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Some thoughts on perspectives

Panorama of Little Rocky Glen on the morning of 24 May 2012.

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It occurs to me that I may have been geeking out on too much gear lately.  New cameras, new lenses, old lenses – it’s all fun, but it’s important to remember the art.  So I thought I’d change tracks and share a few thoughts on perspective. I struggle with perspective myself, trying to find new ways to approach the world to keep my images fresh.

Perspective depends on the subject, but at the same time the rules aren’t fixed – sometimes it works to throw out the book and shake things up a little.  Sometimes it’s better to stick to the tried and true.  Here are a few examples from the past few outings:

Eastern Snapping Turtle along the roadside near Fords Pond on the morning of 24 May 2012.

With wildlife, the trick it to get at eye level. As in, your subject’s eye level. It creates a more intimate connection with the animal. And while that’s not always possible – eagles, for example, don’t usually cruise around at 6’4” above the ground – for most of the critters we encounter it’s just a matter of getting down to their level.

In the case of the turtle above, I’ll admit that I didn’t get as low as I should have. Her (his?) eye is only a few inches off the ground, whereas I’m kneeling, mostly because I didn’t feel safe laying down in the road to get the shot. But whereas a shot from standing height would lack any sense of connection with the turtle, from this angle she’s easier to connect with.

Wildflowers at Little Rocky Glen near Dalton, PA, on the morning of 24 May 2012.

In the case of the flowers, it’s a bit more complicated. Mostly because the solution is less certain. What you don’t want to do is take the snapshot approach, where you stand at a 45 degree angle above the flowers and shoot down into them, one after another. Instead, try varying the angle of approach. Shoot from below the horizontal or, as in the case of the image above, from directly overhead.

The key is keeping the interesting parts in the view – usually the stamen and/or interior petals. Add to this a pleasing background that doesn’t draw attention away from the subject and you’re in business. What I like about my shot is the overhead angle, where the top blossoms are in focus but the lower the image goes, the softer it goes.

Long grass (and a ladybug) at Fords Pond on the morning of 24 May 2012.

Sometimes it can be as easy as changing the way the capture itself looks. I struggle with shooting B&W images, despite the fact that I love the way many of them look. But I find it’s hard to capture an image that works well in B&W sometimes. B&W is the great simplifier, as it removes all the distractions that come with color, reducing an entire image down to the level of tones. Range of tones, interaction between tones, intersections of tones. And as a result, the subject has an easier time standing out in the image – assuming of course that you have a strong subject.

In the image of the grass above, I’ve both succeeded and failed at this. From the standpoint of the grass itself being the subject, it works well, isolating it’s form from the background and freeing it from the issue of being a green subject in a field of green. But from the standpoint of the ladybug (did you even see it before I mentioned it) being the subject, it doesn’t work as well – without that point of red amid the green, the beetle blends right in.

Macro view of dew on a goose feather at Bullhead Bay on the morning of 01

And when everything else seems too boring, too routine, go for broke.  We aren’t used to seeing the world represented in the extremes of either close-up or wide-angles.  A macro lens can give you an easy afternoon of wonder, as it lets you see things at life-size, or even larger.  When’s the last time you bothered to study a feather close up?  Or even noticed the tiny drops of morning dew?  (I didn’t see them until I looked at the photo on the computer later!)  The panorama at the top of this post shows the opposite end of the spectrum, where multiple captures are stitched together to form a single image.  The same way that a macro shot will grab your interest for the fine (and often unseen) details, a panorama will draw you in because it contains so much.  It’s like actually being there, at least more than a single frame can ever be.

So there’s some thoughts on changing perspective.  It’s healthy; it keeps us on our toes and, to a surprising extent, reminds us that there is more to the world than we usually notice the first time around.

Brent Pennington

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1 Comment to Some thoughts on perspectives

  1. June 12, 2012 at 06:24

    Still don’t see the lady bug even after you mentioned it. Guess I’m going to have to get some better reading glasses :).


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