Everything else being equal; camera(s) working, correct lens(es) mounted, batteries charged and you have your muse in your pocket, which cities rank best with you for wandering the streets and a successful day out photographing the world going by?
We all have favourites, but even then, it doesn’t always work like that. The wrong camera/lens choice I can usually work around, but all-too-often, it’s my muse pocket that is emptier than I’d like.
Or it could be my choice of venues.
This Monday Post is in preparation late on a chilly Saturday afternoon in Munich. For the fist time in as long as I can remember, seven kilometres of wandering a city’s streets today has produced absolutely nothing that compelled me to haul my X100 from my pocket and rattle off a few shots.
It’s Saturday and the city is rammed. From the colours and enthusiasm on display, I’m guessing there’s a big footie match on later today (ICYMI Bayern Munich beat Dortmund 6-0). The city’s pedestrian precincts are heaving with shoppers and a few tourists. The bars and restaurants are cashing-in for all they’re worth.
There really should be something to photograph. Surely?
Maybe not. And, that’s what got me thinking about this Monday Post.
Just now, I’m going to post a short list of my favourite cities, those I like to photograph in. Then I’m going to hand over to you and ask for your input as well. I think it would be informative to compile a list of the most photogenic cities which we can keep on the DearSusan site as a source of information for other would-be travel photographers.
So, my top choices would be:
Tokyo – an incredible city, packed with life, light and the extraordinary at every turn. Score: an easy 9/10
Paris – yeah I know. This one is too easy. Score: 8.5/10
Singapore – like Tokyo, absolutely crammed with just about every facet of human behaviour, light and stuff to shoot. Score: 8/10
London – another no-brainer, but the city isn’t easy. It’s big, requires a constant awareness of one’s surroundings and a ready camera to grab the shot. Nothing hangs around in London. Score: 8/10
Copenhagen – northern Europe, an easy city to get around, one which will reward with some great photographic opportunities if you look closely enough. Score: 7/10.
Edinburgh – Old Town/New Town/Leith – they’re all jammed with views, oddities and the Scots in their many guises. Score: 7/10.
No, you won’t find New York, Sydney, San Francisco, Marrakech, Venice and Istanbul on my list. In some the light never seems right, sometimes it’s way too much. Other cities are lovely, but just too plain, ordered and unremarkable, they succeed at what they do, but offer the photographer surprisingly little. And, in many cities, the locals can make your choice of photography difficult and sometimes even dangerous.
So, now it’s your turn. What’s your experience? Given a free hand, where would you go?
The photographs for this week’s Monday Post have been shot in the last couple of weeks in Warsaw, Berlin and Munich.
#538. Berlin – On the Streets. Bilder ohne Worte.
#530. LightRoom vs Capture One in Berlin
#981. Friday Post (20 March 2020) – The Write of Spring
#958. Monday Post (27 Jan 2020) – Galleries, projets, pics of the month, challenges and a few thoughts following comments
#947. Monday Post (30 Dec 2019) – Last post! (for the year)
#936. Monday Post (02 Dec 2019) – Of Workshops, Resources and Online Galleries on DearSusan
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Very interesting post, Paul! Though I don’t necessarily agree with yoru choices…:-( I would rule out Paris, because French law prohibits people photography. This doesn’t mean that one gets arrested every time, but still… I would add Indian cities, because they are portrait heaven. Your choice of Delhi, Mumbay, Bangalore, Calcutta…. I would choose Hong-Kong over Singapore any day, and in more ways than just photography.
Lastly, lest you think yourself attacked, which you aren’t, much the reverse, in the spirit of the un-postcard and the un-destination, I posit that, many times, un-capitals are more fun. Venice and Florence over Rome, Rio de Janeiro over Brasilia, Geneva over Berne, Amsterdam over The Hague, and, of course, Reine over Oslo…:-)
Well I have to say Porto (as I live there)
Nimes in early autumn I’ve fond memories of
I think it depends on what we seek to photograph… if it’s street then we should be able to make do any where there’s people… but of course that’s easier said than done!
#1 Havana Without a doubt the greatest city for photography for me at least. Safe, beautiful light, architecture and people. #2 Bagan, Myanmar Not just for the temples but for people and markets as well. #3 Fez and Marrakech, Morocco. All of the above #4 Inle Lake, Myanmar. Not really a city but a location with great opportunities for fishermen, markets, floating villages, and food. #5 Venice and Burano. No need to explain.
I can’t recall ever taking anything that resembled a satisfactory image without the muse in my pocket.
To me the word muse translates into:
– a reasonably clear idea of what I’m after, i.e. a concept that I want to realise;
– a keen interest in what I’m photographing, preferably backed up by some research into my subject-matter
– a willingness to bear with inconvenience while I’m shooting: possibly getting up early, staying out late, waiting for the perfect moment, returning to a location for a second or third time until I finally press the button. Good photography usually doesn’t happen when it’s convenient.
That muse is a tough and demanding lady, make no mistake … but she tends to ultimately reward you.
I always find that approach interesting as its the complete reverse of how I work. Back there somewhere I came to the conclusion I was wasting my time trying to ram reality into the mould of my expectations. I park the expectations with the car and just go with what’s there and how I feel about. Some days are a zero others are a bumper crop. But even the zero days are good days – I got out of the apartment, got some fresh air and exercise and spent some time in the real world with real people.
Jens, John – I’m with both of you on that subject.
Sometimes the shot’s right there, and I can’t believe my luck. A lot of my candid work is like that, and I’ve been amazed by how lucky I’ve been this past year, trying to get some seriously good portrait shots of a dog that a friend of my owns, because I could see tht she won’t have the dog much longer and I wanted to get in there and get some photos like that, to give her, so she would always have mementos (plural) of the happy times they shared, when her pup finally dies. Sadly, she tuned in, and started to realise that her years with her pup were turning into months . . . but in the meantime, those photos have been adding tremendously to the pleasure she is getting out of it all, while she still has the pup. It’s been strengthening the bond between them, and drawing them closer together, while they still can . . . so it hasn’t been all bad.
Sometimes I plan, plan, plan – research – go back to the scene over & over again – the dog hates me, she gets separation anxiety, and I can’t have her with me while I have all that gear on a tripod – and then the damned light goes on me, I’ve missed it today, I have to come back again – get ready to pack up & leave – and suddenly see something AWESOME, that’s got nothing to do with what I came for – but it keeps tripping in & out, so I have stay there and wait – and wait – and wait- trying shots in between, to practice, to see what it’s like in cam. And when I finally decide I have what I didn’t come for but bagged it anyway, I can’t see how good or bad it is till I hit it up on the computer and start post processing. I’ve still got to go back again to bag the shot I want – sigh! – but I might have caught more fish than I meant to, taking all of that story into account.
Others are just a matter of waiting. I missed a shot last year – by the time I realised the potential, the sun had moved south, to freeze Europe, Asia and North America, so I was simply too late. One month too late, and I have had to wait till this year, another 10 months, before I could try again. It’s coming closer, as I write this – but I think there’s still a month or more to wait, before the sun is farenough north for the shadows I want, falling across the building.
Of course I could take the easy way out – flog my gear on the net, like Pascal, and get a decent cellphone. Pascal assures me that it is now quite easy to take great photos with one of those contraptions. Or maybe take Philippe to a dingy bar in the back streets of Paris, and drink our sorrows under the table, with absinthe. My father was a winemaker and convinced me that “proof spirits” actually weren’t all that strong – over-proof spirits tend to try your tongue out – absinthe was still illegal in those days, but now that it’s back, I’ve seen it in bottle shops with hair raising alcohol levels. Jack Daniels, eat your heart out!
Havana, Trinidad, Vinales and Santiago. Whether you shoot colour or BW, Cuba is a street photographers paradise – see Chris’ note above. Vancouver, my home town is a great place for street photography too. I get hasseled on average once a year, and on every other occasion but one, by someone other than who I was photographing. In the summer there’s the Richmond Asian Night Market which is a fabulous place for street photography. Montreal is also fantastic city and a wonderful place to photograph … period.
@ Paul: great post. Thanks. Got me thinking about WHAT I takes photos of WHERE.
@ Philberphoto: I agree on un-destinations. But where does it start to be un- ? For me: Verona versus almost forgotten Saxony villages (eastern Germany close to the border of Poland). Un-time in top destinations might do as well.
So back to the ranking:
1: Stockholm (the light, architecture & people)
2: Sydney (the mix makes it a kind of a wellness trip for the photographer)
3: New York City (just the opposite – at least in some bad areas just carrying a camera can make YOU a target)
4: London is high up, too
5: Munich (parks, architecture, museums etc. but not by walking, as you did – rent a bike or take the tram/public transport and take time for the beer gardens – camera out after 30 minutes at the earliest, get acquainted, first)
6: Copenhagen, especially in winter – again for the light and it is a ‘cozy’ city
Cheers, folks !
Nicely done, Paul. My personal trio would be :
* Marseilles. A huge range of subjects in a tight sunny spot.
* London. Again, huge variety. Paris is nice, but everywhere you go it looks kind of the (very nice) same. London offers far more variety and colour.
* Hong-Kong ? Many of the large Asian cities are wonderful. HK has incredible architecture to boot.
Tokyo does appeal to me a lot. Will let you know whether it makes it to the very top in October 🙂
A *wide* question…
And nice photos.
I especially like
“U-Bahn, Berlin” ,
“Late afternoon – Berlin” &
“Foot, museum – Munich”
And those could have been taken almost anywhere – which may have been one of your reasons to choose them.
( Berlin Hauptbahnhof…
I tried my widest lens (16mm FF-eq.) on the rails in three levels with those high pillars carrying them, but that loftiness was hard to catch … perhaps with a slightly wider lens – but I think that would lessen the effect.)
For street photos I have no comment, I’m not good at photographing people.
There is some interesting matter everywhere, but some places abound with it.
I’d suggest Amsterdam.
Or e.g. Goslar.
I liked the often well done mixture of old and new in Sydney.
I once came to Angers and it captured me.
But I had too few days to immerse myself, so I just left – but I haven’t been back, sadly.
In no particular order (from the ones I know): (as I already hyped about) Lisbon, Hong Kong, New York, Hanoi and Istanbul.
I’d like to visit some North and Central African cities and see how they play. But hadn’t had the chance yet.