Friday, June 20, 2008

A different view of life

This image illustrates a way I like to shoot sometimes. The way I do it, it's a bit of a crap-shoot sometimes. But that just makes it interesting.
The magazine, Outdoor Photographer, had an article on this technique in the August 2007 issue. But I've been using this technique for a long time.
The way it works is a very wide-angle lens and a very low angle. Simple as that.
What makes it a bit of a crap shoot sometimes is, usually, I'll just hold the camera at arm's length and bang away. That's how I made this image the other day, for example.
I set the camera — the Nikon D200, in this case — to aperture priority and the autofocus to single-servo, multiple focus points. That's letting the camera do a good bit of the work for me, which I usually don't do.
Holding the camera below the flowers and very close — an inch or less away from the flowers — I let it lock to focus on the flowers while setting the exposure to include the sun in the upper-right corner of the frame.
Then, like I said before, just bang away.
I sort of enjoy doing this every once in a while. It's almost like throwing myself on the winds of chance, hoping something good will come of it. And, almost always, it does.
This time, for example, I made probably 20 or so frames to capture this one image. Some of them were out of focus. On others, there was too much of the leaves of the plant.
There were a couple of others that were close. Who knows, I might go back to them another day and decide to work one of them up.
That's sort of the way my thinking goes sometimes. I'll like certain images (mine and others, but mostly mine) one day and not like them as much on other days.
Sometimes, I think I suck and I've got to get out of this business. Other days, I decide maybe I should do this for a living. (Wait. I do.)
I've also used this technique to good result with people. It's especially good with small children. I'm able to maintain eye contact with the child while still making pictures, keeping their attention on me, instead of on the camera.
That gets rid of the "deer in the headlights" look some kids will have when they're getting their picture made.
It also overcomes the constant bane of the newspaper photographer: Parents drill it into their kids, "Smile for the camera, sweetie." That works great for the photos parents take of their kids, where they want to see the bright eyes and toothy (toothless?) grins of their progeny.
Usually, though, when I'm taking pictures of kids, it's because they're doing something cute. When they stop to smile for the camera, they stop doing the cute thing that caught my attention and they start posing.
As an example, I was photographing an Easter egg hunt a couple of years ago in northeast Kansas. After everything was over, I was just wandering through the crowd, looking for kids opening the eggs, hoping to get a good reaction to a particularly neat piece of candy.
I saw a group of people, all standing around a little girl of about 2-years-old, who was clutching the one egg she got (and was happy with) during the hunt. She was offering it to everyone in the crowd and her folks and their friends were laughing, enjoying the moment.
I walked up and, not seeing the camera, she offered the egg to me. I turned the camera toward her and fired off a few frames. I ended up with a very cute image of the little girl, staring toward the sky, seemingly offering her Easter egg to the heavens.
I guess the moral of my story is this: Don't be afraid to take a different view of the world. We're all too comfortable, looking at things from the top down. Sometimes, it's fun to turn things around and look at things from the bottom up.

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