Wildlife photography: Eye level matters

_djc8687Once we reach the age of about twelve, it stops becoming fun for most of us to drop down to the ground and pop back up. So there needs to be a good reason to get down low and haul ourselves back up – especially with a lot of photo gear. Shooting at eye level is one very good reason. We relate much better to animals at our own level. This goes for every critter, from birds to elephants, but is most important for mammals, and especially large predators. Lions, leopards, and bears just don’t look as imposing if we are staring down at them…

I was reminded of this today during our photo safari in Alaska in the field with the gentle giants of the northern hemisphere, Grizzly bears (more properly Alaskan Brown Bears). Standing near one we didn’t need any convincing of their grandeur. At 400 pounds and up (some nearly 1,000 pounds), with 6” long claws, they’re imposing animals. In images, however, it can be difficult to convey just how large and powerful they are. Getting low (SAFELY!), and shooting level or even up at them provides images like this one which show off just how penetrating their gaze is. So the next time you’re shooting wildlife, think about your level, their level, and whether you can capture them at eye level.

Alaskan Brown (“Grizzly”) Bear
Nikon D4, f/8 @ 1/1000s, 290mm full-frame