Korean Cityscapes

sunset over Ulsan South Korea with clouds and bright colours.

A while ago I posted about rooftops around Ulsan and found that people found them useful. However, I want to expand on the topic of shooting from the tops of these buildings. I find people think that once they get to the tops, the battle is over. Unless you forgot your camera, then your battle is just beginning.

Seaside village in Ulsan, South Korea

The reason that I say this is because from the beer cans I have seen on some of Ulsan’s helipads, I know that people are going up there but I have yet to see and photographic evidence. So I thought that I would start with some basic tips for people to get better shots of the vast cityscapes around Korea.


1. Equipment

I would suggest bring a couple of lenses with you to achieve a couple of different looks. The key here is that you want to create something breathtaking as well as look for some details. So having a wide-angle and a telephoto zoom will help achieve this.

You also should bring a tripod as well. No matter what the time, the added stability will help with achieving maximum sharpness throughout the frame. Also, the end of the day is arguably the best time to shoot and a sturdy tripod is essential.


Using a tripod to keep away from the edges of tall buildings will help you keep a low profile. The last thing you need is for people to think that you are going to jump.

Also bring a small headlamp in case it is dark up on the roof. If your camera does not have a level (canon: hit the info button a few times)

[box type=”info”] Canon users can bring up the level in live view by pressing the info button a few times while in live view. It will even come up in the view finder by changing the function of the M-fn button in the custom settings menu[/box]


2. Timing

The biggest mistake people make is going too late to a location. While night does seem like a good time to go, unless you have a extremely awesome view, it won’t compare to the same view at blue hour or golden hour. This will help add more interest to the sky. Heath Smith recommends combining these elements with some clouds in the sky. This is a great tip as it is often the last thing a new photographer thinks about but could really add a lot of interest to what you are shooting.

I usually try to get to a roof or a location early but not too early as I don’t really want to be lingering on a helipad for too long, just in case someone does spot me. At any rate an app like GoldenLight  to help find a good time to go and to even set a reminder.


3. The Shot

The one thing that I will stress is to create a story while you are up there. What is the city telling you from this vantage point? Is it busy? is it bright? Do the buildings create a scene from the future? This is what is going to make or break the shot. Don’t just set up and capture the city in a way that just shows the city. Try to show something that really grips the viewer and says “hey! have you seen the city from this place? Look at that sky!!”


This may be a bit overwhelming especially if you are standing on the edge of a helipad looking across a vast city. So where do you start? For me I start wide and then go in tighter. Why I do this is that I want to capture the sky and the clouds when they have the most colour. When they start to fade I look for the details in the city. I work the horizon and then I work the patterns of the streets and buildings.


4. Processing

I look at a shot and I want to bring out the colour and the detail. I want the image to pop and the buildings to be razor-sharp. Thus I usually shoot in HDR and process in NIK’s HDR Efex Pro 2. Combined with a few sharpening presets from Matt Kloskowski for lightroom, you now have a pretty decent setup for a great sharp shot.

One thing that I always try to do is to bump up the midtones if you can. The reason is that you want detail in the darker areas to add a bit of depth to the frame and this is key when the light starts to go down. The more detail you have the more interesting the frame will be.





  1. Luke Reply

    All I can say is “WOW!” These photos are amazing!

    • Jason Teale Reply

      Thanks Luke! I am glad that you like them!

      • Luke Reply

        How did you do the first photo, just below “1. Equipment”? The buildings almost look like a coloured x-ray.

        • Jason Teale Reply

          Basically I bumped up the midtones and cooled the image down. I was using a lightroom preset to get it really sharp. I think that combination added to the effect that you see.

  2. Mike Reply

    Hey Jason,
    I love your photos. Just found your site while I was looking at getting a tripod and couldn’t stop bouncing around. I just checked on my droid for GoldenLight app but the only 2 that came up appear to be paid skins for a “nice skin on a clock.” Is your app for Apple or did I miss something in their descriptions?

    • Jason Teale Reply

      Hi Mike,
      By the looks of things at the moment it is only for apple but I think that there are a few sites that show the golden hour and whatnot. At any rate, thanks for stopping by. Did you manage to get your tripod? Oh and Merry Christmas too!

  3. Min Kim Reply

    very informative…love ur articles of Korea.. makes me really miss the place.. keep up the good work!

    • Jason Teale Reply

      Thanks Min Kim! Where are you now?

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