Photo Assignment #4 :: High-angle Photography

Photo Assignment #4 :: High-angle Photography

what is up everybody welcome back to the show it is Monday which means it’s time for another installment of photo assignments and if you’re new to show you have no idea what I’m talking about i will put a playlist in the description so you can learn all about photo assignments and how you can participate but today we’re talking about high angle photography now this is the third in a series that I have done on camera angle and so we started with low angle then we did eye level, or medium angle and now we’re going to do high angle photography and so high angle photography and low angle photography are the two most dramatic in this sequence here medium angle shots are probably about ninety percent of what we end up doing is photographers but we’re talking about the extremes on either side and remember in low angle photography it had a very dramatic effect because what you’re doing when you’re getting down low and shooting up as you increase the size of everything that’s in the foreground and when you drop the horizon in the background is less important so it creates a sense of drama a sense of authority at times high-angle photography is the opposite end obviously and it also creates a sense of drama but it’s very different because what you’ve done in raising the angle is now you have decreased the foreground and you brought up the background and in some cases if you’re shooting aerial photography or drone photography and you’re directly over something is completely eliminated foreground and background and you’re everything from overhead and so I want to look at some ways that this technique can be used to much advantage now you don’t necessarily have to be in a helicopter or an airplane flying a drone to get high angle photography it does require a high vantage point but you can also be at your regular height shooting down at something on the floor to bring emphasis in it that too is high angle photography it’s just not as extreme in its approach so i want to talk about the effect that gives and some of the uses for it but i think it’s probably best if we go look at some images ok so this is the third in a series that we’re doing on camera angles we originally covered low angle shooting we have covered medium or eye level shooting and now we’re going to talk about photographing from high angles and there is a different effect that you get from each of these obviously we talked about the different dramatic effects that you can achieve with low angle photography – eye level or medium level is probably the least dramatic but really what medium angles are supposed to do is create that relationship between the viewer in the scene or even the viewer and the subject and we do that with eye levels and so are we getting the camera on the subjects eye-level? we would do that in a portrait because it’s going to bring in that intimacy want to get on the subject’s eye level but as we saw in the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and some others as well if you are on the viewer’s eye level which would be just average human height then it has this way of just bringing the viewer into the scene and so that’s not really about creating high drama but it’s about that relationship now what’s going to happen with high angle photography is we’re going to start removing that relationship and it has a different effect as well now I thought I would hard be part pressed to find street photography examples of this but I actually found some really good ones and so I want to show you these black-and-white images by Saul Leiter and these are not extreme high angles he’s not shooting from an airplane or something he’s just simply up on a structure and he’s also using other techniques in here as well to create more interest so for instance in here there’s a technique that i reffer to as sub framing where you’re going to use geometry and objects that are between you and the subject to kind of further frame in the subject so you know – I guess right here waiting for the moment where that individual with the hat is right in the right spot and allowing him to be framed up by the steel structure there is one thing that draws a lot of interest to this but the other thing you’re going to notice is that when we’re at these higher angles you’re going to disassociate yourself from the subject somewhat first of all we don’t see their faces we see the tops of their heads and what we’re doing is we’re disconnecting that from the the subject first of all we remove their height from the equation we can’t really tell if they’re dominating or you know what kind of a figure they are but it’s removing us but it is creating a certain emotional impact with the situation some of these are real interesting too now this is not really a high-level shot – in other words he’s not clear up in the air but the way he’s shooting down at the individual the guy has got his head down there is a sense of despair that happens in this image – again with these guys with the hats it’s very anonymous at times and then the color one that I really like is this one with the umbrella where we have emotion there but we’ve removed ourselves from the subject somewhat and so these are I think fairly unique examples and of course Saul was an amazing photographer and one of the reasons that he’s an enormous influence on me is he is very unique in that sense and so you don’t see this as much in street photography but this is an example where you can get the effect now another photographer that want to look at the work of his a gentleman named William Garnett who I have talked about on the show before but it has been a while and Garnett is very interesting because he got an art degree from arts center in Pasadena out in Los Angeles and then trained to be a pilot and he was one of the first people to really do aerial photography as somewhat of an art form he flew a Cessna airplane and he was able to make images now when these images first came out they were kind of billed as abstract photography because at that time people were not used to looking at the world from these angles not everybody had been on an airplane necessarily that wasn’t as commercially accessible as it is today and so this was a really different and unique way of seeing the world or landscapes in general and these are wonderful these are rows of houses and there’s another one that is looking down on water with birds flying over it and they end up with an abstraction quality because again it’s a new viewpoint – it’s a different viewpoint and it’s from that high angle vantage that we have much more of the scene less of the foreground and we take it all in as a whole another photographer who did similar work was a gentleman by the name Jamey Stillings another you know obviously aerial shot but because the angle is so extreme and something were not used to seeing that it’s very geometrical and pattern-esque and its kind of upon further looking that we see that it is indeed just shot from overhead so that’s a very different affected that he has on landscape photography in general another photographer I find the work of who’s very interesting is Jay Maisel who is a New York photographer he’s probably best known – he shot the cover of the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue and he has been around for a long time and does fabulous work and he has these wonderful shots a lot of New York that are these very dramatic landscapes now you can be in a tall building for something like this you could be a helicopter but they’re seeing the world from a view that is not standard and of course we’re not down on eye level right now so there’s no people in this shot – we’re not experiencing this necessarily considering the viewer’s vantage point or who’s looking at the photograph was showing them something is unusual another one of the Statue of Liberty some of these become abstract and and just these beautiful studies in color another guy want to look at is Emmet Gowin who is somebody that I have not talked a lot about on this show and you may not know his name incredibly brilliant photographer and teacher – Sally Mann was one of his students and he has a very wide range to the work he does there’s a lot of stuff that are people studies that are more in the vein of what Sally Mann has done as well but he has this way of viewing landscapes from above too so again aerial shots and this was part of a series looking at environmental deterioration of the planet but you know this giant crater the other was a I believe a nuclear facility on the river and so anyway it’s a very different way of looking at this Mount St. Helens for instance and you know so this is what he does with high angle landscapes and I think that’s very different because you consider in the history of landscape photography unless you’re on a mountain most shots are done you know from the ground and from viewer height and so these have a whole new dimension to them because it’s a way of shooting that we’re capable of doing now another individual I want to look at is Gregory Crewdson and most of you know his work from these highly dramatic cinematic very narrative types of works that he does – they’re like movie sets in the way setup and lights these and he creates a lot of drama generally from medium angle view point now but his first series of work that he became known for was a series called Hover that were black and white shots that they show a scene and they were taken from a cherry picker in a small town i believe in Massachusetts but you can see in these each one of these has a scene set up that’s telling you some kind of story maybe it’s an obvious story what’s going on maybe it leaves it way open for interpretation but again when we get off of the ground we get rid of the foreground and it brings an overall intake force in terms of how we perceive the the scene in front of us and so the way he uses that to tell some kind of story within something bizarre something that makes you wonder what’s going on in the picture some of his color work is like that too the the bus crash for instance this would be a very different shot if it was shot from low angle or even medium angle this almost has to be up high because it’s taking in so much anyway I think Gregory Crewdson is absolutely brilliant and I love that period of work that really early stuff that he did another photographer that is very contemporary I want to talk about this Vincent Laforet he is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who worked for the New York Times and he has been known for a lot of these aerial things that he does from helicopters this is one of my favorite these ice skaters and we see them from the shadows that they create on the ground so again this is a shot that wouldn’t work at eye level or low angle so anyway another one of the boats that I think it’s interesting this is Bryant Park and these are extreme aerial so there’s something that I guess today I mean these are just a few years old but today you can get these with a drone pretty easily but these are done from helicopter and this is Coney Island I think they’re absolutely brilliant I’m gonna end with this one this is also Vincent Laforet this was not done from a helicopter but this is a very vertigo inspired photograph here but this is two guys that are cleaning an antenna in New York and what makes this work is the way that they’re leaning out from the building so if you didn’t see those buildings in the background you would for all intents and purposes think of this is as eye level shooting this combines two of those because they’re at eye level but then we are thrown off by seeing those buildings in the distance in the background is a very striking almost disturbing image if you’re remotely afraid of heights like I am this becomes very difficult to look at for long periods of time but again this is a way you can mix angles up and be very creative with them this might not work as well with a longer focal length you almost need those buildings to lean upwards a little bit so you get that sense of depth i think everything is done right here and i think that Vincent Laforet is brilliant at what he does so that is a quick overview of high angle and some aerial shooting but i also wanted to include Vince Laforet in here and then particularly Saul Leiter because I think he brings that to street which is a very different approach than what you see from most street photographers i want to say a few things about photo assignments first of all I’m really happy with how this has been going I think it’s a really great opportunity for us to engage as a community and come together and be working on things and I’m really happy with the work that’s being turned in and I’m really excited about the project as a whole that being said i did have someone who left a comment in the video last week who expressed a slight frustration that within 30 minutes of the video being posted for the next assignment there are already people turning in work and i agree this is supposed to be an opportunity for us to experiment and try new things give ourselves permission to fail as I said a few videos ago and that’s ultimately what I would like this to be now obviously I have no way of knowing but i would discourage you from taking the topic of the assignment and just going up and digging up old work from four years ago and posting that as something new again I don’t think we’ve had a problem in the work that I’ve shared on the show and I don’t think it’s a problem overall but just remember that is what the idea behind Photo Assignments is – it’s a reason to push yourself it’s an opportunity it’s a chance to try something new so I just wanted to lay that out there because somebody did make a comment and i do agree with that and that is the fair thing to do anyway I’m really happy with how everything is going and I want to try high angle for this next week so remember you can share your images on social media for twitter and instagram using the hashtag #photoassignments and if you’re on Facebook you can reply to this thread i keep threads alive in there and I go through all of them when i start culling out stuff that we can feature on the show and as always if you enjoyed this video please remember to like it share it and as always subscribe to the art of photography will always be up-to-date on all the videos that i do here until the next one will see you guys then later


  • FREEWILL says:

    I love what you're doing here, it's so interesting and inspiring and I'm much more motivated to go try new techniques and learn more about photography because of these assignment videos. Thank you for making them

  • John R says:

    Hi Ted, love the photo assignments series. I was wondering if there were any updates on the Artist series. Thanks!

  • Aaron Overstreet says:

    Love me some Crewdson!

  • Chris Law says:

    One of the main reasons I got more serious about photography when I was younger was discovering the work of French photographer Yann Arthus-Betrand. I believe he really pioneered the type of aerial photography that inspired the likes of Laforet. His work always seemed to me to be rooted in a social documentary form of photojournalism that wanted to highlight what was going on around the world. Despite the fact that his photography wasn't down in the dirt an instead was a very literal 10,000 foot view of things, the heart of his writings combined with the abstract beauty in his artistry really drew me into whichever subject he trained his lens on.

  • alexandre milan says:


  • Daniel K. says:

    I really enjoy your channel and lessons, Ted. Thank you so much for sharing you approach and ideas for the art. I am using film cameras for the assignments and haven't developed quite yet. Will you be sharing and engaging photos after the assignment videos are complete?

  • Laf Film says:

    When i see the pictures submitted on facebook, i think it is necessary to insist on the last point about taking those assigments as a way to go out and shoot pictures and not to just try to self promote as people do in photo contests.
    Seeing pictures shot last summer on a february assignement does not make any sens to me. Anyways… 😀

  • Linden Wilkie says:

    Superb series within a series. I hope this one remains a feature. Thanks so much Ted.

  • Phil m Photographic says:

    I'm considering a series of landscapes from the air _ I have started and done a fair bit of aerial work from aircraft but have yet to publish them. Thanks for re-energising me to get onto that!!!

  • Majo Peroni says:

    love this video Ted!! so instructive and inspiring!! thanks!!

  • Capsharp says:

    Just subscribed, like your style and enjoying your channel.

  • Shalik Murrell says:

    WOOOW!!!! <3 <3 <3 😀 😀 😀


  • Ian F says:

    Hi Ted. You inspired me to go out yesterday and take a bunch of high-angle shots. I want to share them, via Twitter; do I need to do anything else other than tweet them including the hashtag #photoassignments for you and all to see? Sorry if this is a silly question (Twitter novice writing here). Thanks.

  • Sabrina Araújo says:

    Your content is beyond amazing. Just felt like sharing how useful all of this is – I'm a young self taught photographer and it's so great to have deep, informational and historic content available to us like what you create!

  • Squishi says:

    I wish i could give this video more thumbs up! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and opinion

  • Colin Herd says:

    HI Ted, I know I’m late to the party but I just wanted to say thank you for making these and leaving them here as a great resource for those of us that didn’t find them the first time. I’ve got as far as Red- using a colour pallet and I love doing them, they make me think about my photography more than anything else I’ve ever done (especially when combined with putting them in a journal). Thanks again and keep up the good work, you’re a beacon in a sea on largely irrelevant reviews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *