3 Ideas for Shooting Cityscape Photography at Blue Hour

When it comes to shooting cityscapes at blue hour, there are a number of options we can try. Today, let me share three of my favourite ideas.

Shooting Bird’s-eye City View

Shooting a bird’s-eye view from an elevated view point is a cliche, but works! Look out for a location in your city where you can have an elevated city view, such as an observation deck of a tower, top of a hill, roof top, high floor hotel room to name but a few.

Also, this is probably the easiest of all, as you could shoot without a neutral density (ND) filter attached (I still use 3 stop ND filter to blur the clouds a bit, though). Since each exposure is short, you can attempt to shoot multiple photos during blue hour and increase your chance to go home with at least one decent shot.

Shooting Light Trails of Moving Cars

Have you ever seen cityscape photos captured at dusk with light streaks of moving cars? An ideal place to try light trails is somewhere with plenty of traffic going by (this is obvious!), and slightly higher than a ground level (such as a footbridge) so that you can get up above the moving cars and shoot.

Light trail photography doesn’t require a very long exposure, either. I typically shoot with 3 stop ND filter attached, aiming to expose for 10 to 30 seconds. One easy tip is to “time your exposure”, e.g. starting an exposure just after a traffic light is changed, so that you can have as many cars running as possible while the exposure is in progress.

18mm, f/10, 25 seconds (based shutter speed of 3 seconds, with 3 stop ND filter attached), ISO 100, shot 7 minutes before dusk
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea
24mm, f/8, 30 seconds (based shutter speed of 4 seconds, with 3 stop ND filter attached), ISO 100, shot 1 minute after dusk

Shooting Waterfront Cityscapes

Lastly, this is my most favourite form of cityscape photography. You must have noticed that quite a number of my photos on Top 50 Photo Gallery are shot at waterfront.

To create silky smooth water effect, I’d definitely recommend you shooting with 6 or 10 stop ND filter attached. An exposure of minimum two to three minutes smoothes out water and adds a dreamy feel that is distinctive to long exposure photography.

Singapore Skyline from Esplanade
18mm, f/8, 160 seconds (based shutter speed of 2.5 seconds, with 6 stop ND filter attached), ISO 100, shot 9 minutes before dusk
Marina Bay, Singapore
35mm, f/11, 194 seconds (based shutter speed of 3 seconds, with 6 stop ND filter attached), ISO 100, shot 4 minutes before dusk

As seen in the photos above, Singapore (where I live) is an ideal place to shoot waterfront cityscapes, as the CBD is built around Marina Bay.

When I go travelling overseas, I also keep these three options in mind to scout potential photography spots. Is there any waterfront spot to shoot the city? Any place like a tower or a hill to shoot a bird’s-eye city view? Any footbridge in CBD to shoot light trails? Hope this post gives you ideas. Happy shooting!

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