Does height matter?

Original post  November 5, 2014 By: Tom Owens

In my series ‘Edgelands’ I shot and am shooting both medium format film and large format film. For most of the time my large format camera was placed about  eight feet from the ground. For most people I know, this is challenging in terms of how I get the camera up there and why. The why is the most important aspect for me. The height gives a different perspective and is a viewpoint offered to people with an advantage, just as in seeing the viewpoint whilst sat in a speeding train raised up high on a bed of ballast and raised up further by the rail to floor height of the carriage. We see differently from that elevation and all manner of hidden treasures get revealed. Railway embankments however do not make for safe photography.


The castoff farming machinery in this image was not visible from my eye height of approximately 62 inches. I knew it was there as I had reconnoitered the area on foot and I needed to get the foreground data in the image I was making that was about the discarding or abandonment of items in our hinterland environments. It is not just urban or industrial detritus that scars these areas.

I was also influenced by Casper David Friedrich’s approach to recording landscape vistas at dawn, noon, dusk and evening. This was at dusk. The small figure on the right of the image was not part of the intended image but appeared after I had got down from the stepladder and was waiting to release the shutter. I first saw him on when I got back up to insert the dark slide. He became an accidental but important aspect to this image in that Friedrich included diminutive people and their agricultural (sometimes) apparatus in his paintings.

Comments from original blog

Peter Ellis · November 7, 2014 Reply

I think that an alternative viewpoint should be one of the first things a photographer contemplates when taking an image. most photos are taken at a height between 5’6″ and 6′ – how many people realise that Ansel Adams (love him or hate him) stood on a roof platform on his station wagon or climbed a mountain to take his iconic images!

In these days of the ‘instant’ image many people think that PS is the saviour of all ills and blast away with gay abandon, unaware that a bit of forethought may have resulted in the image of a lifetime… rant over ha-ha ;-)


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