Get down low
Perspective is everything: by choosing your position carefully you can increase the impact of your images and create unexpected new viewpoints – seeing your quarry through the eyes of another animal. It’s time to get down and dirty…
There is a saying among professional wildlife photographers that you’re not taking great pictures unless you are lying down. Getting down low is a quick-fire way of improving your wildlife photography.
You don’t take pictures of your family and friends from the top of a ladder, so why photograph plants and animals from an elevated point of view?
When you’re standing up, and looking down your nose at your subjects, you’re not seeing them as equals and your backgrounds become little more than distracting dirt. But if you get down low magical things start to happen.
Dropping just 1m can completely change the mood of a picture – because you make yourself a more intimate part of nature, rather than simply an outside observer – and it will give your subjects more impact and dignity.
Shooting from a low viewpoint has other advantages, too. In particular, it helps to throw foregrounds and backgrounds out of focus (it’s a great way of making the most of unflattering or dull surroundings, which are neatly rendered as pleasing, out-of-focus colour washes).
So our aim now is to break the habit of a lifetime: we’re going to stop seeing everything from a human perspective.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
FEEL THE WIDTH If you are able to get low and very close to your subject, try using a wide-angle lens to exaggerate size and perspective.
SAFETY FIRST Be careful about getting down low when you’re photographing large animals, in case it triggers an attack response.
THINK FEET Keep an eye on your subject’s feet, which are easy to cut off if you get too low. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
CARRY PROTECTION Take a ground sheet so that you can get down into the wet and mud without being cold for the rest of the day (and throw in some inexpensive knee pads for added comfort).
Get down low
The Barn Owl Trust
The Hawk and Owl Trust
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