Gear Guide: Cityscapes
Last week, we gave you some gear recommendations for architectural abstracts. This week, let’s talk about cityscapes! It can be a little more involved than abstracts, as we are often shooting at sunset and blue hour. As always, this is just a guide and the goal is for you to find the gear that works for your needs.
Once again, any modern digital camera works. The camera doesn’t matter too much unless you’re getting into more technical things that require bracketing, very high resolution, etc.
In terms of lenses, you will most likely need something on the wider side. A wide-angle lens (16-35mm equivalent) or a mid-range (24-70mm). As with abstracts, f/4 lenses are more than enough, since you’ll most likely be shooting at f/8-11 or even higher.
If you like having straight vertical lines in your cityscapes, using tilt-shift lenses can be useful, especially in locations in the middle of the city (there is little perspective distortion when shooting a skyline from far away). It’s by no means a must-have, but if you have one or if you want to rent one, it’s fun to play with for cityscapes!
A tripod is a must-have if you’re shooting at sunset/blue hour/night or if you’re doing long exposures in general. Tripods come in all shapes and prices and it can be tough to choose one. Our recommendation is to spend money on a good tripod and avoid cheap, unsteady tripods.
Things to consider: number of sections (more sections means smaller size when folded), tripod weight, height when shooting, camera weight that the tripod can handle. Carbon fiber tripods are lighter if you have the budget.
We recommend Induro tripods. They are sturdy, great quality and the company has great customer service.
There are a lot of options for tripod heads (ball, 3-way, tilt, video, geared, etc.). We recommend ball heads because of their size, weight, and ease of use. If you want more precision and control, go with a 3-way or a geared head.
If you’re into long exposures, especially during the day, you will need a little more equipment. Neutral Density (ND) Filters are a must-have. They are dark filters that you put in front of your lens to reduce the amount of light reaching your sensor, thus lengthening the exposure.
The first thing you need to choose is circular vs square. Circular filters are cheaper and simpler to use but they only work for a certain lens diameter. You can use step-up rings to adapt the filter on smaller lenses, but it won’t work for larger lenses.
Square filters are more expensive but can work for multiple lenses. You need a holder that has adapters for each of your lenses. It’s more involved but it’s the best solution if you shoot a lot of long exposures.
The next choice is how dark of a filter you need. ND filters are often rated by stops. A 3-stop filter means that you’ll have to increase your exposure by 3 stops. We recommend a set of 3/6/10-stop filters, so you can have options and even stack them in some case. There are a lot of options out there, we recommend Formatt Hitech for high-quality ND Filters.
When shooting at sunset/blue hour, it is important to avoid camera shake. One way to do that is to set a 2-second timer before the shutter releases. Another way is to use a shutter release (with cable or wireless). A basic shutter release is very simple and may only have one button. If you’re doing long exposures, you will need an intervalometer to manage exposures longer than the 30 seconds allowed by your camera.
Bags & Straps
For recommendations on camera bags and straps, check out our gear guide about architectural abstracts.
Cityscapes can be more involved when it comes to gear, but don’t forget: know your gear enough that you can focus on the creative side!
What else do you bring to shoot cityscapes? Let us know in the comments!