Guide to Capture Seattle Skyline: 5 Top Locations | 8 Effective Tips

Seattle skyline Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

Seattle, popularly known as Emerald City is a city with a wonderful skyline, owing to the fact that it is always green here. In fact, you can be sure to like every view of the city, whether from the top of the Space Needle or from the shores of Lake Union.

Whether you are a resident of Seattle or someone who is looking forward to visiting Seattle for the first time, you definitely will want to catch a glimpse of the places we are going to share. In this article, we are going to highlight some of the top locations in Seattle for skyline photography. We will also share ideas for photographers you can watch out for and tips to apply in building your skyline photography niche. 

Top Locations for Capture the Allure of Seattle Skyline

1. Sky View Observatory (Columbia Center)

The Sky View Observatory is a famous observation deck located inside the Columbia Center in Downtown Seattle. This space offers views of the city, Elliot Bay, the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and more. 

Sky View Observatory-Columbia Center

Photo by Felix Lipov on shutterstock

This is definitely a place to explore in Seattle, since at 902 feet, it is the tallest public viewing deck in the Pacific Northwest. 

2. Kerry Park

Kerry Park is a small city park in Seattle, located in the Queen Anne neighborhood. Kerry Park is the place to visit if you want to see a great view. Located amidst a neighborhood of Downtown Seattle, Kerry Park offers views of the Seattle Space Needle, the skyline of the city, Elliot Bay, and Mount Rainier in the distance. 

Kerry Park

Photo by ESB Professional on shutterstock 

This is a great place to take a walk or sit down on a bench for the sunset. Two of the most identifiable sights in the area; the Space Needle and Mount Rainier can both be seen from this great photo spot. 

3. Creosote Park Bench

Visiting Pritchard Park or Creosote Park Bench would also be a great idea if you are traveling to Bainbridge Island or its surroundings. This park overlooks Elliot Bay from downtown Seattle, and there is an hour-and-a-half boat ride to the park. 

Creosote Park Bench

Photo by Stephen Bridger on shutterstock 

Although a fair distance from the city center, the scenes are definitely worth it, particularly for photographers, from which you will get a distant view of the whole skyline. 

4. Hamilton Viewpoint Park (and Luna Park)

Hamilton Viewpoint Park offers a very rare view of Seattle's skyscrapers because it is situated on a Little Peak. You can always expect a nice and clear view of the city at all times because the viewpoint is even closer to Downtown than Pritchard Park, although Elliot Bay separates from the city. 

Hamilton Viewpoint Park

Photo by Tristan the Visionary on shutterstock 

Even reflections of buildings in the bay can be seen at night. The park is just a 30-minute drive from downtown; however, the journey is totally worth it because around there are so many fun things to do. For instance, one can enjoy the beautiful scenery at Alki Beach. 

5. Dr. Jose Rizal Park

West of Beacon Hill and adjacent to Downtown Seattle is a public park called Dr. Jose Rizal Park. Since it lies right in front of a highway, the viewpoint offers a different angle on Seattle, while still having a clear view of the entire city. 

Dr. Jose Rizal Park

Photo by SvetlanaSF on shutterstock 

The park will be a brilliant spot for photographers to capture the skyline while watching the headlights from the cars add a nice touch to the photographs. 

6. Space Needle Observation Deck

Photo by Zack Frank on shutterstock

The 605-foot-tall building was essential for the 1962 World's Fair. From then, it has grown to become one of the most iconic buildings worldwide. It stands some miles from the city center, with the 360-degree indoor and outdoor panorama views by the Space Needle making it the most convenient viewpoint for photographers to shoot much of Downtown in one frame. In this regard, the landmark is without a doubt the city's best viewpoint. 

Seattle Cityscape Photographers to Inspire Your Works

1. Brad Lyman

Brad Lyman is a landscape photographer based in the stunning Pacific Northwest. Landscapes are his most enduring passion, but his interests don't stop there. The beauty of his street and cityscapes from Seattle will literally take your breath away. 

2. JD Chen

JD Chen has captured the most inspirational 8K RAW images of the Emerald City. It's always a hard thing to realistically mimic the sky when shooting outside. Whether day or night, JD is good at capturing the mood and the nuances of the city. His photographs are some of the most inspirational pictures you can come across since they give you the impression you are walking down the streets with him. 

3. 9 Sigma Sreedharan

Sigma, like most of us, got his start in photography for leisure. But it didn't take long for it to develop further. The azure hour or sunset are her two favorite photographic subjects, each one a window into her imagination, using bright, vivid colors that bring Seattle to life in new ways. 

4. 10 Josh Spooner

In Josh Spooner's first image, The Space Needle nudges into the low-lying clouds, like it’s about to rain. It depicts the cityscape behind it so that you can hear the commotion of the street traffic. This is an awesome and crucial gift to Seattle cityscape photographers and Josh is a good place to get it. The photographs on his Instagram page offer a longing look, either using a camera or a drone, into the alleys of the Emerald City. 

5. Sam Emerson 

Seattle-based photographer Sam Emerson focuses on airborne and urban landscapes. As a result, the landscapes and cityscapes he photographs look like they belong in a motion picture. He seeks to preserve the city he adores with the use of a DJI Mavic 2 Pro and a Nikon D810 to produce his magnificent pictures. His use of subdued, slightly darker tones in both the drone and Nikon photos draws you into the adventure.

Bonus: Tips to Capture Splendid Skyline Photos

The most iconic pictures of skylines take you beyond the urban environment. Rather, they use a wide variety of photographic techniques to produce a mood. They are uniquely characterized by features, including monuments and buildings, that can easily identify each region.

Given that mastering such techniques involves some work, we have compiled some tried and tested advice for capturing the city skylines that will set you off on your journey. So, you can level up your cityscape photography using these tips. 

1. Choose the Ideal Lens for the Situation

Taking pictures of the urban scene is not as hard as it first seems. If you use the best camera settings and the appropriate photographic equipment, you will be on the right path already.

If you're going to be zooming in to just one important landmark within the city skyline, use lenses that have a mid-range depth of field; around 28 mm to 100 mm but not too broad. In this focus range, the size of the skyline can be well shot without making it overly near or far. 

black and white skyline photo

Photo by Patricia Zavala on Unsplash 

2. Use a Tripod

If you want to shoot sharp images, it would be a wise idea to use a tripod. The use of a tripod can help reduce the movement of the camera. You can also shoot at night or in very low lighting conditions using a slower shutter speed, or even if you wish to be a bit more experimental with your lighting. 

3. Focus Manually

Although there are lots of benefits of the autofocus feature, there are some really rare cases when manual focusing is more beneficial when taking city photographs. In almost all situations, manual focus is a lot sharper compared to autofocus, especially in low light.

The manual focusing can also be significantly much more accurate when taking photos of buildings in the distance, whereas the autofocus might have an issue with determining how far away the buildings really are. 

4. Set Aperture Priority as the Shooting Mode

lighting skyline with a tower

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

While Manual mode should be used in almost all situations, capturing a city skyline can be one setting where you can switch to Aperture Priority. That is because Aperture Priority mode basically allows you complete control over every other camera setting except the shutter speed. 

5. For Improved Field of View, Use a Narrow Aperture

Since we have highlighted the need to make sure you have the correct depth of focus, you might probably be wondering what's the best aperture for taking shots of city skylines. Generally, the aim would be to capture all the details at the scene with everything in sharp focus, but that really depends on what you are trying to achieve. 

To achieve this keep the aperture small at around f/11; this enhances front-to-back sharpness. You may have to bump up the aperture when shooting nighttime cityscapes to about f/3.5 for a brighter exposure. 

6. Low ISO

When photographing the city, as with any other type of photography, you should use the lowest ISO that will work for the lighting conditions. This way, you'll minimize the probability of getting blurry, noisy, or grainy shots. 

natural park plants around by hills

Photo by Stephen Bridger on shutterstock

7. Shoot Horizontally and Straight.

In cityscapes especially, the horizon line can either make or break an image. The final result may become a distorted,  aesthetically poor image. You, therefore, always have to make sure that the horizon is level before you press the shutter button after you have chosen your composition. 

8. Morning, Twilight, and Azure Hours Are the Good Times to Take Pictures

One of the tricks to taking great cityscapes is in using the best lighting. At the “golden hour”, skylines look amazing; just after the sun rises and just before it sets, when brilliant colors light up the sky.

Cityscapes can even be more beautiful if the background becomes darker during the blue hour or twilight when all the city lights turn on. The ambient lighting will be adequate to show the structures but not so much that it creates too much contrast. The lighting is just enough that just the right makes the subject appear enchanted. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, creating an image of the Seattle skyline can be so gratifying. With just a little of the right planning and a few simple tips, you could easily capture the beauty of this city from just the right angle. A huge variety of awesome locations are ideal for taking the best view of Seattle. With some thought put into the planning process, you could easily create stunning landscape photographs that bring out the beauty of the city. 

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