Changing your perspective - shooting down
By Subodh Shetty
No matter what brand of camera you use or what genre you follow, if there's one aspect that's pretty much common throughout photography, it's the habit of shooting at eye-level. There’s nothing wrong with it, some of the most iconic images fall under this category. But, as photographers, we are always hungry to create something new, to show the world around us the way less seen, to ignite the curiosity of the viewer and most importantly, to leave our signature and stand out.
What may look like just another frame could change drastically when shown from a different point of view. It’s good to experiment and come up with an extraordinary scene. This is very much possible, but you just have to think beyond the normal.
When you see a scene with potential, try and play with the angles. Get low or high to test out various vantage points, and put to work all the composition rules you have learnt over the years. Do not settle for average. Like I always say, “dance around your frame with your eyes sticking to your viewfinder", until you hit the sweet spot.
Finding a high vantage point and looking down is the easiest part. But remember, simply looking down at a potential frame doesn't make it a good image. You have to think of various other aspects to improve the frame. For instance, knowing what to include and, more importantly, what to exclude plays a major role in making or breaking an image.
In the example above of Holi in Barsana, I had firmly placed myself on top of a temple. Looking down, I could see the scene unfolding with devotees filling the frame from edge to edge. The beautiful tsunami of colors worked to my benefit, but the photograph wasn't complete yet. The strength of the image was its repetitive pattern, but to improve it I had to break the pattern. A few minutes rolled by and the person with the blue drum walked in and stood right in the centre of my frame. Bingo! I had my shot.
Here we have another example from Varanasi - a baby sleeping soundly while her mother sold flowers at her little stall on the banks of river Ganga. At eye level, it was a pretty busy scene. The background had too much information to convey the mood. However, the solution was simple; I needed to change my perspective from the usual eye-level view in order to enhance the image. With permission, I got on the little platform of the stall, looked straight down, kept the visible lines as diagonals and froze the moment. My image went from having a busy cluttered background to a clean canvas of blue, just by changing my point of view and looking straight down on the subject.
This image was shot in Dubai. As I searched for the perfect shot in the streets of the city, I noticed that the footpath had patches of white and black. On closer observation, this reminded me of Tetris, the game we have all grown up playing. How could I convey this message? You guessed it – by getting high and looking down. Adjacent to the footpath was a 10-storey parking lot. Once on top, looking down, I had my canvas set. It was now just a matter of time before the right subject passed through, which happened about 15 minutes later. The Tetris collector walked into the shot and I got exactly what I wanted.
Cayan tower in Dubai Marina is among the most accessible and most shot rooftops in Dubai. Thousands of images have been shot from this very rooftop, showcasing the grand, wide-angle view of Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah in the background. But surprisingly, not many photographers have tried looking straight down. Looking down, once the vertigo fades away, a whole new world opens up. There’s beauty in small details and that’s exactly what I try to see. Just imagine the above photograph, minus the boats. That was my canvas as I looked down. The boats were the final touch that completed the image.
Here is another example of looking down from the heights of Cayan Tower.
Again this was shot from Cayan Tower, capturing a swimmer enjoying the pool. Keeping the vertical and horizontal lines in check was the key to success in this image.
The construction workers dotting the frame and the yellow band add balance to this image.
Looking straight down some 60 plus floors high, this beautiful pattern, which normally goes unnoticed when on the ground, becomes the centre point of the image.
If this blog has shown anything, it is that perspective can really change an image. Shooting from above looking down can fully transform a scene that would look ordinary, and even boring, at eye level, but is stunning when seen from above. Next time you head out to shoot, take a moment to see any other possible angles to your photos and change your perspective!
To find out more about Subodh Shetty and explore his photography portfolio, head to his website: www.subodhshetty.com.