A point of view on view points

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What is a “photograph”?  A very basic question which gets a very basic answer – a photograph is a visual record of “something”, which may be portraits or landscapes or still lives.  However, all of your photographs, irrespective of the subject, are images that you produced.  You saw it and you captured it.  It was simply down to “you” and nothing to do with what camera you used in the production of the image.

Successful photographers are very often ones who have discovered a “different” way of seeing the subjects they photograph.  One obvious example was the British photographer Bill Brand, famous for photographing nudes using a wide-angle lens on the camera.  This gave a very distorted figure, but one that became “arty” and produced fame for Brand.  Whether you find Brand’s viewpoint aesthetic does not matter – the important fact to remember was that it was different.

Now, this does not mean that I suggest you race down to Jomtien Beach with a fish eye lens on the camera and try and persuade people to remove their clothes!  Far from it.  You should stop for a while and consider something unusual, compared to your “standard” way of taking shots.

You see, it makes no difference whether you have an SLR with multiple lens choices, or just a humble point and shooter with a fixed lens, we eventually get into a “habit” while taking photographs.  Habits include the lens you stick on the front of the camera.  I will wager that you have a favorite lens that stays on the camera body, and the others are only used when you cannot get the subject in the frame and have to use an alternative.  And habits certainly do die hard, even if it is just always taking shots in the horizontal (landscape) format.  Got you there!

What I am suggesting this weekend, is to devote one afternoon to some new or different ways of doing things.  Many times it is impossible to predict what the final result may be.  You may have discovered a radical new approach, a highly individualistic way of presentation.  The end result may not be to everyone’s taste (like my idea about Bill Brand’s work), but you will never know till you try.  And what is one afternoon worth compared to the fun (and fame and fortune, perhaps) that this weekend could produce for you.

To get you going, here are a few ideas you might like to explore.  The first I will call the child’s eye view.  Our viewpoint is generally around 1.7 meters from the ground.  That’s where our eye level is and that is the viewpoint we use in 99 percent of our pictures.  Now imagine you are a three year old child.  Your viewpoint on life is very much closer to the ground.  You spend more time looking up at the world.  It would certainly be worth re-viewing some items from this very low viewpoint.  OK, I know you will end up looking up people’s noses – but it just might work.  You won’t know till you try.

The opposite end of the spectrum is the “Bird’s eye” view.  This takes some more thought and planning – and sometimes a step ladder as well, but again you will get different shots.  Ever noticed how many rock bands have photographs taken from above, with the members of the group looking up at the camera?  Ever wondered why?  It is because you end up getting a very powerful shot – and a different, memorable shot.  Try standing on walls, on top of cars, or the afore-mentioned step ladder.  Just don’t drop your expensive camera or fall off!  It is actually quite easy to become unbalanced looking through the viewfinder when up high.

For those who do have choices of lenses, or do have zoom facility in the point and shooter, you can try using the two extremes that you have, even though you may think that the lens choice is unsuitable for what you are photographing.  After all, remember Bill Brand!  It is even worthwhile taking the same subject matter with both of the two opposite extremes – wide angle and telephoto.

Try another viewpoint this weekend and you might be amazed.