Photo Themes - Shooting from Above

Shooting from Above

Whenever I visit a new location, I like to try and get high at least once during my visit. I also try to take some photos from an elevated vantage point. I always encourage novice photographers in my classes to try to change their point of view every so often. So much of what we shoot tends to be from eye level.

Whenever I plan a trip to somewhere new, I always research the possibilities to take some bird’s eye photos. Most cities and towns usually have a high building or bell tower you can climb to get some shots from high above your surroundings. In this post, I’ve showcased some examples of photos I’ve taken from above during my travels.

Click on the photos to view larger versions.

Paris from the Montparnasse Tower

Paris from Above
F10 | 13 secs | ISO 100 | 22 mm

When you of places Paris to climb up high, you immediately think of the Eiffel Tower. The problem with shooting from the top of Paris’ most iconic structure is that you can’t include the Eiffel Tower in your shot! This is why the Montparnasse Tower in the south of the city is a much better location to capture a bird’s eye view of the City of Light. I waited for moment the Eiffel Tower sparkled as it does for one minute on the hour throughout the night.

Markt Square from The Belfry – Bruges

Markt Square Bruges from the Belfry
F13 | 1/500 sec | ISO 200 | 20 mm

I had to work hard to get this shot of Markt Square in the splendid medieval city of Bruges. For a start, I had to lug my camera gear up 366 narrow steps to the top. Now thankfully I’m in shape. Well I mean, round is a shape isn’t it? As I wheezed my way to the summit, I think some of my fellow climbers were worried I might require medical attention.

The viewing area beside the bells themselves is difficult to take photographs from with and SLR as each window is covered in chicken wire. This meant I had to hold my camera high above my head, pull in the chicken wire and shoot blindly towards the square below all the while hoping the security guard didn’t see me. I took over a hundred shots like this, most of which the majority were very crooked or featured the chicken wire as a major part of the composition. I finally got the shot above after about half an hour of effort that involved increasingly dark muttering and cursing under my breath.

Brussels from Parc du Mont des Arts

Brussels from Jardin du Mont des Arts
F13 | 13 secs | ISO 100 | 39 mm

Shooting from above doesn’t always mean climbing medieval belfries or standing on the roof of a skyscraper. The Jardin du Mont des Arts provided an excellent elevated point of view for this shot of Brussels.

Atocha Railway Station – Madrid

Atocha Railway Station - Msdrid
F22 | 0.6 sec | ISO 100 | 14 mm

Atocha Train Station in Madrid is truly unique. Where else can wait for your train surrounded by palm trees and tropical greenery? The best view of the garden was from a balcony at the far end of the hall.

I was actually part of a group of photographers from my camera club when I took this shot. There were about six of us all with our tripods set up happily shooting away. That was until a security guard took exception to our presence and started angrily gesticulating in our direction and shouting threats about calling “La Policía”. We quickly made our exit. I had no desire to learn what the inside of a Madrid jail cell looks like.

Piazza San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore from the Campanile – Venice

Piazza San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore from the Campanile - Venice
F10 | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 | 20 mm

The view of the San Marco Campanile in Venice is spectacular in all directions. In this photos I aimed my lens towards the island of San Giorgio Maggiore out in the lagoon. The Piazetta San Marco with its famous columns are in the foreground.

Communist Era Buildings – Bucharest

Communist Era Buildings in Bucharest
F5.9 | 1/800 sec | ISO 125 | 250 mm

Photography is not always about shooting beautiful scenes. Bucharest is a fascinating city with some truly beautiful buildings and churches. The Ceausescu years however left much if the city scarred by some exceptionally brutal Stalinist architecture. The city is being gradually developed but the pace is slow and many residents still live in crumbling and dilapidated tower blocks from the communist era. I took this photo from the balcony of a building where I attended a meeting during a recent trip to Romania.

Old Town Square from the Town Hall Tower – Prague

Old Town Square from Above - Prague
F13 | 1/100 sec | ISO 100 | 10 mm

The tower of Prague Town Hall provides a superb view of the stately Old Town Square below. The twin spires of the unusually named Church of Our Lady before Týn rise above the eclectic mix of buildings that surround the square. I can’t help wonder what became of our Lady after Týn.

Prague from Letna Park

Prague from Letna Park
F16 | 15 secs | ISO 100 | 70 mm

We stay in the Czech capital for the next photograph. This view over the bridges of the River Vltava is one of the classic views of Prague. The most famous if them, The Charles Bridge is second from bottom of the frame. The shot was taken from the slopes of Letna Park to the north of the Old Town Square.

Drones have made bird’s eye photography much easier these days but where’s the fun in that? I mean sure you can have some fun flying your camera through the air I guess; but why do that when you could have just as much fun climbing 366 steps to the top of a belfry with all your camera gear on your back?

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