The Mother of All Rooftopping Photos, On Top of the Tallest Building in the World


Rooftopping photography enthusiasts enjoy climbing to locations that would make most people’s legs turn to jelly, pointing a camera straight down, and snapping a photo that commonly shows feet, a ledge, and a huge drop. While in Dubai for Gulf Photo Plus 2013, famed National Geographic photographer Joe McNally managed to snap the mother of all rooftopping photos, seen above. The Instagram snap was captured from the tip of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure in the world.

The photo was shared on Instagram yesterday with a caption that reads:

My old battered shoes climbed the worlds tallest building today. What an amazing structure! Tweeting from 820 meters straight up!

In case you’ve never seen it before, here’s what the building looks like from the ground:


It’s quite a prize for rooftopping photography, as it towers over every other skyscraper in the world:


Unfortunately, the climb to the top isn’t something any ordinary person has the opportunity to do. You’ll have to have some friends in high places (har har) in order to enjoy the view up there. For the rest of us, there’s an observation deck you can pay to visit.

To see more examples of jaw-dropping and vertigo-inducing rooftopping photos, check out the work of Tom Ryaboi and Russian daredevils Vitaly Raskalov and Alexander Remnev.

(via Instagram via Gizmodo)

Update: We asked McNally how he gained access to the roof. He tells us that it was a process: 35 years in the photography business, 26 years shooting for National Geographic, “accumulating a certain measure of archive respectability and reputation,” climbing other famous antennas (the WTC and the Empire State Building), and three years of communicating with the administrator of the Burj Khalifa.

Image credits: Photograph by Joe McNally and used with permission, Burj Khalifa under sunrise by Nicolas Lannuzel, BurjKhalifaHeight.svg via Wikimedia Commons

  • Samcornwell

    I’d like to see a photo from the ground zoomed in looking at his petrified face.

  • Jeremy Lawrence

    Joe has form in being on the top of tall buildings.

  • Jeremy Lawrence

    Check out video I linked above to see how he copes with heights. :-)

  • Evan Skuthorpe

    Looks like simcity.

  • laz117

    pucker factor 12

  • Robert Peel

    Great depth of field. Notice that the shoes and the objects on the ground below are all in focus.

  • Mansgame

    I wonder if there is a point you reach where you’re so high up that it doesn’t matter anymore and in fact you feel more at ease because things don’t look real anymore. Like on a plane.

  • Burnin Biomass

    “Unfortunately, the climb to the top isn’t something any ordinary person has the opportunity to do.”

    I think its fortunate the ordinary person can’t do this, because we would have morons killing themselves trying to replicate this shot.

  • rangepig

    I don’t know how true it is, but back in the 1980s when I was at Air Assault School in the 101st they told us the reason the rappelling walls were 34 feet high was because the psychological threshold was 33 feet, so anything over 33 feet felt about the same (i.e.: 34 feet might as well be 300 or 3,000 feet).

  • Colin

    He is so high up even if he fell he would have had time to tweet this photo before reaching his death. Are we sure this is actually not the case? Haha.

  • Dave Angeli

    Interesting – that sounds about right. Not to say that people can’t tell the difference between 33′ and 3000′, but the fear factor is about the same.

  • Jake

    It’s gotta be the shoes!

  • Frank

    Lots of light in Dubai.

  • ProtoWhalePig

    I have read that the critical factor is whether or not you are “attached” to the ground by the building. It is for me: I have absolutely no vertigo in airplanes and tons of it in buildings or on mountains.

  • Roman

    noon; sunny 16; f/16 ;)

  • James

    Also, Instagram implies cell phone camera. Tiny sensor gives greater DoF.

  • Leo Eris


  • Anthony Thurston

    OH jeeze… that makes me sick just looking at the photo. I an NOT a fan of heights. You could not pay me enough money to get up there….

  • Li Galo

    The first thing I noticed was that his pant leg was messed up! If you’re going to take a photo like that one, you’d think the photographer with notice a detail like that one! Yes, the photo is actually fantastic, too… but the pant leg!

  • John Capestro

    It would be awesome to jump,from there.With a chute of course.They should sell tickets.

  • Bonita Read

    That is so frikken amazing !!! an adrenalin rush just sitting in front of my laptop LOOKING at the photo .. LOL !!

  • Brett Sprague

    Next is KIngdom Tower..

  • Ryan Alexander Davis

    I would’ve worn nicer shoes