Once voted the unfriendliest city in the world, Moscow has certainly had its dark times throughout history. But there seems to be a new vibe, and this is a city boldly looking to shake of it’s reputation and heading into a new era. The eyes of the world will be on Moscow and Russia this summer when it will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup and this historic city will offer thousands of people the opportunity to capture stunning photos. Here is a simple guide to photographing Moscow.
It’s not often that a cities’ Metro system is also one of it’s main attractions. But then most metro systems are not as atheistically beautiful as Moscow’s. Having opened in 1935 with just one line, this was the first underground railway system in the former Soviet Union and you certainly feel as though you have been transported back in time to a communist era. Ornate murals of leaders such as Lenin, powerful sculptures of armed forces and paintings showing a utopian society make the Moscow metro an absolute must for any photographer.
But photographing the metro isn’t easy as you’ll be faced with low light conditions, hordes of tourists as well lots of locals going about their day (the Moscow metro is one of the busiest in the world).
The main stations that you should look to cover are:
- Ploschad Revolyutsii
- Prospekt Mira
Try to work out a route before you start to avoid having to constantly go back and forth and once you get to the stations you may have to wait a little for the crowds to disperse. You might find it difficult to get away with using a tripod as usually a policeman will come and tell you to pack it up, but you shouldn’t have any problems photographing handheld. In fact, most of these stations actually have “selfie spots” where a sticker on the floor encourages you to take a selfie and share it on social media.
The low light conditions mean you won’t have any option but to raise your ISO (you may have to raise it as high as 4000-5000) so try to only raise it to the level you need to. Remember the higher the ISO the more noise will be in your photo which will effect the sharpness.
There are plenty of things to photograph so take your time and try to capture a variety of subjects. You can capture the art on the walls, the sculptures, the locals going about their day or even tourists visiting these stations.
Kremlin & Red Square
The political heart of Russia sits majestically along the Moskva River and is arguably one of the most recognisable tourist sights in the world. The Kremlin and Red Square evoke memories of the Soviet Union and offer endless opportunities for photographs. In fact, you may be hard pushed to find another tourist sight that packs in so much into such a small area.
The first thing you should be aware of is that predictably you are going to see a vast amount of police presence. But as long as you are respectful and do not act suspiciously you shouldn’t have any problems taking photos. Again, as per the metro stations, tripods may draw attention from the local police, so if they do and you are asked to not use them, the best thing to do is just pack it away.
Inside the Kremlin, the main sights to capture are:
- The Armoury Chamber
- The Assumption Cathedral
- The Diamond Fund
- The Cathedral of the Annunciation and the Cathedral of the Archangel
- The Ivan the Great Bell Tower
But please note that you will not be allowed to take photographs inside of these buildings and failure to follow this rule might see you thrown out or even worst, arrested.
Beyond the walls of the Kremlin you should also make time to capture Red Square, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Alexander Garden and of course St Basil’s Cathedral. You also should pay a visit to GUM which is a department store located on Red Square and offer fantastic photo opportunities inside.
Besides the GUM store, all of the other sights are outdoors so as long as there is good light you should be able to capture wonderful photos that are sharp.
As beautiful as the Kremlin and it’s stunning cathedrals are up close, it is arguably even more stunning from across the river. The striking towers overlooking the river provide a distinctive outline in photos and you should definitely allow time to photograph some parts of the river.
Follow the river west and you’ll come across the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, one of the most photogenic sights in Moscow. Head there at sunset and you might be lucky enough to see a stunning backdrop to this beautiful cathedral.
Keep following the river till you get to the Radisson Royal Hotel. Originally called Hotel Ukraina, it is one the famous seven buildings in Moscow that are known as “Stalinist skyscrapers” or “Seven Sisters”. The striking architecture is a glimpse of the communist history of this city (if like this building you should also check out the Moscow university).
If you keep following the river, you will eventually reach the business district where modern skyscrapers provide a great opportunity for skyline photos. Whilst following the river keep an eye out for the boats that travel along the river as they can add a good point of interest to your photos.
Just be aware that Moscow is a big city and as a result this will be a long walk, so make sure you allow enough time and wear comfortable shoes.
It wasn’t long ago that Gorky Park in Moscow had fallen into disrepair. But after an extensive renovation programme, it now offers some tranquillity in the overcrowded and congested city that Moscow has become. There are funfair rides, horse riding, tennis and basketball courts, fountains and even some ping pong tables so the photo opportunities are endless. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore this park and you will likely capture a glimpse of the local life of Moscow.
Founded in 1524 and a UNESCO World Heritage site, this is a functioning monastery. That means woman need to cover their head and shoulders when they enter churches and men have to wear long trousers. The number one sight of the monastery is the white Smolensk Cathedral. The classic photo of the convent is taken from across the lake which might sometimes give you a chance to capture some reflections in the water. But like anything else, giving yourself ample time at a location will mean you may be able to capture original photos.
Architecture and Sculptures
Moscow has no shortage of statues, sculptures and architectural gems to photograph. But rather than just capturing standard “tourist type” shots of these, try to think of innovative ways that you can show them. For example look for people near statues to get a sense of scale or zoom into a small area of a building to capture the details that people might miss. As it has been said many times by travel photographers, good travel photos often require patience and the more time that you give yourself to stand back and look, the better your chances of capturing a cracking photo.
Like most big cities, Moscow has a lot to offer and a lot of photo opportunities. But it can also be overwhelming as there is so much to see and photograph and unless you are going to be there for a fair bit of time you probably won’t be able to cram everything in. Just follow these simple tips and you should be able to capture some great photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.