Down in the Weeds

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A few weeks ago I was working as a volunteer for a local NANPA event. At the event I listened to Rob Sheppard give a talk about some of the work that he was doing lately.  He called the presentation Voices from the Ground. Rob has been focusing on very low perspectives using very wide angle lenses. The one that he’s been using the most is a full-frame fisheye. His talk got me thinking about the perspectives that I use in my shots and challenged me to mix things up a little bit. I posted an image last week from the same outing. Putting the camera down below the ground level at Fern Spring allowed me to capture a perspective that I’d never seen before. 

This image was also a direct result of Rob’s talk. To get this view I had my tripod spread as low as it would go. (It was a bit of a trick keeping the legs out of the shot.) Since I wasn’t able to get low enough to see through the viewfinder, and my camera has no live view, I grabbed an angled viewfinder attachment that I keep in my bag. The next challenge was the range of light on the subject. I knew that the bright sun would cause my foreground to go dark so I did something that I almost never do; I used a flash. While I’m sure that many nature photography purists would be offended at such a notion, it fit the need. It wouldn’t have been the same shot without it. 


From a technical perspective, this was taken using my [wikipop]Canon 5D[/wikipop] with my 17-40 f/4L lens at 17mm. I wanted to exaggerate the rays of the sun so I stopped down to f/18. Ordinarily I avoid going above f/13 to limit diffraction but I wasn’t concerned about it here. The exposure was 1/40 of a second at ISO 100. The fill flash was provided by an old Canon 420EX. There is no manual mode for that flash so I taped over two of the pins on the hot-shoe to disable TTL metering; essentially forcing it into a full power setting. I used a cord to get the flash off of the camera and down low on the ground to the left of the camera. I wanted to illuminate the bottom of the fern to make it appear to be back-lit.

Photography is about finding your own unique vision of the world that you are attempting to capture. The world looks completely different at 6 inches above the ground than it does at eye level. It was a fun experiment that I believe I’ll be adding to my “toolkit” for a long time.


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