Getting High in Rio

Who needs drugs when there’s so much natural beauty in this wonderful city? I’m talking about getting high at one of the dozens of rooftop bars/loungers overlooking the coveted vistas of this great city.

These are where you’ll find the best angles to capture it’s beauty. Shooting from street-level is great for getting personal with the locals, but for shooting commercial stock, the best types of shots are aerials.

Dec18 - Copacabana-12
Shooting from street level is great for getting up and close and person with the locals, but if you want unique & breath-taking commercial shots, pop over to a rooftop bar

But how do you get to one of these rooftop areas?

Simply act like you’re a guest

If you can’t afford or prefer not to stay at one of the beachfront hotels overlooking the coastlines of Leblon, Ipanema, Arpoador, Copacabana, Leme (see map below), simply act like a guest and calmly make your way to the rooftop bar/lounge/pool area. Now, these are huge hotels with lots of commotion, so it’s unlikely you’ll be stopped and asked if you’re a guest.

The main touristic points of Rio de Janeiro are located in the City’s South Zone (Zona Sul). Source:

Rooftop at the Pestana Hotel in Copacabana

I found out about this view because my parents stayed at this hotel a few years ago. At the time, I took some pics but wasn’t really happy with the results.

Since, I’ve been verging on the obsession to capture some extraordinary images of Rio’s iconic skyline. So, I went back to the Hotel Pestana close to sunset. I’m happy to share with you some of my results.

Commercial or editorial?

How about Comeditorial? A little bit of both. Starting out with my commercial shots:

Luxury pool
A generic commercial image, which took about 20-minute job to clone out all logos and remove people. I was fortunate that there were not that many people hanging around which would have made my job more challenging
Rooftop bar in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Same here, I cloned out all signs on the beach loungers, umbrella and at the far end on the buildings & boulevard – A 5 minute job

Shooting from both sides, clearly the light was better on the image looking towards the Sugarloaf where I captured many shots, both vertical and horizontal. On that image you can see that they’re setting up a stage for the New Years’ celebrations.


Perhaps these images below may be used on a news piece to illustrate an article about occupancy rates of luxury hotels in Rio during Carnival, which is in two months-time, for example:

Fine Art

As the sun was setting, I noticed some interesting silhouettes being formed on the hills looking towards Ipanema and the Western suburbs. The hill in the middle is known as “Morro dois irmaoes” which means “Two Brothers’ Hill” and at the far end, it’s called “Pedra da Gavea”.

Pedra da Gavea has a hiking trail, offering some truly stunning panoramas of the city.

2 irmaoes

Rooftop view at Ipanema Beach

On the adjacent beach to Copacabana is Ipanema, a little bit smaller and more exclusive. The view is equally breathtaking. In fact, that’s where I captured my famous kiwi caipirinha shot which is one of my top-sellers. If you’re wondering, this was taken at the Hotel Sol Ipanema.


Uiler Costa, Brazilian Aerial Photographer

If you want to see some truly epic aerials (taken from a helicopter), check out fellow Brazilian photographer, Uiler Costa, based in Salvador. Here’s a link to his portfolio.


Heading to the roof of a major building or luxury hotel in most cities should be no problem. In fact, I’m looking forward to going up the Shard in London, even if that view is done to death.

Again, to make your way to private rooftops at hotels, just act like a guest and walk with confidence. Once you’re there, if you can avoid, try not to shoot through glass as it will affect the quality of your images.


I’ll be heading inland for the next few days to the state of Minas Gerais where I’ll share a different side to Brazil.

Until next time! Aquele abraco!


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