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Rooftop Photography; Views from Above

Rooftop photography is what its name suggests; taking pictures from the roof of a tall building or other structure of subjects found below the structure.

The view from up there is unusual but can yield quite nice images if the photographer has a keen eye and a clear understanding of what it is that is to be accomplished.

This can be done two ways; one is to tale pictures with a wide angle lens that focuses the attention on subjects that are directly below and offers a wide angle type of view of the surrounding area.

The other is to focus on subjects as seen from above but to use a zoom lens that makes the subjects appear larger than if seen with the naked eye.

The two perspectives are very similar but do offer two distinct perspectives. You can also do this type of photography from the rooftop of a not so tall building and the perspective, although being a high one, does present a view which is much simpler to identify without the need for zoom or telephoto lenses.

You can also focus on nearby buildings and give the viewers a scene that seems parallel to where you are standing.

Esplanade Roof Garden,Singapore

CC BY 2.0

CC BY 2.0

Is this an easy task to accomplish? Yes it is but the problem is not usually taking the photos. The main problem that a photographer may encounter when practicing this technique is gaining access to good vantage points.

There are not that many buildings with good views that will freely allow just anyone to go up onto their roofs, even if it is for taking some pictures. There are many insurance restrictions as well as many safety concerns.

Most of the time you are going to have to contact the building's management and ask or you could possibly face some trespassing fines for doing so without permission.

The best sources for good vantage points have always proven to be roof top parking garages but in many cases the views that they offer are not the best ones and many of these garages are not so tall to begin with.

Hotels and skyscrapers can offer thrilling scenes down below but many also have a lot of equipment on their roofs and are unlikely to grant you uninhibited access.

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Some however, are gracious enough to let you do your photography but most always have someone escort you in and out of the roof which is fine but can be a little too restrictive since they often limit your stay.

Kallang River Singapore

CC BY-SA 2.0

CC BY-SA 2.0

The project does not have to solely be focused on taking photos that look down upon the scenery.

You can also capture images of the near by rooftops but pay attention to record photos that are pleasant and can offer the viewer something interesting to look at.

Old style ceramic or clay rooftops, interesting views of adjacent buildings, night lights, traffic patterns, views of mountains, hilltops or other natural scenery all make for good subject matter that can be photographed best from a high vantage point.

Sky bar precipice on the 64th floor rooftop.Bangkok

The best advice that I can offer is to scout locations that will be suitable for whatever you have in mind, plan your shots with the gear in mind and make up your mind of what it is that you want to capture.

It is a good idea to stand on the spot that you want to photograph and look up at the building so that you have an idea of the things that you would like to incorporate in the images.

The best shots are usually taken at night so safety should be your main concern. It is never a good idea to try to sneak onto a rooftop and even worst , if the location is an abandoned one ( you never know how stables some of the rooftops can be).

Ask for permission and be safe. Offer to share copies of the images and they may be more accommodating knowing that if your images turn out to be as good as you know you can make them, they can always use them in their marketing.


(CC BY 2.0

(CC BY 2.0

© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez

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