4. Ground Level. I was just in Buenos Aires photographing tango dancers in the quaint La Boca neighborhood. The dancers were doing static poses against some colorful buildings, and I was shooting every angle I could imagine. Then I took a moment to really look at the scene and see what I was missing, and it dawned on me how beautiful the cobble streets were. Down I went onto the street, and instantly the image took on a whole new look. The cobbles made the perfect foreground leading up to the dancers. Going ground level can go even further—even below ground. A great trick in sand, snow or soft dirt is to dig a small hole so you can shoot up at a subject moving at the edge of your small pit.
5. Underwater. Today, there are more options than ever to shoot underwater, including inexpensive underwater point-and-shoots, waterproof camera bags and expensive underwater housings designed for SLRs. My favorite technique is using an underwater housing for my D200 with a fisheye lens attached. This allows me to shoot at the surface, with half the frame above water and half the frame below water. Choose a shallow area with a reflective bottom like sand. Shoot at midday so the sun penetrates the water and reflects off the bottom, eliminating contrast between underwater and above water. Over/under images require special gear and the right conditions, but this perspective is worth the effort.
6. Ladder. Similar to the boom arm mentioned earlier, a small step ladder can make the difference in getting a unique angle. The advantage to a small ladder is that you can compose the shot the way you like as you look through the viewfinder (unlike a camera attached on a boom arm). I always carry a small step ladder with me on shoots. Just getting a few feet higher can open up the middle ground of your shot and create a much more interesting perspective.
Nikon 8008s, AF Fisheye-NIKKOR 16mm ƒ/2.8D, Aquatica underwater housing
7. Helmet Cam. Okay, I’ll admit this technique isn’t for everyone, and it’s sure to draw some funny looks from people you pass. Here’s how I built my head cam. I found an old climbing helmet, drilled a 3?8-inch hole in the front and mounted a small tripod head to a bolt placed through the hole. Next, I attached my camera with fisheye lens to the tripod head on the helmet. Then I attached a standard cable release or wireless remote to the camera to trigger the shutter.
Now comes the fun part. Imagine all the activities you like to do, except now you’ll be photographing them via your helmet cam. I’ve tried out my helmet cam sea kayaking, running, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing—you can do just about any activity wearing your helmet cam. There are specific helmet cams for sale on the market (which are perhaps more comfortable), but I wanted something that I could use with my existing camera equipment.
8. High Contrast. Contrast can be a negative aspect of an image, but it also can be a real bonus. Photography is all about light, and recognizing unique lighting situations can distinguish your image from the rest. I search out scenes that will create warm light on shadowed backgrounds and photograph these scenes when the contrast is the strongest. Once I was photographing rock climbers on a pinnacle above Tucson, Ariz. The spire looked great even at midday, but I realized at sunrise the spire would be bathed in warm sunlight and the background would be in full shade. After promising to take my climbing partners out to breakfast, I convinced them to arrive before sunrise at the spire. Just after the sun hit the rock, my friend started climbing. She literally jumped out of the scene! She was on the edge of the rock in sun, with a black background behind her. After an hour, the daylight filled in the background hillside, and the effect was gone.