City, Slicker

Sharp Shooter: How to Capture Your City

Tech : Cameras By Photo by CG & EY


In this second installation of Gear Patrol’s tips for more effectively utilizing your Canon DSLR, we’re turning our lenses onto the city. When it comes to urban photography, sometimes the best results come from the less obvious. Follow along as we focus in one of the most architecturally ambitious and colorful cities — not to mention our home base — New York.

Special thanks to Canon for helping make this photography post series possible. Canon, Get Behind the Lens

Part 1: Get a Grip on Your DSLR | How to Capture Your City

Our Setup

A. Canon 7D ($1,699, body only), B. Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM ($859), C. Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM ($1,599)

In New York, jaw-dropping sites are rarely more than a turn away. Places to see, things to do, and interesting subjects to photograph. Now that you’re comfortable with your DSLR, it’s time to take an excursion and set about combining elements of street photography, portraiture, landscape shooting and candid capturing to freeze memorable moments in time.

Before we even get to photography though, we first recommend that you learn to travel light and travel on foot. It’s amazing how much turf one can cover simply by getting caught up in the city and following a hunch through the streets.

To shoot your excursion, bring along the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM and the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM. Combined with the Canon 7D, this combination can cover an incredibly diverse range and yield pin-sharp photos.

New York Walking Tour

To give you the absolute best experience in the Big Apple here is a recommended walk New York through.

South Street Seaport: Both historical and beautiful, South Street Seaport bustles with old ships, relaxation seekers, New Amsterdam Market, and concerts. Pier 17 has three levels: the third level provides quite the view of the Brooklyn Bridge. This is where the 10-22 mm will come in handy for its wide angle perspective. If you want to mimic the old masters by getting up close to your subjects and delivering a more intimate feel in your photos, the longer end of this lens will give you a near-35mm equivalent field of view. Depending on who you ask, this field of view comes close to mimicking the human eye’s perspective (50mm also.)

Switch to your Canon 70-300 mm L if you’d like to ask someone for their portrait or if you want to try to photograph Brooklyn — which is also clearly visible from here.

Chinatown: From South Street Seaport, head northeast into New York’s Far East. Though it isn’t quite what it used to be and the effects of the American Recession are evident, Chinatown still holds onto much of its identity: streets bustling with people and fascinating Chinese stores all around the area swelling with goods and interesting subjects for your camera. Chinatown’s streets are narrow, so we recommend shooting wide and getting up close. If you come here around Golden Hour, you’ll be treated with brick buildings, markets, and shops drenched in warm light.

Tip: Don’t shoot standing. Squat, angle your camera from waist or knee height. Get to a higher vantage point. The results will dramatically change your photos perspective.

Little Italy: Continue your tour North through Little Italy. Be sure to avoid tourist traps, and take in the cultural offerings including a community that still works hard to cling to its Italian traditions. Packed with Italian history: immigrants have long settled here and turned the area into their own community that still clings strongly to Italian traditions and dining. Stop by Lombardi’s Coal Oven Pizza shop and snap a photo of a pie right before you dig in.

When you do take a picture of your pizza, ensure that your flash is deactivated, and compensate for any lack of light by cranking up your ISO setting. The Canon 7D handles image noise very well at higher settings.

SoHo: From Little Italy, head slightly west onto Broadway and work your way through SoHo. You’ll be bombarded by great shopping, lots of shops and a slew of well-dressed masses making their way. If someone or a group of people catch your eye, politely ask them if you can take their portrait — you’d be surprised how many people will be flattered by the inquiry.

Lower East Side: From SoHo, head into the East Village/Lower East Side are for photogenic areas like St. Mark’s Place and the famous Washington Square Park. On Sunday mornings, the park is actually quiet and those that are out are in good spirits. The L.E.S. is also famous for its characters and rock culture. The 70-300mm L will come in handy here for taking portraits.

Union Square: With plenty of street performers, skaters and the odd group of protestors, Union Square also serves as a great shooting spot; stick with your 10-22mm lens. Get up close to skaters and shoot in continuous drive mode (demarcated by a stack of rectangles in your info screen followed by an “H” or S”) to be sure to catch the action.

When you’re done photographing the action, look up: you’ll find yourself surrounded by photogenic tall buildings. Once you’ve had your fill of the sky scrapers, set up a tripod, stop your lens down all the way, lower your ISO and slow your shutter speed. You’ll be able to capture loads of people as they move in and out of the frame, creating photos that show off just how busy the area can be.

The High Line: The High Line is perhaps one of the most frequented spots to photograph in New York. A renovated elevated subway line that has been turned into the park, the High Line is full of lush greenery and a variety of vendors and onlookers. Here, you’ll want to switch between lenses occasionally. Since the line is around two stories high, you’ll love the bird’s eye view that your 70-300mm can grant you. You’ll also pass by some interesting architecture along the way; here your 10-22mm lens will come in handy.

Whether or not you call New York City home, any city can be a photogenic locale. Go out, get lost, and you may just come back with a fine collection of photos. Look for continued posts in the coming weeks with more tips and tricks.

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Sharp Shooter Series

Part 1: Get a Grip on Your DSLR | How to Capture Your City