After a long Montana winter of snowboarding, skiing and hiking over blankets of white snow, I’m as eager as anyone for the arrival of spring and the return of color. For many photographers, springtime translates to image after image of the West’s abundant wildflowers.
Last May I took to Glacier National Park’s low-elevation trails in search of springtime scenes, and I wasn’t disappointed. I found fields filled with brilliant yellow balsamroot, valley bottoms blooming with spring beauty (also known as “fairy spud”) and paths lined with vibrant red Indian paintbrush. The challenge was capturing these gorgeous bursts of color from a new perspective—something other than the sweeping landscapes that are so prevalent.
That’s when I hit the dirt.
We typically view the world from a height of between 5 and 7 feet, and photographing from that angle offers viewers nothing out of the ordinary. But changing your approach can make all the difference in your image. I laid on the ground and aimed my lens up at the balsamroot to make it look majestic and huge and bright against the bluebird sky. The subtle switch offered a different perspective on—and perhaps a greater appreciation of—a sight seen every day (or at least every season).
The same strategy can be used in almost any situation. When in the backcountry, I often look for a tree to climb or a rock to perch on before framing my shot. If I’m in a more urban setting, I seek out park benches to stand on or ask permission to situate myself on a rooftop.
Technology also makes it easy to experiment. Many digital cameras feature a flip-up viewfinder that allows you to extend the camera as low or as high as you can reach while still being able to track the shot. If your camera doesn’t have a screen that swivels, you can still experiment with blind “Hail Mary” shots—just check your screen after each attempt and keep trying until you get the intended result. However you achieve a different perspective, the image is bound to be more interesting than if you’d taken it from the typical vantage point.