How to frame skyscrapers
- Words and pictures by Richard I’Anson
Skyscrapers dominate the skyline and central business district of most large cities. They are often difficult to photograph as it’s hard to get far enough away to get a clear view of an entire building from within the city.
Even if your wide-angle lens is wide enough to capture most of the building from street level, you’ll be looking up and your image will exhibit a serious case of linear distortion. That’s fine if it’s the effect you want, and skyscrapers are one type of building where it can work quite well, as it gives the impression of the building rising into the distance, which is exactly what it’s doing.
Take the opportunity when you’re photographing the skyline to pick out groups of or individual skyscrapers, as it may be the best view you get.
Check out the same building from street level for a totally different view.
Skyscrapers are also often covered in glass, which provides reflections of the buildings around them or throws light onto other buildings. This often gives surprising results, as city streets and building façades that should be in shadow glow in the reflected light.
A classic case of linear distortion is created by looking up at skyscrapers with a wide-angle lens.
Don’t forget to check out the foyers of key buildings. Skyscrapers often feature dramatic atriums that rise many stories. The colour and texture inside the building will change throughout the day depending on the weather and position of the sun, so stop in a couple of times. In this image, conditions conspired to produce an unusual, almost monochrome effect to help create an abstract take on the subject.
The reflective materials used on the exterior surface of many skyscrapers make great subject matter in their own right. The constantly changing reflections provide lots of opportunities for creating abstract images.
Hong Kong Island is paradise for the skyscraper aficionado. Not only are there hundreds of very tall buildings crammed onto a tiny piece of real estate, but there is an easily accessible and outstanding vantage point at Victoria Peak from which to enjoy them.
More great tips on travel photography by Lonely Planet photographers can be found here.