Ornate painted ceiling
Architecture,  Lens-Artists,  Photographic techniques,  Themed galleries

Gallery: ceilings and floors (and pavements and more)

Look up and down and round about you!

John Muir

I wonder which way you usually point your camera? I’m guessing that most of the time, like me, you point it forwards. Maybe you tilt up for a tall building or tree, or downwards to capture a plant or small animal.

But what if we were to point it directly upwards or downwards? What would we see?

Looking up

I have found that for me the best/easiest way to capture a reasonable photo of a ceiling is as follows. I set the delayed release on my camera, usually to ten seconds. Next I choose my exposure and aperture settings, or rely on the automatic function, depending on lighting conditions. I set the widest angle possible and focus on the ceiling. I then lie the camera flat on its back on the floor, as parallel to the walls as I can manage (to avoid a wonky image). Lastly I press the shutter release and retreat a short distance; far enough that I am out of shot, but not so far that someone could easily snatch and run off with my camera! I usually repeat the exercise a couple of times, moving the camera slightly, to give me a selection of shots.

A number of the photos below were taken with this technique, while others simply necessitated getting a crick in my neck!

Ornate pink and green ceiling

The ceiling of the Nicholaikirche in Leipzig

Ornate blue and gold cathedral ceiling with stone pillars

The ceiling of the Cattedrale di San Martino in Lucca

My featured photo was also taken in Lucca; it’s is the ceiling of the Palazzo Santini, one of the city’s grand old houses.

Looking up at ornate chandelier and painted dome

A chandelier and dome in the Grand Mosque in Muscat

Two from Greenwich in London: the ceiling of the Painted Hall on the left and that of the Royal Chapel on the right

Ornate blue and gold dome

The dome of the Tillya Kari Mosque in Samarkand’s Registan complex

Ornate gold and painted dome

In the Royal Palace in Sintra

Elaborate gold dome

The dome above the lobby of the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi (no, I didn’t stay there!)

Looking down

Of course looking straight down is much easier, so I was surprised to find when searching my archives that I had fewer interesting downward shots to choose from. I must try to seek them out in future, although of course my recent post about the Chewing Gum artist Ben Wilson is proof that I do notice what is under my feet some of the time at least.

Red seaweed on a pebble beach

Seaweed on a Kent beach

Imprint of a shoe on white sand

Footstep in the White Sands, NM

Feather on stony ground

A feather on the ground in Leipzig

White feather among brown leaves

Feather among fallen leaves, Paris

Autumn leaves on wet pavement

Autumn leaves in the rain in Lucca

Red leaf on the ground

Fall leaf, Washington Crossing, PA

Bits of mosaic tiling

Roman mosaic floor beneath the church of Saint Sofia in Sofia

Large map of the world set in a pavement with people standing on it

Looking down from the Monument to the Discoveries in Belem, near Lisbon

Mosaic tiles set into cobbled street

On a road in the Beaubourg district of Paris

Round window pointing down to small house and grass below

Looking straight down to the ground through a glass panel in the floor of the TV tower in Tallinn

Slogan carved on a paving stone 'If everything on earth were rational, nothing would happen'

A London pavement: on Great Marlborough Street

French text on pavement with fallen leaf

‘I don’t think that it is Covid that separates us’: in the Belleville district of Paris

I’m just back from a short trip to Paris (finally getting to travel abroad for the first time since early 2020, hurrah!) So this is a somewhat belated offering for Sofia’s stimulating choice of Lens Artist Challenge theme, Looking Up / Down. You’ll see that a few photos from that trip have found their way into this gallery and no doubt many more will feature in future blog entries. It’s wonderful to have a new set of travel images to sort, edit and share!


  • rkrontheroad

    What a fun gallery of ups and downs! I like those looking down best, they are your compositions and reflect your eye. Had to laugh at your system for photographing ceilings!

  • Alison

    Wow, I love these Sarah, and that tip about taking photos of above is great. I’ll have to try that. The colours are just wonderful along with the clear detail.

  • sustainabilitea

    Thanks for risking a crick in the neck or worse to bring us these gorgeous ceiling shots. I’m still trying to figure out how your post seems to appear between two posts in the Reader that I already saw and visited but I don’t see yours until I work my way down the list again. Very odd.


    • Sarah Wilkie

      The Reader drives me nuts Janet – I tend to rely more on email notifications about new posts from friends 🙂 Glad you liked the ceilings, but as I explained above, I have perfected a neck-crick free methodology for getting these shots 😆

  • Amy

    This a remarkable set of looking up and down. These ceilings and floors, wow!! Looking down from the TV tower in Tallinn is amazing.

  • Sofia Alves

    I am so trying your technique for taking photos of ceilings. Firstly because it obviously works, they are all stunning! Secondly, it will save my poor neck in the long run. And I recognized some much loved and missed places. Brilliant post, Sarah. Thank you!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you so much Sofia for that lovely comment, and for hosting such a good challenge theme 😀 Let me know how you get on with that technique. I find it actually works best with my compact camera as that lies flat on the ground, whereas my bridge camera has a moulding around the viewing screen that causes it to tilt a little.

  • margaret21

    You definitely show the virtues of looking both up and down. Though I’m finding that throwing myself to the ground in quest of an interesting shot is getting a bit beyond me, unfortunately.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Beyond me too Margaret! That’s one reason I love my Lumix bridge camera, as it has a tilt screen and I can hold it low to the ground while still seeing and composing my shot 😀

  • Suzanne

    Enjoyed viewing your photos Sarah. Those ceilings are incredible and the hours and talent to create these are awe inspiring. Your blog page is looking very professional!

  • Tina Schell

    Wow Sarah, quite a collection! I must say I’ve never thought of your approach to ceiling photography and find it an excellent idea! Did you come up with it yourself? So clever! Loved all of your amazing ceilings especially this week.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Tina 🙂 I’d love to take the credit for that idea but if I remember rightly I saw someone do it in a cathedral years ago and copied her, with pretty good results. I’ve been using the technique ever since!

  • SoyBend

    I liked the ceiling picture taken at Leipzig. The three dimensional leaves give the ceiling a touch of life. I also liked the splash of red seaweed in your beach shot. Great pictures, Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Siobhan, I really appreciate the feedback 🙂 As I said to Teresa below, that Nicholaikirche ceiling is a favourite of mine – such unusual colours for a church!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Jo 🙂 Paris was fabulous – as beautiful as ever, wonderful weather and Covid measures only a mild inconvenience. The French Passe Sanitaire scheme works well and people on the Metro are far more compliant with mask-wearing than on the Tube, so it actually felt safer than being in London. We were so glad we’d jumped through the necessary hoops to be able to go 😀

        • Sarah Wilkie

          I didn’t mind the hassle of the extra paperwork and need for testing. My only real worry was that one of us would test positive on our pre-return test and we would have to stay in France and quarantine there – expensive, inconvenient and almost certainly very boring! Luckily we both got the all-clear 🙂 We had self-tested before leaving even though it wasn’t required, to minimise the chances of being caught out over there!

  • Rose

    Wahoo, I’m so happy you were able to fulfill your travel plans to Paris. Every one of your ceiling photos is gorgeous! The tiles in the ground “On a road in the Beaubourg district of Paris” are intriguing. Are there more tiles underneath the bricks? What is the backstory to such a pretty design in the road?

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Rose 🙂 Paris was fabulous and I’ll share more in due course (still sorting the photos!) There were no more tiles than these and they’re definitely laid on top of the bricks, not exposed beneath them. I took it to be an unusual form of street art as there seems to be a fashion in Paris at the moment for using ceramic and mosaic tiles for that – but all the other examples I saw were on walls and weren’t nearly as pretty as these tiles!

Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!