How do you see the world?
Written By Cynde Green
How tall are you? Subtract about four or five inches from that and there’s your perspective on the world. I’m 5’2″, so my world is viewed from about 4’10” – about the distance of my eyes to the ground. My husband is 6’2″ and sees the world at about 5’10”. Very different from my perspective. He can see the top of my head…I can see under his chin. He can see what’s on top of the fridge without a stretch. I can see what’s on the bottom shelf of the fridge without bending. If I were to suddenly start “seeing” the world at his height, it would take some adjusting.
Think about how you shoot your stories. Convenience says put the camera on your shoulder and shoot at eye level – after all, we all see the same world. You know now that isn’t true. Great shooting goes beyond exposure, sound, composition…how you see and interpret the world includes how high or low are you willing to go.
Keep in mind that one of your goals as a multi-media journalist is to show your audience the world in a way they may not have seen it before. Extreme closeup. Low angle shots. POV (point of view) of a child…of a giraffe. The morning after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area, I was stretching my legs after sleeping in my news vehicle when I saw the sun coming up over the Oakland skyline…seen through part of the collapsed freeway. It looked okay…but when I laid down on the ground it was a perfect shot – symbolizing hope. I got my shot, got up and looked behind me and several other photographers (print and broadcast) were down on their bellies.
So keep in mind that high and low angles help tell the story. Shoot an interview at eye level and then frame it up from about two feet above and then two feet below the subject’s eyes. The high shot places the subject in a submissive position; the low angle shot makes them domineering.
Demonstrations can be exciting, but also visually boring. People walking. People waving signs. Put your camera at ground level and let the marchers walk by, close up. Get above the crowd and shoot down, looking for patterns. Get into the crowd and get a POV shot – how the marcher sees the onlookers.
Let your camera go where no man has gone before. I once sent mine through the metal detector at an airport (pre-911). Had a bomb squad guy in full protective gear lower it into the bomb trailor to get a shot of a pipe bomb (don’t tell my news director). Sat the camera down in a chicken house and let chicks climb over it and peck at the lens. Got too close to a snail race (now that was exciting) and the winning snail oozed right off the straw it was climbing onto my lense. Got one POV shot I could have done without – closeup of a competitor’s hands in an amateur cow milking contest and when the cow sashayed my way, viewers were treated to a shot of my feet going skyward. We included that shot cause it was a funny story and it certainly was a funny shot.
So don’t be afraid to belly crawl, climb trees, let your lens kiss a bug. It will keep you humble and your audience will love your shots.