When guests ask me how they can take a good photograph, its always a very tricky answer; who’s to say what a good photograph is?

What we ultimately strive for is to freeze a moment that we have experienced, ideally in order to provide a means to reconnect with those same emotions we were feeling at the time.

The Nkoveni female watches us from a termite mound. Vehicle positioning and use of zoom created this low angle angle effect.

So going back to what constitutes a good photo. I’m sure most people would agree it is very subjective, however there are a few techniques one can employ to try and capture that moment to reflect most accurately what you experienced. One of these is the angle the photograph is taken at:

Get Low

When watching wildlife, it’s human nature to try and make some kind of connection with the lives of these animals. However it can be difficult to represent that photographically. By getting as low as possible, more specifically down to eye level, we create the impression that we were on the ground near to the photographic subject. It allows us to feel more a part of the system, not an outside observer from a higher angle.

A yellow billed hornbill perches in the evening light. Bird photography is slightly different, as we are usually looking up to them in the trees, but by putting more distance between myself and this hornbill, I tried to create a more level shot, but one can see I was still too close, resulting in an upward angle.

It is obviously much easier said than done, as we can’t jump out into the road when a pride of lions is walking towards us. That would be madness. We can however use the terrain and tools we have to help create the eye level angle.

Using the zoom on your camera.

Often a photo taken at full length zoom looks more eye level than one that is taken at half the zoom and then cropped in afterwards. By parking just those extra few metres away and using all the zoom your camera has can create that eye level effect.

Achieving a slightly better outcome with this White-faced owl than the hornbill, parking further away helped me to create that level effect we look for.

A white rhino grazes in the long grass of summer. Its quite tricky to photograph white rhino in the summer, as their heads are usually in the long grass and we can’t seem to get a clear view. By parking further away and waiting patiently we were able to capture the moment when this young male lifted his head to see where we were.

Using distance.

Along the same lines as using full zoom, using distance can create really great effects. By parking a hundred metres away and getting some of the foreground in can create an effect of almost being on the ground.

Of course, using distance and using your full zoom is dependant on what the zoom capabilities of your camera actually are. Anything less than about 200mm probably won’t allow for the same effect.

A herd of wildebeest use the Londolozi airstrip to relax in the afternoon light. We parked a good couple of hundred metres away from these wildebeest and were quite pleased with our result.

This male kudu was browsing on top of a crest when we noticed him. Parking a long way away from him we created this angle as well as not frightening him away. By adding a bit of foreground you create more of a low angle perception.

This crash of rhino was walking quite steadily along an animal path last winter. By driving ahead and parking the vehicle where we anticipated them to walk, we got this really nice head on and low angle effect.

The biggest asset when it comes to photography at a place like Londolozi I would say is the vehicle. Vehicle positioning is a massive contributor to a good photo when it comes to wildlife photography. While one definitely needs to try and position for the best light, one also needs to try get the best possible angle to try create that eye-level shot. Using small draining lines, mitre drains and predicting where the animal may move are all tools we use out here in the bush.

By positioning the vehicle in a particular spot, anticipating an animals movement can sometimes work. Here, tracker Ray Mabilane predicted one of the Xidulu cubs would jump onto this log, so we positioned the vehicle and waited. Lucky for us, Ray’s prediction was correct and we were able to get this shot. Trackers are a huge part of wildlife photography, as their knowledge of the animals behaviour is a massive asset.

I used this photograph in a previous blog. I had many friends ask how I got it. This was purely vehicle positioning. The crocodile was basking on a bank, so I positioned at the base of the bank to get as low as possible.

Making use of a road that ran alongside these zebra created this low angle shot. The road is an old railway line, they would have had to cut away at the bank to create the line, so today we almost feel like we in the grass in some places when driving on it.

Of course, an eye-level shot is not always possible to achieve, but if the opportunity is there, take it. You’ll be amazed by how much more connection is possible with a photo as a result. 

Filed under Photography Wildlife

About the Author

Kevin Power

Field Guide

Kevin hails from the small town of George, but we try not to hold that against him... After obtaining a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance at the University of Stellenbosch, Kev realised that town life wasn't for him for the moment, and ...

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9 Comments

on Get Low: Adding Value to Your Photo

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

barbara jones
Guest

Such great pictures of these beautiful animals of Africa.

JudyvGuffey
Guest

Londolozi rangers look for the best parking site for watching/photographing animals. They help you get the best photo OR the best place to watch the animals. Mahalo.

Mary Moy
Guest

My heart melted at the banner photo, is that the Xidulu female and cubs? Love all the photos but particularly the Leopards.

Amy Attenborough

Hi Mary. This is in fact the Mashaba female. Thanks so much, Amy

Mike Ryan
Guest

Great pictures Kevin

Brenda Gail Sedberry
Guest

Kevin- these are great tips. Hope to have you as my guide again when I return in May , 2018. Hope you still enjoy my daddy’s Florida Gator cap!!!

Janice
Guest

Love the shots. Can you tell me please, in the wilderbeest shot on the airstrip, what animals are behind the heard?

James Tyrrell

Hi Janice,
They are impala behind the herd.

Judy B.
Guest

Hi Kevin,
Great photography tips and beautiful photos. Can’t wait to come back in August!

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