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Get Above a Place to Establish the Scene


Guest Post by Ralph Velasco, travel photographer

My goal in most places I photograph is to get to the highest point that I can to show the destination from above. The idea is to give my viewers an overall sense of the place. This is what in the film industry they call an “establishing shot” because it establishes the scene.


The sample images here included here are from a recent trip to Prague, Czech Republic.  In an effort to follow my own advice I hiked my way up the very steep Petrin Hill on a rather hot and cloudless day.  My end goal was to get up in the Petrin Lookout Tower, or what in Czech is referred to as “Petřínská rozhledna.”  This structure is extremely similar to the Eiffel Tower, and was built around the same time, in the late 1800s, and it’s one of the highest points from which to shoot Prague.  It certainly didn’t disappoint.

A man strolling by the tv tower, capturing mesmerizing photography tips.

Here I’ve chosen to isolate a portion of the Charles Bridge, perhaps Prague’s most famous and visited site, as well as the double-spired Church of Our Lady before Týn, a landmark of Prague that dominates any view to the east.

Make an effort to get to the highest point in a place.  This could be a matter of taking an escalator up the tallest building, hiking to the highest point, using the local funicular, teleferico or cable car to reach a lookout point, whatever it takes to get above.

Get photography tips for capturing the stunning aerial view of Prague, Czech Republic.

Establish the scene by giving the people enjoying your photography an overview of a place, then treat them to the medium and detailed shots that complete the story.

About the Author:  Ralph Velasco is an award-winning travel photography instructor and international tour guide who has photographed in more than forty countries on six continents. He’s just released his first app for iPhone and iPod touch called My Shot Lists for Travel and is the author of “Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More.” Ralph has led cultural photo tours to Egypt, Eastern Europe, and throughout the United States. For the past two years he was awarded “Open Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County and he belongs to the exclusive Circumnavigators Club, a group of travelers whose charter requires that its members have traveled around the world, in a single journey, having crossed every one of earth’s meridians.  You can follow his blog at