Why Bend your Knees?

So, often you see landscape photographers stood at a scene with their tripods set up to full height so that they can stand comfortably with their cameras at eye level. It strikes me that they are almost certainly missing out on a better photograph. On my workshops I try to encourage people to experiment with sometimes subtle variations in their viewpoint before they even reach for the tripod to set things up. Getting even just a few inches lower might, for example, bring a nearby bolder closer to a distant line of trees and reduce the amount of bland, featureless field that lies in between. Furthermore, particularly when using wide-angle lenses, getting lower down tends to mean you are angling the camera relatively more upwards and this will affect the amount of convergence of lines within a scene. This again can have a profound effect on the composition and impact of the photograph.

A workshop participant experiments with getting lower to use the nearby rocks to help frame the scene beyond.

I had to get pretty low in this case to create some separation between the branches of the trees and the tor beyond and to bring the rocks nicely onto the brow of the hill.

In my other sphere of particular interest, wildlife photography, your angle of view is again of extreme importance. The eye-level of a standing human being is much higher than that of most of our animal brethren and this results in the majority of photos of animals that we see being taken looking down upon them. This particularly applies in close-up photography of very small subjects. It’s fine and appropriate, of course, if the aspect of the animal that you wish to display is its top surface, as in the case of a butterfly with wings spread, but so often a new dimension will open up to your images if you just bend your knees.

To capture profiles of insects or a sense of them connecting with you may even involve lying down.

Even on my safaris in Africa I find myself encouraging people to photograph through the side-windows – many seem to have a tendency to go straight to photographing through the roof hatch, often because it makes it easier to get a clear view and also no doubt because it involves less contortion. So often those shots taken from lower down give a more ‘intimate’ sense of connection with the animal as it stares back at you from nearer to its level.