An Alternate Perspective
I like to do things a bit differently.
The single, most useful piece of advice I can give to any photography enthusiast is to look at things from a different angle. The world sees everything from a viewpoint roughly 5 feet above the ground so you don’t have to do much to make your shots have a greater impact.
I will say, I don’t do it just for the sake of being different, I guess my creativity just takes a slightly skewed deviation from the norm - I don't intentionally set out to do crazy things but once I'm at a location and I can see it can be improved upon by a bit of creative positioning then I will do all I can to make it happen.
One of the things I really pride myself on is being able to get unique shots and I endeavour to do this wherever I’m shooting and no matter if it’s a landscape, a portrait or even a commercial shoot.
Here are a couple of my favourite shots and they became favourites not just because they are nice pictures but because it took a little more work to get them and also after doing extensive image research I’m pretty sure they are 'mine' despite being very frequently shot landmarks.
Voyager and the Deep
Originally I’m from Hull and the dirty, run-down city of my childhood has steadily improved and over the last 15-20 years it has changed exponentially and will be the UK City of Culture in 2017. One of the most visually impactful additions to the city is The Deep aquarium which sits at the point where the River Hull meets the Humber Estuary. Across the other side of the river, by Victoria Pier, a statue honouring the trade links between Hull and Iceland was raised and I thought it would be great if I could get a picture of the statue with The Deep in the background.
Photograph: steven gillis hd9 imaging / Alam/Alamy
At first glance it appeared not. The pedestal the statue is on means you can only shoot from underneath it so you will mainly get sky in the picture and also the physical position of the statue means that if you can get The Deep behind it, the statue is on the very right-hand side of the shot looking away which makes for a very poor composition. After a bit of scouting around I found the ideal spot to get the shot I wanted - standing on top of the railing with a 20-foot drop into the murky water behind me.
Firstly - I was a gymnast for 20 years and am still very agile with a good sense of balance.
Secondly - I am very aware of my limitations and I check that what I want achieve is within my abilities
I climbed up onto the railing, turned 180 degrees, checked my framing and got my shot.
Marina Bay Sands Resort
When I was heading to Singapore, I really wanted a shot of this complex - I think it’s amazing and although not the prettiest of buildings, it ticks a lot of boxes for me. To get the most of the profile of the building, the most common places to get the shot are by the Merlion statue on the opposite bank or on the road bridge that crosses the Singapore River as it flows into the bay. Neither of which were doing it for me as even at the lowest I could get my camera, I couldn’t get a composition that didn’t have either too much clutter or reduced the impact of the building considerably.
As I was wandering around, I noticed that the edges of the river were quite shallow next to the banks which were 20-odd feet vertical drops but upriver towards the city, there were less-steep banks that were easy to climb down. I abandoned my socks and shoes and set out into the river to make the 60 metre journey to the point I was aiming for. (I will confess to being a little unsure about this as although I didn't think I was in any danger, or doing any harm, the Singaporean authorities are very strict regarding public disorder and i had no idea what they’d make of my exploits)
The going was a bit sketchy in places where the weed had made the rocks very slippery and I was having to use one hand to steady myself while ensuring the other holding the camera was always as far away from the water as possible but I got to a spot under the bridge which was only ankle deep and let me get the composition I had hoped for.
Please note I am not asking/expecting anyone to got to the extremes I have to get different shots. Nor will I ask my subjects to do anything outside their comfort zone - everyone's safety is important to me and I take my responsibilities to others very seriously. However, even a few inches left or right, up or down can make a big difference.
This picture of the Seven Sisters was taken pretty much in the same place everyone else goes to but on the ground right on the cliff edge was a small bush. The gap from the floor to the ‘branches’ that are framing the image was only about six inches. My camera was so low that even lying on the ground I couldn’t see through the viewfinder properly - fortunately I have live view on the screen so I could get the framing I wanted and get the shot.
For me, even if I’m shooting a wedding, I will expect to be crawling around on the ground at some point. I either wear clothes that I don’t mind getting dirty or I always have a picnic blanket as part of my kit. When you come across a scene that you’ve seen many times before have a good look around. Are there any natural frames you can use in your composition, can you add to or subtract from the scene by positioning yourself differently? By all means get the ‘safe’ shot first but spend a bit of time looking for that alternate perspective which will make your pictures stand out from the crowd.
Keywords: Alternate Perspective, Marina Bay Sands, Seven Sisters, Singapore, The Deep, Travel Photography, viewpoint
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