By W.C. Jones
When was the last time you and your camera went down to ground level
to make an exposure? Well, if you have developed the same boring habits
that I have through the years, your answer is probably, "a long time ago."
In the last few months, I have had the privilege of attempting a new type
of image for a national publication. The weather on the first weekend of
this project was possibly the worst that I have encountered in many years.
The first night that I arrived, in my remote camping location, promised an
almost summer like evening, with the temperature at around eighty degrees,
and ling there in the tent, I thought to myself, W.C., you really have it made,
boy. Around 2:00AM the following morning, I earned my photographic wings.
The storm that ensued before dawn almost took my breath away. Wet, cold, and
disappointed, I thought many times about loading it all up and just going home.
For some dumb reason I elected to stay. I drove 40 miles to the nearest town and
located a Wal Mart store, bought the warmest clothes I could find, and returned
to the scene to try, try again. As the storm began to pass over, I noticed how the
clouds began to offer enhanced possibilities for my photography. As I watched
the changes in the clouds, I realized that, if I were patient, I could wait for the shapes
to intensify. This was something I hadn't read about before.
With the light rain still coming down and the temperature about forty degrees,
I bean to unload the photographic equipment. With the car running, the heater
blasting, I found that jumping out and grabbing the tripod and camera, and then
running to my shooting site, firing the exposure, and then scampering back to the
warm car became the hot setup for each new roll of film. This routine lead to
experimenting with new photographic techniques with each new cold, rainy venture
outside the vehicle.
On one of these rabbit like moves, I accidentally placed the tripod near ground
level mainly because of overhanging trees in the area, and surprise!, surprise!.
The lead-in subject that I chose for the foreground was more than likely responsible
for the phenomena that ensued.
This short version of the article is only intended to give other photographers in the
region, or those reading newsletters and insight to the reason behind that same
vision; (1) The camera, an old SLR, had a twenty four millimeter lens attached,
(2) the tripod was approximately twelve inches from the ground, one of the
smaller units somewhat like a tabletop model, (3) the foreground lead in subject
was an oak tree, not your ordinary tree, but instead an exemplary tree, (4) the
storm that had just blown over had left clouds that we photographers call el-puffos.
Large, white billowing expanses with great blue backgrounds. (5) The time
of the year was at the peak of fall colors, rustic reds and browns, and a lime
green that requires the use of Fuji Velvia, or another slowE6 film to capture
this hue at its fullest. Many hours of testing new films with the help of Kodak
and Fuji in New York had taught this photographer the difference, and the camera
was loaded appropriately.
I guess you could say that I lucked out. In reality, I just had a number of great
elements working for me. The twenty four millimeter lens placed into the perfect
setting, at a camera angle really LOW to the ground proved to be the one element
that as a photographer I did differently from previous outings. With the camera then
tilted up at a tree that had little chance to show convergence to an audience,
(convergence appears when the camera is shifted off axis, up or down, from a
neutral or straight forward position. This convergence causes lines in the finished
print to appear as if they were leaning.) But the key point of this paper was in
learning to remember what elements had brought about the improvement of the
The finished slide made a strong point, they say you can't teach an old dong new
tricks, well maybe this is true, but perhaps this low-angle photography was present
in my innerself all along, who's to really say. Someday if you find your tripod twelve
inches from the ground, and if you notice a twenty four millimeter lens on the end
of your camera. If again you can choose a great lead in subject at close range,
perhaps a couple of feet away, and fill your background with extraordinary colors,
while keeping your chosen composition tight and clutter-free, and in focus.
THEN YOU MIGHT JUST SEE MY NEW WONDERMENTS/
FROM PHOTOGRAPHY IN LOW PLACES