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Get Down Low For a Unique Perspective

By David Julian

Wheatfield fisheye.jpg

“Photographing a landscape from a low angle perspective helps me illustrate subjects in nature.”

When photographing the land, I shoot traditionally and also look for a unique perspective or point of view. Low vantage points are often overlooked, and are often truly rewarding. Before getting close with my camera to capture the details, I use my body position to try various ways I might view the subject. To the causal onlooker, I must look insane with my bending, squatting, squinting and even lying prone or upside down on the ground.

Walking along a country road on Whidbey Island, WA, I was drawn to a small field to use as a backdrop for a montage on organic farming. There were so many great shots in that field waiting to be discovered. I envisioned a wide angle ground perspective that would dramatize the wheat stalks reaching for the sky.

I placed my tripod-mounted camera with Sigma 15mm fisheye lens attached right down nearly to the ground facing upwards and set the lens to a close manual focus. The fisheye lens has lots of depth of field, so sharpness is even past f5.6. I knew I wanted the sun to be an element but not overwhelming, so I waited until a cloud obscured it.

The result is the exact ‘bug’s eye’ view with just the glow behind the wheat as I had envisioned. I also used a 20” diameter silvered collapsible reflector to bounce light up into the wheat.

composition Discovery park 7-31-10-32.jpg

Sometimes all you need to do is to crouch down to toddler’s height to see the world anew. Lying on your back will get you an even lower perspective and can also be a chance to catch a breath and ponder other possibilities.

Composition Discovery park-19.jpg

In the photo below, I was in a dense forest in Kauai, HI. Trees seemed to surround me, and nearly obscured the sky above. I wanted to capture that ‘closed in’ feeling, and got down on my knees with my 15mm Fisheye lens to include the trees from trunk to canopy. I finished the image in Adobe Lightroom using one of my custom toning presets.

Kauai10-494.jpg

As I travel and teach workshops, I enjoy taking group shots of my students, and like to go beyond the usual ‘stand-and-grin’ style.

One way I approach this is to lie on my back with my camera pointing straight up, and have everyone gather around me. This strange behavior not only makes for a unique perspective, but gets everybody to smile. I always add some exposure compensation or use Manual metering to keep the faces well exposed. Everyone enjoys watching me pick the grass (and occasional ants) out of my hair as I pretend it’s just business as usual.

ISD AK-Hiking grp under towering trees.jpg

Next time you are in the field, find the best position that speaks to your subject, grab your wide angle and get low!

DJ self portrait kayaking web72Travel, nature and fine art photographer David Julian has spent 30 years capturing the essence of places, people and light with creative vision.

Since 1991, Dave has led over 60 workshops and won several national awards for fine and commercial arts. His images have been commissioned by leading corporations, collectors and published in books, blogs and magazines including Nikon World, Outside, Geo, Islands, Conde Nast Traveller, Audubon, Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Rangefinder and The New York Times Travel magazine. When not taking on assignments or developing projects, Dave kayaks, speaks publicly and instructs group and individual photography workshops in the US, abroad and online.

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