Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fly on the wall perspective

My 12 year old grand daughter, Kayla, was visiting my studio yesterday and brought her camera along to take some photos. We were photographing some simple still life subjects when I decided to teach her what I call the fly-on-the-wall perspective trick.

Most photographers starting out always select a camera angle from the comfort of their position, rather than adapt the angle to suit the subject. Usually this means taking the photo while standing up and tilting the camera up or down to take the picture. To break this habit, I tell them to think of themselves as a fly when approaching a subject. A fly can go anywhere and land anywhere. A fly could land on the ceiling, on the wall, right next to the subject; could land on the subject itself, under the subject, in some cases, like that of a glass jar, a fly could even land inside the subject. These different perspectives give completely different interpretations of the subject and usually result in a more interesting photograph.

Here are some samples from a simple still life scene Kayla and I did together:

We began with this simple scene photographed from the standing perspective of my 12 year old grand daughter as she looked at the subject. 
The photo became more interesting as we moved the camera down to the where a fly would see it if he landed next to it on the table.

Here the fly  moves in for a much closer view giving the shot more impact.

Then our fly take off and views the subject while hovering overhead.
Photographed from a distance our fly can use the normal perspective of an 85mm portrait lens...
...but moving in really close in front of the subject, our fly had to switch to a wider angle focal length that gives the photo a completely different perspective with more impact.
The examples above are of a very simple still life setup. The fly-on-the-wall perspective can add much more interest when applied to the larger subjects of travel and landscape photography.

The perspective of this simple scene  is a mundane view showing the entrance to an ancient Mayan city in Mexico.
The meaning of the location changes completely when seen from inside the entrance looking out. In this view we have a much better understanding of what if felt like to be a Mayan walking into the enclosed city with the bright sunlight glaring in at us from the other side of the tunnel.

This view of Stonehenge is typical of what you would expect, taken from a distance while standing up.

Here our fly moved in close to a foreground stone and used it to frame the scene by using a 14mm lens from a very low angle.
Where a photographer places the camera in relation to the subject can add a personal uniqueness to the photograph, and make all the difference in how the scene is interpreted. The viewing perspective and interpretation in turn will then dictate the choice of lens focal length.

In this photo of the Library at Ephesus, Turkey the camera with super-wide 16mm lens is placed very low to the ground and relates a foreground object to the distant background of the library.

For this view of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul the camera was placed on the ground looking up with a 21mm lens.

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