Last week, Trevor McCall-Peat took a look at composition and how it can save the day when it comes to taking a good photograph. Well related to that and in my opinion, one of the simplest and most effective tools in composition to get right is, the correct angle. The ‘correct’ angle is invariably as close to eye level with your subject as possible. This is because it draws the viewer into the shot and gives the sense of being involved in the scene, rather than a separate observer looking either down or up at the scene. This is easier said than done, particularly when you are seated in the back of a Land Rover, but, using the terrain to your advantage, you can invariably adapt the angle of your shot and improve it dramatically.

 

For example, take the photograph below of the Camp Pan male. Although this is a nice clear shot of a leopard; the elevated angle, looking down on the subject means the photo loses most of its impact. It was lucky here that the Camp Pan male looked up at the camera because if he hadn’t, the focus of the photograph would have been the top of his head.

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The Camp Pan male looks up at the camera as he wanders past the vehicle. If I had managed to get myself lower, this photograph would have had greater impact.

Now compare it to the photograph below where we are actually below eye- level with the animals. By positioning ourselves next to a ridge that the cheetah were on, it ensured that the four cheetah cubs from 2014 were at eye level. By doing this you get a much better view of their facial expressions and feel much more connected to the subjects.

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Four cheetah cubs framed through their mother’s legs with a beautiful clear blue sky as the backdrop.

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By framing the cubs through their mother’s legs, you also get a better sense of their size and it gives the photograph a feeling of vulnerability.

So often we tend to think that the closer you are to your subject, the better your photo will be. However by putting some distance between yourself and your subject, one immediately lowers the angle. Here by being positioned on the opposite side of the waterhole, it achieves the impression of being at water level.

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A giraffe drinks from a small pan. Positioning oneself cleverly was the key to a good photograph in this situation.

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This photograph shows the importance of being ready to get the shot. This juvenile Little Sparrowhawk was constantly on the lookout whilst it fed on a Red-billed Firefinch it caught outside granite camp. Although you should never try to solicit a look from an animal, you should always be ready to capture it if they do happen to look in your direction. By doing this, the connection between the subject and viewer is that much stronger.

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Again, by positioning ourselves in a dry river bed, the Tutlwa female ended up being in an elevated position on the bank. In this way, we get detail in her face and expression that we wouldn’t have had if we had been above her.

The aim of low-angle photography is also to give the viewer a look at the world from an angle they are not used to. It provides details on things that we don’t normally see and makes the photograph that much more impactful.

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You can imagine if we were looking at the Tutlwa female from a higher angle, we would never have been able to capture the detail under her paw.

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Although it is not always easy, try to get yourself as low as possible in the vehicle. I had to crouch down in the footwell, in order to capture the intensity of the Tatowa female’s stare. A hippo was out the water on the opposite side of a drainage line and she was watching it warily from a nearby thicket.

Although it may not always be easy, it is well worth making the effort to get at eye-level with your subject. Remember that by doing this, you can turn the mundane into the extraordinary.

About the Author

David Dampier

Financial Manager

David left the bright lights of Johannesburg and a promising career as a chartered accountant to join the Londolozi Ranging team in 2009. After three years spent as a guide, during which he built up a formidable reputation as one of Londolozi's top ...

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2 Comments

on Low-Angle Photography: What it Can Do For You

Jeff Rodgers
Guest

GREAT tips for my next safari.

Jill Grady
Guest

Thanks David, for a great tip! Your images are always absolutely stunning!

Comments are closed.

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