How to Photograph Peterhof Palace, Russia

A black and white image showing a rear view of the Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

Peterhof Palace is a short excursion from St. Petersburg, Russia. I made the trip on a sunny summer’s afternoon. While my time was limited I very much enjoyed wandering the grounds and photographing many of the fountains and statues for which the gardens are famous. However, wherever possible, you can tell the story of your visit more fully through an alternative approach or by also photographing less well know elements during your visit.

Photographing the Fountains at Peterhof

This photo was made from above the Grand Cascade, probably the most famous water feature at Peterhof. The statues are all covered in gold leaf and look amazing in the bright sunlight.

I photographed the cascade from a number of different angles. This particular photo places the cascade in relation to the grounds and a nearby pavilion. It shows a number of the elements (e.g., water, statues, building, lawns, trees) that describe the location without emphasizing one over the other.

Statue on the edge of the fountain at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia

The Photo Essay

A young boy, surprised by water sprouting from the ground at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

In a traditional photo essay this might be considered to be a good opening or establishing image. It presents a broad overview of the location and enough interesting elements, within a single picture, to entice the viewer to want to learn more.

But, to tell the story of the site more thoroughly it’s a good idea to continue to work the location. Here’s what else I photographed:

  • Individual statues, some as portraits
  • Statues in relationship to the water, sprouting up from below
  • A groundsman working hard to clean the fountain. While dressed appropriately he was, nonetheless, being absolutely pelted by the water falling down on him from above.
  • Exteriors of important buildings within the grounds of Peterhof
  • Portraits and candid images of fellow tourists

Spectacular water fountains, beautifully framed by surrounding architecture, at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

This variety of images provides the viewer with far more information than would be the case with, for instance, a series of photos of just statues or fountains. However, there is an argument for both approaches, depending on your motivation and the desired outcome.

Golden, onion shaped domains contrast with the cool aqua and green colors in the rest of the building at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

Horses for Courses

Twenty years ago I completed a Masters of Photography which consisted, largely, of photos made in temples across Asia. While their were a few images that included people and architecture, most of the photos were portrait studies of buddha statues. If, however, I was commissioned to photograph one of these sites for a local tourist board I’d definitely be taking the photo essay approach I outlined previously.

If ever you find yourself in St. Petersburg, Russia it’s well worth the effort to make an excursion out to Peterhof Palace. On the shores of the Gulf of Finland it’s a wonderful place to explore, particularly on a lovely summer’s day. You’d probably need a day to fully explore the grounds and numerous buildings on site. However, if photography is not the driving force determining your visit, half a day should suffice.  

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru