Get eye level with animals and birds
You have heard me say this over and over again. This is literally the best advise I can give you with regards to photographing birds and animals. Being at eye level with them creates opportunities to actually make eye contact with them. It connects the viewer with the animal. Somehow it places you there with the animal. It helps you to experience what the animal is experiencing better. It helps you to get a better background, which is super important. Yes, I have said all of these things before, but today, I am going to prove it!
My wife and I were traveling in South Dakota when I spotted a colony (if that is what it is called) of Prairie Dogs. This was the first time in my life that I saw them. They are so cute. We stopped for a photography session with these little creatures. So here is a picture taken by my wife of a Prairie Dog. The image is taken from her eye level, standing as normal.
Look at the background, pleasing? Do you feel like you are part of it's environment? Are you sharing it's experience? Are you connecting with this animal? Rather than standing to take this image from my eye level, this is how I photographed them.
Yes, I got dirty. The ground was soft from previous rain. I had mud and sand on me. But I wanted to get at their eye level for all of the reasons that I mentioned in the introduction of this blog. Did it pay off? Was it worth the discomfort, the sand and the mud? Does it really make that much of a difference? Look at the next images and decide for yourself.
Because the background is now way in the distance, rather than right behind the dog, shooting down from our height, we can blur it easily. This makes the animal stand out from the background. It makes the animal "pop." You can also use foliage right in front of your lens to blur the foreground. Thus both the foreground and the background is blurred. By the way, my wife is a good photographer. I asked her to take the image from her eye level to illustrate this point.
Now we are on the same level as the animal. We are seeing and experiencing the world from his perspective. Besides, most people are not going to lay flat on their tummies to look at these little guys. So when they look at your images they are seeing a fresh angle, a perspective they would never see otherwise. This makes your images unique.
I hope that you are persuaded to get down low and to photograph them from their eye level. As always, put safety first. Make sure you are not putting yourself in danger. I would never go lie down in front of a poisonous snake for example, or an alligator. Also remember that you are now invading their private space. Make sure that they are comfortable. Do not distress them or interfere with their normal life and behavior. While I was there, a lady came with a dog on a leach. The dog went straight for the Prairie Dogs making them scatter. There were baby Prairie Dogs that panicked. When my wife asked her not to bring the dog into the area she was upset at my wife because there was no sign that said "no dogs allowed." I sometimes wonder how people's minds work. Is it okay to rob a bank because there was no sign at the bank that says "no bank robbing?" Can people not think logically for themselves? Do they really need everything to be told to them? Is it not obvious that you don't take a predator (that is what these Prairie Dogs think of this lady's dog) to the homes of their pray? Why scare them? Why disrupt them? Why chase all of them away? So please, get down low, get into their world, BUT only in as much as they are comfortable with.
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