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Game Changer – Shootin’ Eye Level

OK, I’ll admit it, this can be a bizarre submit for me. The thing is, I understand I’m overlaying a topic that just about each photographer already is aware of:

If you need better wildlife pictures, get to eye degree or even decrease.

The truth is, getting eye-to-eye with my topic(s) is one thing I’ve been doing for a couple of many years now and is certainly one of three methods I might classify as having a “game changing” impact on my wildlife images. (The opposite two are making certain crucial focus is on the attention and watching your background. We’ll in all probability do an article or two down the street, however all three of these have been in my back pocket for decades.)

The thing about eye-level wildlife images is that it starts off as an instinctive approach to shoot for many lens jockeys. Actually, for those who take a brand new photographer with a 70-300mm lens on an entry degree digital camera, you’ll regularly find them hunkering right down to get a lower perspective.

Ghost Crab, Nikon D500, 300PF + 1.4TC, 1/1000th, F5.6, ISO 1250

Nevertheless, over time and seemingly as the gear gets costlier, this appears to fall by the wayside. And I’m unsure why.

The factor is, though everybody knows they need to get right down to eye degree with their topics, the overwhelming majority of shooters avoid the ground like it’s manufactured from scorching lava or something (come on, you played that recreation as a kid too).

Without fail, it looks like each time I find yourself capturing a wildlife subject with a gaggle of people, I’m about the one one getting low and/or trying to get to eye degree – the remainder of the gang simply stands there, lenses pointing down at angles that may intimidate even probably the most ardent curler coaster fanatic.

Heck, I keep in mind photographing a coyote in Yellowstone last yr near the roadway. I jumped out with my 500PF and received as near eye-level as the state of affairs allowed. A van pulls up and a “photographer” pops out of the sunroof, massive glass in hand, and shoots from a peak of a minimum of eight ft with the coyote right subsequent to the car! I assume if you’d like a shot of the coyote’s back, that works, but I feel the image under makes a a lot nicer portrait.

Coyote Portrait, Nikon D850, 500PF 1/800th, F/5.6, ISO 6400. I all the time favor a shot like this to at least one wanting down at her back.

I can solely conclude the rationale for all this “shooting down on the subject” I see within the area have to be that whereas everybody “knows” getting to eye degree or getting low can improve an image, they don’t absolutely recognize the unimaginable influence it could have.

In addition, I think that the larger, heavier gear – and tripods that always go together with it – play an element, since getting low with the large stuff isn’t as straightforward or fun as that previous 70-300 was. The unhappy thing is, most photographs are a lot better off captured with smaller, lighter gear and a decrease/eye-level perspective than they’re with high-end gear at the mistaken peak.

OK, I know that appears a bit harsh, however once I stated eye-level images was a game-changer for my portfolio I wasn’t exaggerating – this one simple method actually did catapult my work to the subsequent degree – and I’ve stuck with it (each time attainable) ever since. Once individuals absolutely embrace it, they too find themselves avoiding downward sloping lenses the best way my cat avoids the pet service when it’s time for a go to to the vet.

I can’t inform you the number of occasions I’ve handed on a “great subject” if I’ve no selection however to shoot down on it. Why? I know I gained’t use a picture shot at a steep, downward angle. Eye-level capturing is like an addicting drug for photographers – when you begin doing it, you possibly can’t return.

To get an concept of the distinction, take a look at the pictures under, one from a standing perspective and one from an eye-level view. Sure, it’s the same fowl in the same spot taken moments apart. (No it’s not “art” but serves as a very good instance.)

An off-the-cuff glance by means of my wildlife gallery will reveal that in the vast majority of instances I’m capturing at eye degree or perhaps a bit decrease. The one time I deliberately shoot down on a topic is once I’m utilizing it for artistic impact, comparable to you see with the little Bryce Canyon chipmunk under.

Golden-mantled floor squirrel in Bryce Canyon, Nikon D3X, 70-200 (200mm), 1/60th, F/5.6, ISO 400. Proving there’s all the time exceptions to any rule!

Advantages To Capturing Eye-Level

So, why does capturing at eye degree work so nicely? Easy – it puts your viewer into the scene and into the animal’s world in a much more intimate approach than the standard “standing and shooting down” stance does. Quite than feeling like a human wanting down on and “dominating” the animal, your viewer feels extra like a kindred soul, experiencing the world the same approach the critter does.

It’s truly shocking how typically the distinction between a “no shot scenario” and a “great shot scenario” comes right down to a distinction in tripod peak!

Burrowing Owls, Nikon D850, 600F/4 + 1.4TC, 1/500th, F/5.6, ISO 4000. The attention degree perspective in this shot makes you are feeling more like a part of their world than a downward-looking spectator.

Another facet of capturing eye-level that I completely love is that it typically provides your pictures an fascinating, uncommon perspective. In my experience, one of the easiest methods to get a unique-looking shot is to shoot it low when everyone else is capturing the same thing standing up.

Willet in the splash zone, Nikon D850, 600mm F/4, 1/4000th, F/four, ISO 2500. I like the distinctive perspective this image offers for both the fowl and the wave.

A further, kind of “hidden” advantage of a decrease perspective is that it typically permits the foreground and background to compress and “pile up” extra in the picture than a better stance does. This impact can lead to a greater sense of subject isolation, comparable to what you see right here with the prairie dog. From a standing place, this picture would have had fairly a bit more grass in focus in entrance of and behind the little guy.

Custer Prairie Canine, Nikon D850, 500PF, 1/640th, F/5.6, ISO 800. Observe how the low angle helps “pile up” the foreground and background, growing subject isolation in this state of affairs.

Lastly, I find an eye-level perspective can provide a larger sense of “intimidation” when coping with a more formidable animal. Once you’re at eye degree or decrease with a predatory or probably harmful creature and it’s wanting proper into the lens, it offers the viewer with a truer sense of just how powerful or threatening that animal is.

As a suggestion keep in mind that the decrease you’re, the more dominant the subject feels, the upper you’re, the more dominant the viewer tends to really feel.

Black-tailed tree-boa, Nikon D500, 300PF + 1.4TC, 1/400th, F/9, ISO 1400. The attention-to-eye perspective makes him feel more menacing (though, he actually wasn’t – he was just curious).

Ideas For Getting Low

OK, so you’re convinced, but you additionally know there are situations when getting low isn’t as sensible as I make it sound. In some instances, there are environmental or bodily limitations stopping you from attaining the height you want (like in the event you’re on a hill and the animal is decrease, or if you need to shoot from a car with a view to avoid turning into lunch). And naturally there are times the body doesn’t need to cooperate both – a new good friend I met in Florida put it this manner, “Getting down is easy, but sometimes getting back up, well, that’s the hard part!”

So, let’s go over some ideas for getting that low-angle look.

Drop Your Peak

The first and most blatant strategy to get low is to regulate your personal peak so you’re at or under eye degree with the animal. Take into account that this doesn’t all the time mean crawling around on your stomach both – there are many occasions you’ll be able to set your tripod on your personal standing eye-level and stare into the subject’s peepers. Some examples that come to mind embrace photographing elk, moose, bigger deer, an animal in a tree, most flying birds, a standing bear, Bigfoot – these sorts of situations. For the image under, I was standing behind the tripod and I’m completely proud of the peak.

Roseate Spoonbill in flight, Nikon D7200, Nikon 600mm, 1/2000th, F/6.3, ISO 720.

In fact, there are occasions you’ll need to get lower. I’m often adjusting my tripod peak so I can obtain an at-or-slightly-below eye degree shot with my smaller topics. Typically, this puts the tripod at a cushty peak for kneeling, different occasions I’ve all of the legs spread out with the tripod base firmly planted in the mud (my head awkwardly tipped to the aspect peering by means of the viewfinder – I gotta keep in mind to deliver that right-angle viewer).

In reality, for the shot under I set the tripod apart and set the D850 immediately on the bottom, utilizing Reside View and the tilt-screen to focus. (Trace – using Stay View + the tilt display with a slower shifting subject is a good way to shoot low comfortably.)

Plover, Nikon D850, 300mm PF + 1.4TC, 1/4000th, F/5.6, ISO 960 (yeah, too much shutter velocity). For this shot, I had the D850 proper on the ground, but I really like the look!

By the best way, in case you’re planning on getting low, my suggestion is to think about pants that may hold your knees dry and even seize a set of knee pads (or a small square of froth also can work nicely and is extra snug when climbing). Having slightly knee protection is particularly useful when the ground is filled with tiny, sharp little pebbles or shells.

By the best way, I’ve discovered through the years that kneeling works far better than making an attempt to squat. Positive, squatting may give your legs a nice exercise because the minutes move by, but that is diametrically against my “no pain, no pain” exercise philosophy.

Use The Terrain

The other trick is to use the terrain to your benefit – and this will help in case you have a troublesome time physically coaxing your body up and down.

For instance, once I’m capturing from a car, I try to place myself downslope from the animal I’m photographing each time attainable. (Or I bribe the driving force to do so).

For instance, I captured this polar bear picture from a deck on the again of a polar rover that was in all probability ten ft off the ground (no less than). Nevertheless, the driving force positioned the car in a dip that was at a lower peak than the bear, so the shot seems far more eye-level than it otherwise would have been.

Polar Bear, Nikon D4, Nikon 500mm F/four + 1.4TC, 1/1000th, F/6.7, ISO 900. Strategic car placement helped keep the look of an eye-level shot.

Leveraging terrain also applies once you’re on foot – I typically use the topography of the world to position myself decrease than the animal so I’m capturing at both eye-level or upward. This elk photograph was captured using that actual method from a standing place.

Posing Elk, Nikon D5, 500PF, 1/500th, F/5.6, ISO 500. For this shot, I used the terrain to place myself so I had a slightly decrease than eye perspective. And to maintain from getting run down!

Finally, I find that animals in timber often lend themselves to a cushty standing position. I captured the picture under whereas I stood leisurely behind the digital camera.

Peeking Squirrel Monkey, Nikon D5, 600mm, 1/1250, F/4, ISO 3600. For this shot, the monkey was high sufficient that I used to be capable of get an eye-level shot by merely standing behind the tripod.

Keep Back And Use Lengthy Glass

The other trick – and you should use it along side the primary two ideas – is to stay again and use longer glass. I know, seems odd, but stick to me right here.

The further you’re from your topic, the much less extreme the angle is between your peak and their peak. One of the simplest ways to elucidate it is with this diagram:

I leverage this little bit of geometry on a regular basis once I can’t quite get to eye degree. I used to be lately in Africa and, although we might simply get right subsequent to most of the animals, we instructed the driving force to remain again farther. So, regardless that we couldn’t get to floor degree within the car, the increased distance to our subject made it appear that we have been eye-to-eye with our targets. Had we been proper next to the subject, we’d have been pressured to shoot at a a lot steeper downward angle and the pictures would have suffered consequently.

Nevertheless, this isn’t an excuse to strap on an extended lens, keep back, and shoot out of your regular standing peak either. Though it’s a workaround and may also help, you continue to can’t beat physically altering the attitude by getting lower. I exploit this “distance” method together with first getting as near eye-level as I can on my finish.

Don’t Go Crazy Either

Lastly, I need to point out that something – together with this guideline – could be taken too far.

First, there could also be occasions that, for artistic causes, you need to shoot down in your topic. (Keep in mind the bottom squirrel from the start of the article?)

You’ll additionally encounter occasions when a low tripod locations an excessive amount of grass or vegetation between your digital camera position and the topic. In those instances, I’ll elect to go somewhat above eye-level and seize an image the place I can truly see the subject.

In addition, you’ll have to cope with the sky more steadily once you start capturing lower-angle photographs. In some instances, that is simply fantastic (like a reasonably blue or partly cloudy sky), but in others it’s a non-starter (i.e. plain white or gray sky). So, maintain an eye fixed out as you drop peak and ensure you like what you see within the background. In some instances, a distracting sky within the background hurts the picture greater than a lower perspective helps it.

Then there are photographs in timber – at occasions capturing up at too steep of an angle is simply as dangerous as capturing down. I really like a nice shot of a chook in a tree, however not if it’s a stomach shot! (Give it some thought – would you want somebody to take your portrait from that angle?)

In fact, different occasions capturing straight up can produce a enjoyable shot like the one under. So, keep in mind that all the things on this article is meant to serve as a suggestion, there are all the time occasions you’ll need to break the rule for artistic impact.

White-Faced Monkey Peering By means of Bamboo, Nikon D5, Nikon 600mm, 1/1600th, F/4, ISO 900. This was almost straight up from our boat!

In the long run, you must stability getting an eye-level or low perspective shot with both the surroundings and your artistic objectives. Like several photographic guideline, use it when it works but keep in mind the digital camera police aren’t going to tug you off in chains and whip you with digital camera straps for those who don’t all the time shoot low.

Give It A Attempt

So, I hope when you’re not already in the behavior of getting eye-to-eye together with your topics you’ll give this some actual consideration. Like I say, this was critically a game-changer for me, and I want to challenge you to attempt it in your next few outings. I feel you’ll enjoy the outcomes ?

~Steve

PS – In the event you enjoyed this publish, I feel you’ll REALLY like my e-books, Secrets and techniques To Publicity And Metering For Nikon, Secrets To Beautiful Wildlife Images, and Secrets and techniques To The Nikon Autofocus System – as well as my new Noise Discount video workshop. They’re full of tons of of ideas, methods and knowledge identical to this. Verify ’em out – click on right here (hey, it’s free to look).

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