Until yesterday, it was more or less what I can call a total lockdown in Dubai, the city where I live. Today is a new day and we can leave the house following several guidelines. I am hoping that life will go back to normal soon.
I understand that most of us are not used to staying at home. For someone like me – and I would dare to say many photographers – this was a very unusual situation. What would home office mean for us cityscape photographers? Tidying up the photo library, going through old images, editing some images, checking online tutorials or browsing what other photographers are sharing online?
After some time, you miss holding the camera and shooting…
This is where I decided to shoot a series of images during different moments in time from my home balcony. I was lucky enough to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets since the beginning of lockdown.
The coronavirus lockdown led to Dany photographing the Dubai city skyline from his balcony. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
I am a big fan of Nikon and I have been using Nikon for years. Yet for this project – if I may call it project – I decided to use Canon.
After all, I think it’s always good to get familiar with and check out other brands. Especially when you conduct photography workshops and the participants use different brands.
Dany was lucky enough to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets during lockdown in Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
I must admit, I consider myself lucky that my balcony view is nothing but the Dubai Marina skyline, though there are not too many angles to shoot. Indeed it’s a great view, yet it doesn’t offer a variety in terms of different compositions. To overcome this, one can become creative by using different lenses and shooting during different times of the day. I used a wide angle lens as well as a telephoto lens to capture as many details as possible. I was shooting during different times of the day: golden hour, blue hour and at night.
The view from Dany's balcony. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
When shooting cityscapes, timing is the key to achieving the best results. So during lockdown, the challenge for me was to shoot the same topic during different times.
Not a bad time, if you decide to shoot a close up playing with shadows and later convert these shots into black and white. If there are clouds in the sky, you can use ND filters and long exposure, which will result in a black and white fine art image.
A black and white image shot during daytime. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
This is a good time for cityscape photography. During early mornings and late afternoons, the light is softer and the city, in my opinion, looks more interesting. You can achieve a more dramatic result with clouds in the skies.
Golden hour is a spectacular time for cityscape photography. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
You'd be surprised at what you can capture from your home. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
The streets were eerily empty. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
A strange silence swept over the city. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
The clouds provided enough of a backdrop to catch the golden light. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
In my opinion, this is the best time to shoot cityscapes. Blue hour can be defined as the period of the day when the colour of the sky ranges from blue to dark blue, followed by black sky at night and vice versa during the day. It depends on your geographical location in the world whether you are lucky to experience a long blue hour. If you live in a region where it’s quite short, then you'll need to be quite fast when shooting.
Blue hour in the city of Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
The city lights in Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
When photographing a city or skylines at night, one of the most critical factors that will impact the image is light metering. You'll also have to control the highlights in post processing. I usually do multiple exposures and blend several images together in Photoshop.
Night set in rather quickly in Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
It can be difficult to control the highlights when shooting at night. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
Last but not least, I was quite lucky with the weather. It rained and I was able to capture the lightning along with the skylines. For this purpose, I used a lightning trigger from SkyFinder and I shot in manual mode.
A lightning streak captured over the city of Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
Moody clouds in the city of Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
I recommend that you download the PhotoPills application to check the exact timing of the blue and golden hours according to your location.
Planning will take you a long way when photographing cityscapes. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
Dany's set-up for photographing cityscapes in Dubai. Photo by: 'Dany Eid'.
When you think of cityscape photography, you will likely think of wide angle lenses designed to maximise your field of view and capturing the bigger / wider view.
For all my architectural and cityscape images, my favourite lens is the tilt-shift but choosing a wide angle is also a great choice, only if you correct the distortions in post production.
When using a telephoto lens, you can unlock many features and have more freedom in composing, framing the details and achieving the maximum out of the scene.
Photographing cityscapes can be challenging. Check out our 12 Tips for Capturing Amazing City Skylines to improve your cityscape photography!