Getting down low puts the viewer right into the scene
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