Shooting at Eye Level

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Roseate Spoonbill
It's amazing sometimes how even very small things can improve your photography.  When shooting birds (or really any living subject, wildlife or human), it sometimes amazes me how much a photograph can be improved by shooting at eye level.  When birds are above you, many times there's not much you can do, and if a Roseate Spoonbill flies over my head, I'm going to shoot away and like it.  But if the same birds decides to land in front of me, I'll time a burst of photos to coincide with when it is at eye level with me.  And when a bird is on the ground, I will get as low as I can to try to get as close to eye level as possible.  Now it's not always possible to get to eye level.  All too often there's plant life that obscures the view if you get too low.  And if you decide to walk to lower ground that's closer to the bird, you can scare it off.  But I find that the closer I can get to eye level with the bird, the more I like the photograph.

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Roseate Spoonbill
(the downward angle is less flattering to the spoonbill)
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Roseate Spoonbill
(the brush in front of me prevented me from getting lower, though
in this case I didn't mind too much, since I liked the reflections)

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Roseate Spoonbills

The reason for this is relatively simple.  When You look down on a subject on the ground, the distance between the subject and the ground is relatively small.  But if you get down to eye level, the background often gets much farther away, allowing your to have prettier backgrounds to your photos.  And portraits just plain look better when shot near eye level, and it's pretty much the same with birds as it is with people.

Now a little geometry can help us here.  Let's suppose you're walking a wildlife refuge, and the path you're on is about 10 ft above water level.  You see spoonbills wading in the water foraging for food.  The closer the birds are to you, the greater the angle at which you will view the bird.  So even though I always like shooting spoonbills up close, if I can't climb down low, I may prefer shots of spoonbills farther off.  The farther away the bird is, the less significance that 10 ft will have on my composition.

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Roseate Spoonbill
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Roseate Spoonbill
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Roseate Spoonbills
(nothing wrong with a fly over shot, but I personally prefer to have the bird lower to the ground)

Comments

  1. Ha! Getting on eye-level with a Spoonbill sounds like a treat; I'm envious! (I've never seen one). Thanks for the continued photography tips, and for sharing your pictures too.

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