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KEN'S PHOTOGRAPHIC TIPS: EPISODE 2. THE MAGIC OF EYE LEVEL. This is something that is simple, but which I didn't grasp for an unfortunately long portion of my time as a photographer. And here it is: almost every photo looks best when you are at eye level with your subject. There are certainly times when you can get a nice shot when aiming at something high in the trees, or when shooting down off a vehicle. But 90% of the time, eye level is the way to go. Why? I'm really not sure - perhaps something primal in the way that we relate to other creatures. If you don't believe me, start looking at what you personally consider outstanding photos, and I think you'll find that the vast majority were taken near eye level.

What does this translate to in how you shoot? When you're on a mudflat photographing shorebirds, hit the beach and get dirty. Even if you don't want to go that far, try squatting instead of standing. In a forest setting, try to maneuver however possible to move towards eye level. Canopy towers are excellent for this reason. I often scramble up the low limbs of trees, or stand on top of fences and other structures. On a recent Madagascar trip, I clambered on top of our tour vehicle in a pouring rain to see eye-to-eye with some Madagascar Blue-Pigeons! Check out the photos associated with this post for a few illustrations of the magic of eye level. They were all shot over a few days in High Island with Tropical Birding this spring.

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Eye to eye with a Lesser Yellowlegs. Everything is a blur except the bird and a tiny strip of the water at its feet.

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A Stilt Sandpiper shot at higher than eye level. It's not bad, but I hope you can see that it lacks something that some of these other photos have.

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My camera was actually resting on the sand when I shot this Western Sandpiper. It's hard to be eye-to-eye with a creature that is 3 inches tall!

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The eye level rule certainly applies to flight shots as well.

Note the horizontal horizon (see episode one!).

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A long belly crawl brought me close to a pair of courting Least Terns. Note again the pleasing way that the whole photo is blurred out except for the bird and a tiny strip of ground in its plane.

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Dunlin. There was a bit more depth of field with this shot, showing a bit more of the water in focus. In this case I like the effect.

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Looking up at a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Not a bad pic, but I guarantee it would have been better if I was a couple feet higher.

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Shooting up at a Royal Tern flying by. Not a bad picture, but eye level would have been better.

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