Street level

Get­ting down low puts the viewer right into the scene

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

From high on the pre­vi­ous four pages to low. These, by the way, are far from be­ing the only choices for strong changes in cam­era po­si­tion. I re­al­ize, look­ing back at these three ex­am­ples, that a lot of the mo­ti­va­tion was graphic, in the sense that it was very much about mak­ing cleanly or­ga­nized pho­to­graphs, which is my style but not ev­ery­one’s.

How­ever, here there cer­tainly was an­other is­sue, which I can best de­scribe as in­volve­ment. This has to do with the viewer of your pic­ture. Where do you want him or her to fit into the scene? Over­head views sim­i­lar to the cou­ple we looked at on the pre­vi­ous pages are al­most al­ways de­tached, and what you gain from un­usual and fresh, you could po­ten­tially lose in a sense of be­ing there and a part of what’s hap­pen­ing. It’s a phe­nom­e­non that many of us have seen afresh with the boom in drone photography. If you have a sit­u­a­tion where you want the view­ers to feel a part of it, you might want to get close into it.

Lower is closer

For my book TeaHorseRoad, set in south­west­ern China and Ti­bet, I had, on this oc­ca­sion, a team of pack-horses and mules, and their mule­teers, at my dis­posal, so I had a day to think of the best uses to put them to. We were in a 600-year-old town, so the first thing was a recce to find the most in­ter­est­ing old lanes and build­ings, and I tried sev­eral lo­ca­tions. How­ever, there was some­thing miss­ing about the at­mos­phere and the feel­ing of be­ing among horses clat­ter­ing nois­ily over an­cient cob­ble­stones.

I de­cided that the strong­est sense of be­ing there would be from very, very close, and be­neath. Ground level and flat on my back brought the whole thing to life, and also had the prac­ti­cal im­age-mak­ing advantages of fill­ing the frame with horses and men (no empty street fore­ground) and framing them neatly against that white wall. Any­way, it made it onto the book cover, for all these rea­sons.

A horse car­a­van through the lanes of a 600-year-old Chi­nese town

This ground-level an­gle also al­lows the in­di­vid­ual horses to stand out clearly against the plain wall

I chose this view partly be­cause of the strong sense of ra­di­at­ing move­ment out­wards, with a 24mm lens

The low po­si­tion also squeezes the view of the pave­ment, which can often take up too much space when stand­ing

The edge of the mule­teer reads clearly but has a slight blur that adds to the scene’s sense of move­ment

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