Bird’s Eye View
Are there times when you wish you were a bird or a butterfly, able to fly above your garden and look down on the view?
Most of the time we go through life contentedly looking at the world from whatever height our eyes are, in my case about five feet above the ground. But the world looks different from above. The photo at the top was made from my office deck, looking down on the native shrub and perennial bed out front.
This high-angle view shows the same bed with blooming serviceberries I highlighted a couple of days ago on the blog. For this photo I used a 70-200mm telephoto lens to get closer from my raised vantage point.
Sometimes you just can’t get your camera in the right place for a high angle view by standing on something attached to a building or from a ladder. For this photo I mounted my camera, with a 24-105mm lens, on top of a 16-foot painter’s pole that I’ve modified with a ballhead. I clamp a heavy counterweight to the bottom of the pole to help make the whole setup more manageable, although heavier. The weight balances the camera on the other end of the pole, making it less likely that I’ll drop the camera to the ground.
Why not use a drone? In the case of our garden we’re too close to the Bellingham airport to legally fly it. Besides, the photo quality of my digital SLR is better than what I get from the camera on my drone.
Here are a couple of our island perennial beds. The high angle shows the relationship of the beds to each other and to the surrounding lawn. It’s a very different look than what I can get from the ground. The middle bed in this photo is the same bed I showed last week when I shared photos of ‘Mountain Fire’ Japanese Andromeda.
If we walk around to the other side and look north rather than south, you get a different view of how the elements of the garden come together and lay out on the lawn.
This view of a perennial bed with a wooden tuteur was made with my 70-200mm lens from my office deck, the same vantage point as the photo of serviceberries at the top of the post.
Coming in closer, with my camera on the pole, gives another perspective on the bed. My zoom lens was set to 35mm for this one and the camera was only a few feet back from the garden bed. You can compare this view with one from ground level made a few weeks ago in this post from April 8.
Finding just the right place to plant my pole and composing remotely isn’t without its challenges. I use a CamRanger to control my camera. The combination of dedicated hardware and an iPhone app let me see through the viewfinder and change camera settings from the ground, but if I want to change the focal length of the zoom lens I have to lower the camera to the ground, guess what focal length I want and set it, then raise the camera back up and compose again.
I find it helpful to have an assistant who can hold my iPhone so I can see the image while manipulating the pole with both hands. Then I’ll have him touch the screen to focus and then trip the shutter while I hold the camera steady. I use image stabilization and ISO 400 to make sure I have a sufficiently fast shutter speed and minimum camera movement to get sharp photos. It takes practice, but I think the results are worthwhile.
It’s a little nerve-wracking to have several thousand dollars worth of camera gear up in the air at the end of the pole. I make sure all the bolts on the pole are tight, as well as the clamp that holds my camera on the ballhead. I also check to make sure I’m not going to be running into any overhead wires. Safety is important.