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Unique Perspectives; Your Own Personal Point Of View Bookmark and Share

Compelling compositions can come in many forms, and they can also come from unique points of view. For example, aerial perspectives offer views that are completely different than when you are standing on the ground. This could be from a mountain looking straight down into a valley, or it could be from an airplane, a hot air balloon, or an ultralight. In addition, aerial perspectives from the tops of buildings, observation decks, lighthouses, and medieval clock towers (after you’ve climbed hundreds of steps) can often provide great compositions.

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All Photos © 2009, Jim Zuckerman, All Rights Reserved

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The photo of the huge statue of Christ (#1) in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and the photo of Lake Powell (#2) in Arizona, illustrate the visual drama that you can get from a small plane. The graphic design of the sandstone formations in the lake are amazing from the air, and the city of Rio looks incredible from the air. Since all the elements in the scene are far from the camera, depth of field is not a consideration (everything in the distance will be sharp at any f/stop). Therefore, I use aperture priority and select a large lens aperture because that forces my shutter speed to be fast. This eliminates any possibility that the vibration of the plane will cause the photos to be blurred.

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When I rent a plane, I always make sure that it’s a high-wing. This means that the wing is above the passenger window, giving me a clear view below. Only the strut that supports the wing is a problem, but I shoot behind it. When possible, I open the window so my images are as sharp as possible. Photographing through plastic windows degrades the image quality.

The tops of buildings offer wonderful compositions as well. The photo of New York (#3) was taken in the early 1990s. I met a lady in New York who just happened to know the owner of a building, and since I am always looking for unique shooting perspectives I asked if I could gain access to the roof. I got permission to do that, and the elevated view of the World Trade Center was fantastic. I was very lucky to get a red tugboat in the shot as well.

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The graphic shadows (#4) weren’t taken from the top of a building. Instead, I shot from a third-story open hallway that looked down on the street. You don’t have to be 50 stories above the city to take advantage of an aerial view. Sometimes just 2-3 floors in height will enable you to compose a compelling image.

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When I was shooting autumn colors in Vermont, I found a wonderful rocky promontory at Owl’s Head in the northern part of the state. From there, I could look straight down on the incredible multicolored forest and the nearby Groton reservoir (#5 and #6). In the early morning light, I was able to capture rich texture and golden colors on the trees. From this height, I used my telephoto lens to isolate sections of the vista below that had strong graphic design. With a similar aim in mind in Germany I climbed a mountain above the Rhine River to get a twilight shot of this beautiful castle (#7). Everybody shoots it from a trail at eye level, but the aerial perspective is much more exciting.

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