The Greb's Give a Lesson on Perspective, Their Loony Friend Pitches in as Well.


Mu-43 Legend
Jan 3, 2014
I got out to explore some of the many Anchorage parks with lakes/ponds yesterday. I still haven’t adjusted to the sun rising so early and ended up getting out when the sun was already pretty high in the sky, going to have to get out super early to catch that beautiful low angle sun. I was still able to get some good images as well as do some more testing of the EM1X, hope to update my thread on the X today as well (plus have a lot of replies I need to make).

Whenever I go to places that attract other photographers I am always amazed that all of them are standing at the waters edge to photograph birds that are on the water. I didn’t take any while standing because I personally feel like that angle makes for terrible images, one day I will so I can have a complete lesson on perspective. You can’t really get much if any subject isolation because the water behind the bird is just to close. The highest I will shoot a bird on the water is from a sitting position, even from just 2 feet above their level makes for little subject isolation and can make for somewhat distracting background (not nearly as bad as from a standing position).

Pretty Grebe by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Yakety Yak by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Grebe 003 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

But when the conditions work in your favor you can get a pleasing background from a sitting position. I would guess when the stars align you can from a standing position as well, but I never shoot that way so can’t say if that is true or not.

Grebe 002 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

You will notice in the above photo that there is a reflection of sorts, if you want to capture reflections you have to shoot from a higher perspective. Here is another image with a reflection that is a bit better since the water was smoother.

Go Away by Phocal Art, on Flickr

When you drop to their eye level is when the magic happens and you get those images with great subject isolation and that beautiful smooth bokeh background.

Grebe 001 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Full Steam Ahead by Phocal Art, on Flickr

I was still probably 6-8 inches above the water when taking the above images, so you get a bit of reflection in the water. There was to much vegetation along the shore for me to get an inch or so above the water, which will change the look of the image even more.

I shoot water birds from a sitting position as well as at eye level because they do create very different images and help to diversify the portfolio. Either position creates a pleasing photograph (especially if you are trying to capture reflections) but when you get much higher the background gets confusing and can/does distract from the subject. I think about these things when I am out shooting and often wonder if other photographers do as well, especially when I see them standing with the camera on a tripod and shooting down at a 45 degree angle to the subject. I see these images on Flickr when looking at local photographers and always think if they had just dropped down in height it would have been a much better photograph (especially if they happened to capture something really cool).

I also had a Loon who wanted to get in on the lesson. First image is from a sitting position (but leaning forward so a bit lower) and the second I was laying on the beach in a lot of goose shit, you get use to it.

Common Loon 001 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Common Loon 002 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

To end this post I will include a couple of other images from the day.

Yes Mama by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Attention Please by Phocal Art, on Flickr

As always, comments and critiques are welcomed.



Mu-43 All-Pro
Nov 9, 2017
Burnley, UK
Real Name
I'm with you Ronny, changing perspective so that you get on a level with your subject helps massively!

Out on a walk with my daughter and we came across a couple of cats observing a bit of anti-social distancing, the first shot was taken by my daughter stood up at her eye height, the second shot taken by me led on the ground, getting gravel embedded in my chest... she thought I was mad, I thought my shot had much more atmosphere (she agreed... but wasn't willing to lie on the ground!). The 3rd shot was the one I wanted which I got by slowly crawling along the ground to get the view just right without disturbing the cats too much, my daughter... still thought I was even madder than before!

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Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Jun 20, 2015
New England
This has always been good advice for shooting babies and small children. Adults tend to shoot from standing pointing down. Best to get down to their level. Same holds true for photographing (had to avoid saying shooting) your pets.
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