Thursday, May 08, 2014

GETTING HIGH - ON PHOTOGRAPHY

Getting a higher perspective.
Getting a higher perspective.
I photograph a fair amount of trade shows, exhibitions, and symposiums as part of my job with the Office of Naval Research. These events tend to be in the same venues year after year so over time it becomes a real challenge to get a different perspective or make new unique photographs.

This year during the Sea Air Space Exposition held at the Gaylord in National Harbor, Md., I decided to get high for inspiration and go a little old school.

I should say that "I" didn't get high, but my camera did. But before I reveal how I made these photographs, let's explore some options available to get that "aerial" perspective.

Even 15 feet of elevation offers a different perspective of a fairly static scene.
Even 15 feet of elevation offers a different perspective of a fairly static scene.
The first thing would be to look over the venue and see if there is a balcony, overlook or some other position that would allow you to shoot down on the event floor. The downside, of course, is that your booth or exhibit would need to be in the right location to take advantage of this shooting position.

Absent of a balcony, you could use ladder or bucket lift, both of which are available at most locations. However, once the show floor opens the event coordinators are unlikely to allow a bucket lift back on the floor. A ladder is great but does limit your ability to reposition quickly. It's still a good option and if you are unable to secure a ladder locally, consider bringing the best non-photo accessory available with you.

I get a little flying time with a friend's DJI Phantom 2. These are great for use outdoors, but a little risky to use on a trade show floor.
I get a little flying time with a friend's DJI Phantom 2. These are great for use outdoors, but a little risky to use on a trade show floor.
Finally, before I reveal the technique I used, you could use an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) such as the DJI Phantom 2. Now these UAVs are really cool and would surely work, but the reality is that they may get you kicked out.

So while all of the above techniques will work, I opted to go a little old school and attach my camera with a 14-24mm lens to a Gitzo carbon fiber monopod and extend it all the way out. I then used a Pocket Wizard to trigger the camera, but you could use a cable release or even the self-timer. This technique puts the camera about 15 feet up and I think offered me the photos I was looking for including a unique shot of the Navy's X-47B.

Of all the photographs of the Navy's X-47B from the exposition, mine was the only one mine was the only one I saw taken from above.
Of all the photographs of the Navy's X-47B from the exposition, mine was the only one I saw taken from above. 
Another advantage of the monopod is that you can follow the action. I would bring the camera to my eye, focus, then raise the camera and start shooting.

If you find yourself in a rut and looking for something different when tasked with photographing the same thing, literally try a different perspective and get high.


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