Photographing the Obelisk of Buenos Aires

Gringo in Buenos AiresHacking Buenos Aires12 Comments

[box type=”alert”]8/28/12: We have had reports that this technique does not work anymore, so proceed at your own risk!![/box]

If you’re reading this, then chances are you have at least a passing interest in photography: very few people leave home and travel half-way around the globe without wanting to capture their new environment. After all, how will you impress the folks back home without photographs of your new and exotic surroundings?

Photographing Buenos Aires is a little bit tricky though. Sure, there’s stuff like tango, the dog walkers in Recoleta, the colorful houses of La Boca, and that most classic photo of all – you, about to eat a huge steak – but there’s no grand vista, no easy-to-capture skyline that sums the city up in one shot. The only instantly recognizable physical landmark that Buenos Aires has is the Obelisk, and that’s pretty hard to get a good shot of. Shooting it from ground level on Avenida 9 de Julio just doesn’t do it justice: you’ll have to point your camera up at it and it’ll look like it’s falling over backwards in the photos.

The far better alternative is to get a photo of the Obelisk from the top floor of the Panamericano Hotel, located just a few doors down from the Plaza de la República at Carlos Pellegrini 551. You don’t even have to be staying at the hotel! (That’s a good thing, it looks really expensive!)

For best results, aim to get to the top of the Panamericano around late afternoon so that you can catch the sunset. It’s also a great idea to take a little tripod so that you can support your camera and take a shot with a slow shutter speed without getting “camera shake” (flash ain’t going to help).

Here’s how you do it: go to the hotel and stride confidently through the large lobby to the elevators. If anyone asks you what you’re doing just say quiero ver la vista desde el piso superior (I want to see the view from the top floor). They’ll wave you on. Summon an elevator and ride it to the top floor, which is the 23rd.

On the 23rd floor of the Panamericano is a “Fitness & Mineral Spa” with a glassed-in pool. When you get to the top floor, explain to the staff at the desk immediately in front of you that you want to see the view (they speak perfect English). You’ll have to leave ID at the front desk and they’ll also let you know that you’re obligated to buy at least one drink from the juice bar next to the pool (you can get beer, but be warned that it’s the most expensive Quilmes in the city!).

The staff at the front desk will ask to see your camera. If you have a digital SLR they might comment on it, as they seem to have a policy against allowing people with ‘professional’ cameras to access the roof terrace area, but as long as you stress that you’re not a professional they’ll let you go on.

Ok! Now you can walk beside the pool to the outdoor roof terrace area and photograph the Obelisk for as long as you like! The view is absolutely spectacular – along with the Obelisk and Avenida 9 de Julio you can also see Teatro Colón, Palacio Barolo, out to the Rio de la Plata and much more. If you’re leaving Buenos Aires soon, it’s a great thing to do on your last day in the city.

(The photo that illustrates this article was taken with a Canon 40D digital SLR and a Canon 10-22mm lens at 14mm.)