In the past few years, drone photography has taken off. It’s so much easier now to make pictures from above, and it seems every photographer with a smartphone has a drone these days.
But what about seeing life from below, at ankle level? I learned early in life the world looks a lot different an inch or two off the ground than when standing upright or from the sky.
As a child, I would lie prone on my stomach in the tall spring grass, disappearing into a magical world while watching small bugs crawling up blades or ants carrying seeds twice their size. I spent endless hours watching the world beneath my feet and dreaming, until the worried voice of my mother calling from our back porch, lifted me back to reality.
Just as life looks and feels different from the sky, viewing the world from ankle level with a camera offers a refreshing perspective. Most photographers learn photographing children and dogs on their level is one of the secrets to more compelling pictures, but fail to realize how low angles in everyday life can make their pictures more interesting. Besides, getting low is often the best way to clean up busy, cluttered or distracting backgrounds. An assignment many photo teachers give beginning students to encourage seeing differently is the “bird’s-eye” view and the “worm’s” view. I prefer a reptile’s point of view.
I am 6-foot, 4-inches (at least I used to be) and am forever crawling on my belly or placing my camera on the ground or floor to capture an uncommon perspective. I grow weary of seeing too many pictures shot only from eye-level, the photographer standing upright. In my film days, I used a Nikon F camera, which allowed me to remove the prism and view through the top while setting the camera on the ground. Some of my favorite images were made this way.
I miss those magical, childhood days filled with curiosity and wonder. From those early years, I learned life looked very different on my belly than when standing upright.