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The Advantages of Bringing Your Photography to LOW PLACES

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 finished images..

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.



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