pictures.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. For example, if you’re trying to show a city’s contrasts, you could make the small old building in the foreground appear larger than the modern office blocks behind it by shooting from a low angle close to the older building. Alternatively, find new vantage points that allow you to capture images of towering modern glass and steel buildings – or zoom in on the details to show a city’s modernity.
Camera metering can be less accurate when the scene being captured has either lots of sky or very little. Use the Spot or Partial metering features to measure the exposure from the centre of the frame.
Tip: Make sure you aim the spot at a mid-toned subject and use the Auto exposure lock button to lock the exposure before you optimally recompose the frame. (The Auto exposure lock button is the button with a * symbol next to it on all EOS cameras).
Simon Lesley: Abandoned
Monochrome and sepia pictures
Set the Picture Style on your camera to Monochrome so you can capture striking black and white images that emphasise the sense of the past in your photos.
Increase the contrast setting to make the dark elements darker and the light lighter. A monochrome treatment can also give an elegant, modern look to new architecture or emphasise the textures of a building from a long time ago.
If you have many older buildings or subjects in the frame, experiment by creating old-style sepia images. The Monochrome Picture Style can be set to apply a sepia colour tone to the pictures you make.
Ghislain Berger: La Ruelle
Try shooting a time-lapse movie
Use your Canon EOS camera’s built-in intervalometer, or a timer controller accessory, to take a series of pictures at pre-set intervals to create a time-lapse film.
For these kinds of photos, it is best to use Aperture priority (Av) mode to keep the depth of field consistent from frame to frame. Try using a tripod if you have one.
Great subjects for time-lapse films include the movement of clouds across the sky as a backdrop to the stillness and grace of an older building. Once you’ve captured several shots over a few minutes, use your PC to process the images and assemble the time-lapse sequence.