A low Angle, a different Perspective

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Penny 5 Comments

The other day I noticed a comment on a wildlife photographer’s image by a fellow wildlife photographer, stating along the lines that low angle photography has been done and is old news, and so on.

Well, if I could place all the portrait images ever taken of a lion side by side, it would probably cover the whole earth. But as long as there are lions in the world, their portraits are going to be taken. Who am I to go to someone and tell them that a lion’s portrait has already been done, so there is nothing exciting or relevant about that image? Who cares. Photography is about capturing your vision and creating an image, be it low angle or not. It is your vision, your image, your creation and perspective of the subject captured.

I was quite taken aback by this comment. Not only did I find it completely unnecessary to have been said as it serves no purpose whatsoever to anyone (its just criticism, not constructive criticism), but many people do not have the opportunity to capture their subjects from a lower angle than from a vehicle. Being able to go on a walking safari or the guide letting the clients out of the vehicle to photograph game or predators – which let’s face it, is hardly ever the case – is often not done in game reserves or parks because of the potential danger factor involved. The pictures that you see that are taken at low angles are normally privileged to the guides who are photographically inclined (they are experienced in the different animal’s behaviours so they are aware of signs of danger, and they are lucky enough to be out in the field everyday which many if not most of us do not have the ability to do).

Therefore, the said comment really brushed me up the wrong way as I found it condescending to the person who captured the image, and to everyone else who hasn’t had the truly amazing experience of getting down low, or even lower, to the subject to create these images that induce a different perspective of the subject, reading of the image and subject, power given to the subject, and just so much more.

Anyway, before this post becomes a novel on some of the aspects of South African wildlife photographers that really get my goat, below is an image I captured on the Photo Walk I hosted with  Chad Wright at the Montecasino Bird Gardens not so long ago.

One of the great aspects about going to the Bird Gardens on a photo walk is the ability to approach the birds from various angles, distances and perspectives. Walking with some of the guests into the aviary, I noticed this bird ( I would give you the name of it if I knew!) sitting in a bright yellow dish eating what was available.

The colour of this bird (some sort of exotic pigeon?) grabbed my attention straight away, but then so did the very bland ground and shocking yellow dish.

Crouching on my haunches and waiting for the bird to lift it’s head up from the bowl, I composed my image so that I had some of the stones in the foreground included to become a ‘natural’ frame, and include the grass in the background in order to create the image I envisioned when I first saw this bird.

The low angle enabled me to capture the secretive nature of this bird, and create an image that portrayed that as a distinct moment. If i had not shot from a low angle and instead from standing up, it would have been an image of a bird eating in a bright yellow dish surrounded by soil.

Don’t let comments from other ‘photographers’ inhibit your need to explore, experiment, and capture the image that you haven’t had the ability to or opportunity to. Why did I add the inverted commas on photographers you say?

Because we all are, we are just learning and capturing at our own pace and when we have the luxury of going out into the bush to further explore our passion.

Penny Robartes

Comments 5

  1. Renier Meyer

    Hi Penny

    I am not going to rant with you 😉

    This is the same bird I photographed through the leaves on that one trip to the bird gardens with you guys. Its called a nicobar pigeon, found on the nicobar islands.

    Awesome picture, they have amazing colours, I unfortunately only caught the head.

  2. David Fletcher

    Enjoyed your article Penny. I’m another that gets ticked off with petty posts and nit picking. Getting low may be “old hat” but it works. (Greg du Toit’s pond exploits in Kenya a famous example).

    As you say, we are all on a journey, at our own pace for whatever pleasures or skills we seek.

  3. Jon Bryant

    Great article Penny. For me I really like low angles…in fact I am pretty frustrated as a wildlife photographer that I can’t get opportunities to take more low angle shots…note to myself to get on more walking safaris and in hides in the future!…

    Low angles for me aren’t a fad or some aspect of unoriginality. All angles serve a purpose. For example Morkel effectively uses low angles for Elephants giving much needed perspective on the size of these animals, and this conveys that aspect in the image.

    Likewise the example you give in your article is something I equally would have done. I would of asked myself “how can I convey this image as a natural frame?”. I recently photographed some flamingos and scarlet ibis in a bird garden…first thing I did was get my camera low to convey that natural framing. As these birds were waders it brought two important element to the composition; the birds natural wading height and reflections.

    There’s nothing unoriginal about it….I actually think it is part of the creative process we should all go through to convey the context of the animals environment.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Nancy Moon

    Well-said! I see some of this online. But I’ll post my new pictures anyway! They may not be as good as those who have been on safari many times… But I’ll put them up soon. PS Morkel and Marlon were amazing!!!

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