By Rob Sheppard
With digital photography stimulating a lot of photographers to get out and take pictures, I have been doing some classes to encourage photographers to find new ways of seeing, including my BetterPhoto.com online photo course: Impact in Your Photographs: The Wow Factor.
One of the things I encourage when photographing landscapes is to look for different angles. I had a fantastic workshop years ago with Will Hopkins who was the last art director at the old LOOK magazine. He said something that has always stuck with me: “The only people who see the world consistently from eye-level and at moderate distance are photographers.”
One way to immediately make your nature photos stand out from everyone else’s is to try shooting from different angles that are lower and higher than that “eye-level” that is so easy to fall back on. This goes for all sorts of subjects. Go to any photographer’s field event where people are shooting landscapes and notice how nearly all to all of the photographers have their cameras on a tripod at eye-level or close to it. Look at photos of children and notice how so many are shot from the nature photographer’s eye-level rather than the child’s. And this can go on and on for all sorts of subjects.
I love doing low-angle shots in nature. Landscape photography techniques like this gives a totally different perspective than expected. One challenge is how to stabilize the camera. I have used bean bags, which work well, but not for long exposures. I have removed the center column from my tripod to allow it to get closer to the ground, but the legs splay and often show up in wide-angle shots.
I have started using the Vacu-Pod in an interesting way suggested by its developer, Michael Corlew, using its suction on something like a metal plate to allow you to get a solid base for a tripod head and camera. I actually am using a small, 5×7-inch clipboard that I can clip to my bag, then attach the Vacu-Pod. This gives a very solid, low-angle support that you can use on mud (such as the photo seen above), sand (which keeps your camera away from damaging sand) and so forth. I have found I can take as long an exposure as needed with this, plus you can really lock the camera down for such things as HDR (done with the photo seen above). The Vacu-Pod itself is very lightweight and can be carried fairly easily. I put a cord through the hole in the center to make it easy to carry on the outside of my camera bag. You can learn more about this product at www.vacu-pod.com.
Outdoor Photographer columnist and author Rob Sheppard teaches many excellent online photography classes at BetterPhoto.com. These cover different aspects of nature photography and landscape photography techniques, as well as other subjects of interest to outdoor photographers. Here are two of his Internet photo courses: Successful Publication Photography and Guaranteed Better Photography. In addition, be sure check out BetterPhoto.com's other photo courses online. BetterPhoto also offers many classes that cover landscape photography techniques and other aspects of nature and travel photography.