What’s Your Point Of View?

Outdoor Photography

The point from where a photo is created, determined by a high or low shooting angle, is instrumental to determine the success of the photograph. Regardless of subject matter, point of view is critical. The subject matter of this week’s tip is how to get good pattern, shape and form shots, so let’s explore how point of view can be strategically used to make great ones.

A low, ground-level vantage point allows the photographer to get close to the base of the subject, which can net a unique perspective. Most images are made from an upright position, so a low vantage point often grabs a viewer’s attention. A high vantage point allows the photographer to shoot down on a subject and provide an overview of the area. In this case, high isn’t defined as “standing position.” One needs to get elevated to create a “high” view point. There are pluses and minuses regarding both. Let the subject determine whether you click from a low or high angle. Regardless of which you choose, visual drama is the goal to net a novel presentation.

A low shooting angle often means laying down on the ground with a wider-angle lens and getting very close to the most foreground element. Once there, the wide angle takes in a lot of image space while simultaneously emphasizing the closest subject. This technique shows off form and shape. It also gives the close subject dominance and stature. Accompanied by the unusual angle from which it’s shot, the message the photo invokes is one of power. An added bonus is a number of potential distractions are eliminated that could clutter the foreground.

When a lens is pointed up at a subject, distortion in the form of keystoning occurs. The lines at the top of the photo begin to converge because the “film plane” is no longer parallel to the subject. The beauty is that this distortion can be exploited by deliberately exaggerating the effect using wide- and super-wide-angle lenses. The wider the lens, the greater the distortion. Patterns, shapes, lines and forms are emphasized, which become integral to the composition.

A high vantage point benefit is that subjects are reduced to shapes with little clutter in the foreground or background when compared to a shot made at eye level. When shot from above, the world is reduced to patterns, form and shape. People become shapes against the sidewalk, fallen leaves become a patchwork quilt and farmers’ fields become geometric shapes unnoticeable from ground level. Whether shot from a plane, top of a cliff, apartment building window or rooftop, high point of view patterns can be found in a myriad of places when you keep your eyes open for them.

To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.

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