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5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House - Pat Kay Away

5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House

Sydney’s top locations to capture the iconic sails

Dec 3 2018By Pat Kay

If you’re travelling to Sydney, the one thing you absolutely must capture is the Sydney Opera House.

After all, it is Sydney’s most photographed building and arguably one of the most beautiful landmarks in the world.

Being in the heart of the harbour, there are plenty of vantage points to capture this wonderful building, giving you plenty of options for both sunrise and sunset.

Sydney is also one of the more fortunate cities in the world where, due to its location further away from the equator, the sun’s position changes when it rises and sets as the seasons change.

Regardless of the time of year you come, there’s bound to be a great photograph to be had here.

Here’s a list of the 6 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House
5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House - Pat Kay Away

Milsons point/Kirribilli

A great opportunity to get the entire skyline in one shot, the stretch of of walkway from Luna park all the way down to Kirribilli is probably the most classic perspective of the Sydney Opera House.

Here, you’ll always find photographers capturing the city, and if not, people hanging around watching the sun set because it’s such a nice location to relax.

How to get there

Catch a train to Milsons point train station and walk downhill to the water. A great starting point is Jeffrey St ferry stop – about a 10 minute walk. Alternatively, drive there and find street parking on Alfred St or Broughton st.

…you could also catch a ferry to Jeffrey St too, if you’re into that.

Recommended time

Although sunrise is nice here, sunset is a great time to capture the city. Stay a little while longer to watch all the city lights turn on when blue hour comes around.

Recommended focal range

To capture the entire city skyline in one shot, a 14mm (FF equiv.) is required here. However if you’re just looking for the Opera House, anything 35mm and up is great.

5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House - Pat Kay Away

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

Photographing the Sydney Opera House from Sydney’s other famous icon, the Harbour Bridge, provides many opportunities for different compositions as you walk up and down the harbour.

Some shots will be a little tricky, having to shoot through fences, however there are gaps big enough to fit most mirrorless cameras through. Alternatively, use a wide aperture and use these gaps as frames for your compositions! Make the most of it!

How to get there

Start at the southern end and work your way north. The entry to the footpath along the bridge starts at the Bridge Stairs. It’s about a 15 minute walk from one side of the bridge to the other – longer if you’re stopping for snaps frequently.

Recommended time

Sunrise. Definitely sunrise.

The sun rises from behind the Opera House during sunrise and the sails (the pointy parts of the Opera House) give off great shadow and shape.

Sunset is hard to time right, as the shadow of the Harbour Bridge ends the available light here a little earlier than you’d think.

Recommended focal range

Anything works here. As you walk further and further up the bridge, you can experiment with longer lengths. The shot above is taken at 150mm almost at the northern end of the bridge.

5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House - Pat Kay Away

Cremorne point

Potentially an unconventional choice here, but if you’re looking for something a little different, Cremorne point is great. It’s quiet, it’s still very much a part of the harbour, and if you shoot it right, it’s an angle not seen as often.

How to get there

Catch bus 225 to Cremorne Point Wharf or catch a ferry. You can drive, but street parking is usually quite difficult to find. Park street-side on Milson road or Cremorne road and walk down to the wharf to take your shots.

Recommended time

You could capture this both at sunset or at sunrise. I tend to prefer sunset here, as more shadows get cast due to the angle. You can also stay for blue hour and watch all the lights turn on. It’s great.

Recommended focal range

Use a long lens here. That’s what is going to give you a unique look. Although you can take the wide shot at 35mm, bring a 200mm with you to get some great compression of the cityscape behind the Opera house.

The shot above was captured at 200mm.

5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House - Pat Kay Away

Mrs Macquarie’s chair

Arguably the best location to capture the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the skyline in the one spot, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is one of the most popular spots for tourists, photographers and sunset admirers alike.

It has so many different compositions to choose from and is such a nice relaxing location. It’s one of my favourite locations in all of Sydney, and it’s one I always take new friends to when showing them around town.

How to get there

If you’re not driving, it’s a bit of a walk to get to. About a 20 minute walk from Circular Quay station or Martin Place station.

I’d recommend catching an Uber or taxi if you’re not driving. If you are, there is plenty of metered street parking around.

Recommended time

The entire west side of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair faces the city and makes this a definite sunset location.

Get here a little early – just before golden hour – as the light gets interesting as it pierces the Harbour Bridge. Stay until dark for the full experience.

Recommended focal range

All the ranges. There’s so many different perspectives here to choose from, it’s totally up to you. I personally love the tighter shots here, so a 70-200mm is something I’ll take often.

5 best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House - Pat Kay Away

Hickson Road Reserve

On the exact opposite side of Mrs Macquarie’s chair is Hickson Road Reserve. It’s a beautifully kept area with a really close view of the Opera house – A classic location for photographers who love getting up for sunrise.

Consider going underneath the Harbour Bridge and up to Dawes point for a different perspective.

How to get there

Again, quite an awkward place to get to via public transport. It’s a 12 minute walk from Circular Quay station though, so that’s a viable option.

For the drivers, there’s a big parking bay in front of the reserve which is mostly empty during sunrise.

Recommended time

This is a sunrise location.

Depending on the time of year, the sun will line up with the Opera House and you can play with some different compositions.

Recommended focal range

Again, quite a few compositions to be had here. I tend to lean more towards the wider (16-35mm) or tighter (70-200mm) ranges, although because you can walk quite a fair distance, you can get away with most ranges.

As a side note, consider bringing an ND filter and experimenting with long exposures here. A longer exposure will cast a shadow of the sails into the water which is quite interesting!

What’s your favourite?

The Sydney Opera House is one of those things that doesn’t have a bad angle. You just can’t really take a bad photo of it because it’s so stunning.

There’s plenty of compositions to be had here though! What’s your favourite?

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