Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vastly improve your travel photos by getting up or getting down

Spring finally seems to be coming to Cleveland, and traveling photographers everywhere are chomping at the bit to get back outside in the sun and get some good pictures. With spring comes the inevitable supply of parades. The photos here are from last year’s Parade the Circle in University Circle – Cleveland, OH.

We talked about the importance of depth-of-field during parades in an article last month, but today our topic is CAMERA HEIGHT. Most people think camera height is the distance from the ground to their eye and take all their photos from that one position. To do so is to miss many of the most dramatic shots available to you.

Typical eye-height photography should probably make up only 1/3 of your photographs. Your pictures will be so much more dramatic if you get up or get down when taking your shots. Let’s explore the possibilities.

Whenever you are taking pictures of something small (think children, pets, bugs, etc.), you just about always want to crouch down to take the photo. Having your camera lens at the same eye-level as your subject makes for a much more personal picture. It makes your subject more important if your camera is looking eye-to-eye with them.

In the same way, at a parade, you can make tall subjects appear even more striking if you lower yourself more than normal. Look at the photo above of the stilt walker. By sitting on the street when I took this photo, she seems even taller than real life, making for a more striking photo. In addition, I was able to place her against an unobstructed background, placing more emphasis on her.

Conversely, look at this photo. For this shot, I placed my camera on a slender monopod which enabled me to put it way up and still be “eye height” with the tall performer. The added benefit here was that I was then able with a wide angle lense to show the depth of the crowds on both sides of the street.

Gear suggestion: I personally have been carrying the Manfrotto 790B monopod (with a tripod bushing and a 3229 quick-release head.) When folded and hanging from my belt, this monopod is a mere 17” long and weighs next near to nothing. When extended, however, its five sections spread out to about 60” long, enabling me to shoot from a height of almost 12 feet in the air.

To make this work, you’ll need one of the following: a timed release on your camera, a remote release cord or a radio remote. Most cameras have a timed release and before I bought my radio release, that’s what I used for years. I set it to a five second delay, which always gave me time to hoist the gear up in the air and point it toward my subject. As with anything, it takes some practice to get the feel of how to aim the camera. Before long, you’ll be amazed how impressive your shots look, and they won’t be like everyone else’s.

To see more photos (and see them full screen) from the Parade the Circle event, see my slide show here.

To review other camera techniques, you might find it worthwhile to read some of my other past articles:

Here's the gear mentioned in this article which I use all the time:

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