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High and Low Camera Angles
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High and Low Camera Angles

Surprise is an important ingredient in a good travel photograph, and photographing your subjects from unexpected angles is a simple way to add the unexpected. Most of us tend to spot and snap potential subjects from an eye-level, straight-ahead point of view. We look down at tulips, out at the sea, and up at skyscrapers. By exploring your subjects beyond predictable first impressions, you can create new and startling compositions.

This requires a bit of visual detective work: You have to walk (or crawl or climb) around, over, and under your subject until its true personality surfaces. You may feel silly in getting to such vantage points, but your pictures will vindicate you.

High vantage points, for example, help organize complex scenes. At street level, faces and signs in a crowded marketplace dominate, making the scene chaotic. From a balcony or window above, however, crates of colorful fruits and vegetables form patterns, and streaming crowds weave inviting visual rhythms.

Low angles can exaggerate the height of tall subjects or reveal unseen aspects of low-lying ones, especially when combined with a very close viewpoint and the perspective-stretching effects of a wide-angle lens. A photograph of the Statue of Liberty from a normal viewpoint with a normal lens looks, well, normal. But move up next to the base with a 24mm or wider lens and shoot straight up, and it becomes a soaring tower of converging angles.

Next: "Abstract Composition"