All day every day we view the world around us at eye level. Most people photograph it that way, too. Not me. While I do spend a fair amount of time standing behind my camera and tripod, I spend even more time on my knees or even laying flat on the ground in hopes of capturing more unique perspective photography.
To add interest and impact, not to mention a unique point of view, the next time you’re out making pictures, try getting your camera low to the ground.
Get down, get dirty, get photographing.
The world looks very different from an earthworm’s point of view. There are details in nature that most often go unseen unless you’re willing to get down on the ground, or ice, to see them.
The above image is one of my favorites. Had I not been laying down on an ice shelf overhanging the banks of a partially frozen river, composing a photo of the river itself, I never would have seen, let alone been able to photograph, these beautiful ice formations.
Get low and risk getting wet
Water lilies are one of my favorite flowers to photograph and I photograph them often. In order to get a low to the water perspective I don’t just get low, I get wet. Really, really wet. I get right in the water, setting my tripod up so that my camera is only in inch or so above the surface of the water. Sometimes this means I may be waist deep and surrounded by lily pads.
Emphasize your foreground
A low perspective is a great way to draw attention to a great foreground element. Setting your camera low and close to your foreground call also make the foreground seem larger than it really is.
In this first photo, I wanted to really draw attention the the periwinkle snails and the warm light just starting to hit the foreground rock. Setting my camera only inches off the rock enabled me to achieve the composition I wanted.
In the second photo, the foreground rock appears quite large, when in fact it isn’t much larger than a basketball. An illusion created by using a wide angle lens and the camera set up both low and close to the foreground rock.
I always say, “When it’s been done to death, do it differently.”
Nubble Light in York, Maine is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. And, due to its location it is what I like to call, “compositionally challenged.” By that, I mean there are only two or three basic compositions possible with this lighthouse. As a result, the vast majority of photos of this scenic lighthouse all look quite similar.
Go ahead, Google “Nubble Light” and you’ll see what I mean.
So, whenever I’m photographing there, or any other location like this, I do my best to try to capture something unique. A low and upward composition is one way to photograph an iconic location in an uncommon way.
A few tips for getting low:
1. A tripod with legs that splay out almost flat, allowing you to get your camera as close to the ground as possible, is very helpful. However, it’s not absolutely necessary. Sometimes I’ll set my camera right on the ground, using a few small rocks or twigs to help stabilize and level the camera.
2. Get some knee pads — the kind you can purchase at any home improvement store — are with me every time I go out with my camera. Spending time on your knees will take its toll after a while. Trust me, your knees will thank you.
3. If your camera has the ability, use Live View to help compose your photo. It’s a whole lot easier trying to get the composition and focus right by looking at the LCD than it is trying to look through the viewfinder when your camera is a weird angle close to the ground.
Learn compositional methods that will inspire you to shoot life in a whole new way! Photographer George Lange shows you interesting techniques in Craftsy’s Creative Photography: Capture Life Differently class.