Shooting Challenge: A World Without People

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: A World Without People

Remember that scene in Vanilla Sky? Tom Cruise runs into Times Square. And it's empty. You can't close off Times Square yourself, but through clever photography and patience, you could duplicate the effect.


The Challenge

Capture a photo of a very busy space without people. There can be cars, animals, whatever...just no people. Imagine a plague hit. Or the aliens came and harvested us. Whatever, just no people.

The Technique

In video, this would be nearly impossible. But a still photo? It's not that hard!

Bottom line, you'll take several shots of a busy area, then combine all the empty spots. Specifically, you'll do the exact opposite of our composites challenge, essentially, replacing people with pavement. (Yes, actually go to that link if you'd like specific instructions.)


Edit: A few commenters have pointed out using a long exposure and an ND filter to get rid of people. You're welcome to use any technique you'd like. But blurring trails of people and cars won't create quite the effect we're going for: An eerie world without human life.

The Example

Our lead shot is from Vanilla Sky. That's the bar.

The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, July 2nd at at 10AM Eastern to with "Empty" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameEmpty.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameEmptyWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.




I remember running across some photos not too long ago (possibly even here on Giz) where someone achieved this effect without any Photoshop. Basically, he used a ridiculously dark ND filter and extremely long exposures. Over time the people just averaged themselves out of the picture and the scenery was all that was left.