October 17, 2014

The Well Positioned Camera

Camera Position is Everything

Position is everything. You can have an amazing subject, amazing light, and an amazing camera that you spent an amazing amount of money on but, when it comes to release the shutter, if you don't have your camera in the right position, you'll fail in the opportunity to create an amazing image.

Most photographers don't really understand this. I recently watched a workshop group fan out at a roadside pullout with a high vantage point of Zion's West Temple and The Sentinel. They used their cameras on tripods as their axis point for making compositional decisions. After a few minutes of watching this in photographic craft-related horror, I concluded the workshop instructor (whom I really couldn't discern) must be ritually sacrificed for the benefit of the local carnivorous mammal population (excluding the rock squirrels who are already annoyingly present enough).

If I could converse with those workshop participants (preferably over a 3.2% Utah microbrew), I'd offer this basic compositional 7-step recovery plan:

  1. Go somewhere in the Park you like.
  2. Explore.
  3. When visual inspiration hits, DO NOT take out (or raise) the camera.
  4. Stop. Ask yourself, what am I responding to? What's important to me about this? What of it best expresses what I'm feeling?
  5. Look at the scene from different perspectives. Forward, backwards. Up, down. Side-to-side.
  6. With those simple explorations, you will see things that change the image. Some will make it better. Some worse.
  7. When you feel you've found the best possible position for the photograph, then break out the camera (and the tripod if you have one).

In the photo above, my camera is assuming the little known lean-to-spread-eagle-lotus position. My iPhone pic belies the actual slope of the rock face which is steeper. The camera's position enables a formal-like direct composition of a trio of pine trees (seen in the background) at a viewing height that helps hide a couple of distracting nearly black shadows in the rock face. Rubber feet on the Ries tripods are a godsend in this situation and the tripod is positioned so its weight leans into the slope helping it to hold steady on the angle.

All that careful consideration didn't stop the tripod from "slipping" twice as I composed and focused. The canyon echoed a couple of expletives but diligence was ultimately rewarded with three steady exposures.

And the feeling of a well made effort.


Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.

Steve Jobs