Top Tips – Sunny Day Cities

Photography in bright sun is a bad thing…. right ?

Well it can be – it’s not ideal for landscapes,  can make a wedding dress impossible to shoot without blinding your self and creates really harsh shadows.

But like any light, it has its uses – so here are a series of shots from a few weeks back in Leeds. It was the day of the Manchester Riots oddly enough.

So first off… look for light and shadow – the top shot here is all about the light bricks and the dark areas under the balconies. It’s also about the repeated pattern and perspective – but without that strong light, it just wouldn’t have the impact.

This shot is the same – the dark brick buildings against a bright, blue sky. The light was catching the windows and hotel name, so I knew they’d really jump out at the viewer.

Also, notice I’m using a really wide lens. In cities, wide lenses are fantastic – rather than honing in on small details as you’d do with a long lens, these allow you to take in a complete picture of the surroundings.

Like in this shot, you get the wonderfully textured sky, some crazy flats and the Bridgewater Place building – all in one shot. Much more for the viewer to digest than just a shot of the tower?

Also, the strong light on the right of the tower gives a nice 3D effect you don’t get on dull days.

Abstract details like this crane take on an extra dimension in sunny conditions – here the windows were dark and in shade, but the crane was brightly lit. You get the clouds and crane really standing out from the lovely blue hues.

 

Don’t be afraid to look up – often a sunny day will cast a street into shadow, so looking up is the only way to take advantage of the magical light. This tower is on Albion Street in Leeds, a street that is in shadow virtually all day.

Look for patterns – here we have randomly fluffy clouds against a rigid zig-zag pattern. Also a really strong shadow line too. You only really get these on days where the sun is bright, so take advantage when you see them.

You can also look for people and the shadows they cast – in this case, I also used the steps and shadows cast by those  because with my ultra wide lens I couldn’t zoom in close enough to the people walking past to fill the frame, so improvised to build the picture. The steps actually point to the people’s shadows, leading your eye to them if you like.

Cloud reflections transform boring buildings into something far more spectacular on bright days.

And finally, here’s a shot taken in a tunnel in Leeds – really dark inside, really bright outside. Not a massive amount of interest in the people walking past as it’s so dark your exposure would have to be really bright to capture their expressions, making the rest of the scene look, well, washed out.

SO in this instance, I propped myself against the wall, focused on the interestingly textured mesh on the wall and used the bright lights from the cars and outside the tunnel to create something a little more abstract than a straight street scene. You can make out the people, especially the guy on the right, you can see a car or 2, but the only thing you really see clearly is the mesh… reminds my of the days before glasses and contact lenses!

 

Bright days are not the panacea for photographers, but with the right amount of imagination and a bit of knowledge on exposure, you can create something quite striking – especially if you just use one lens as I did in all these shots (canon 17-40 F4 L)

 

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