What is steepened perspective?
Image perspective is largely controlled by the viewpoint which is the distance between the subject and the camera. The photographer can change the perspective simply by changing viewpoints. The choice of focal length and lenses helps to create strong compositions for a particular viewpoint.
Steepened perspective creates a sense of drama as it exaggerates the size of objects in the foreground relative to the background. It can add a sense of dominance, isolation and emphasis to a subject. A close viewpoint is use to achieve a steepened perspective in an image. The closer the camera is to the subject, the greater the exaggeration of perspective achieved.
The 2014 World Press Photo of the Year captured by John Stanmeyer is an excellent example of the use of steepened perspective. It depicts African migrants from Djibouti City standing on the beach at night. They are all raising their phones in an attempt to catch an inexpensive phone signal from Somalia and with it a link to relatives abroad. The photograph was taken i extremely low light using a very large aperture (f/1.4) and a large ISO of 10,000. With the shutter speed reduced to 1/41, Stanmeyer has captured the image using only the light from the moon and the light from the individual mobile photos.
It is a very poetic and intriguing image. The figures all perform variations of the same gesture; phones raised skyward. The repetition of gesture and form acts to unify the image. The use of steepened perspective add drama as the silhouette of the figure on the left dominates the photo, yet we can not discern any individual features from the figure due to the lighting conditions.
Tanya Habjouqa’s photograph depicts women athletes from the Al-Quds University, an independent Palestinian University within Jerusalem, practising alongside the Israeli-built separation barrier. Her works showed that although the challenges of conflict and occupation overhang everyday life, people are not solely focused on the difficulties of survival. The use of steepened perspective is clear in the size difference between the female athletes. In this image the viewer’s attention is drawn to the central figure caught mid-action in a dramatic gesture of throwing the javelin. The fast shutter speed of 1/1000 has rendered the athlete motionless but the sense of movement is further enhanced by the spray of dirt caught midair at her feet. The line of the javelin draws the eye up towards the top left of the image. The position of the second athlete in the background acts as a counterbalance to this movement line drawing the eye back down into the centre horizontal of the image. A long depth of field creating sharp focus throughout the image is used effectively to portray the women as unique individuals who are teammates in this activity. The image is very appealing in its representation of muslim women in a non-tradition and non-sterotyped way played out against the backdrop of the graffitied barrier fence. It has effectively employed steepened perspective to tell a specific story about daily life in this region.
This image by Jana Ašenbrennerová features a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at Rainbow Sunrise, an NGO founded to service the needs of LGBTI people in the city of Bukavu. It provides sexual education as well as a safe place for people to meet, share experiences and find acceptance in a country with very little social acceptance of same-sex relationships.
The subject’s body takes up the left third of the image, utilising the rule of thirds to find a pleasing composition. By using a combination of steepened perspective, shallow depth of field and careful composition the photographer has created a successful image. The camera has been placed very close to the man and looking slightly up at him. The short focal length and choice of wide angle lens are able to capture and thus relay to the viewer more information about the surrounding of the subject, rendered somewhat ambiguous by the shallow depth of focus. Are the people at the back watching in support or perhaps judgement?
Gesture is important in this image as seen in both the body language and facial expressions of the subject. The man has his arms and face raised towards the ceiling in what could be religious devotion or a singing performance. The feeling communicated is that he is comfortable within this environment to be lost in the moment in his own mind and body. The out of focus figures in the background help to give us a sense of the scale of the building and draw our eye lines through and into the image from the main figure to the back left. This movement is reinforced by the converging lines created by the rows of chairs and the white ceiling panels.
I started to experiment with steepened perspective by taking a few portraits in my lounge room of my houseguests from Finland. I really liked the image above because of the subject matter, composition and light. The way the artificial light is falling from the ceiling onto his face helps to separate Neeko from the background as well as the choice of a shallow depth of field. I thought that it was interesting to explore changing concepts of male gender expression particularly through the use of makeup. I experimented with differing viewpoints both above and level with my subject to see what the effects on perspective were. This image was my favourite from this series as I though the composition was strong. A triangle shape is formed in the centre left of the image by the side of the mirror and the line down the front of Neeko’s profile and body. This acts to encourage the reader’s eye to move around the image and actively read the information contained within.
I attended the opening night of an exhibition at QCA’s Project Gallery in Brisbane titled Http://Re-productive. As part of this event, artist Adam Anderson, a.k.a. Bleach Queen, was performing a work titled Bridges. I was very keen to document what I knew would be a unique, colourful and visually spectacular event. I was a little dismayed to discover just how dark the gallery space was but also saw this as an opportunity to test the much laundered low light capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark III. It did not disappoint. Unlike every other serious photographer in the room, some of whom appear in my images, I was not using a speed light. In manual mode I was only able to get correct exposures at 10,000 ISO. My lack of flash allowed me to capture the beautiful light and ambient feel of the performance and the space. To create the very dramatically steepened perspectives achieved it was necessary for me to be lying right on the floor and using my widest angle lens at a focal length of 24mm.
I am very happy to have achieved the final images for this project from this event in such low light with a moving subject. It was my first time shooting in a crowd with the camera and I think a few glasses of the free champagnes on offer helped with overcoming my nerves, so I could get right up the front of the watching crowd and down on the floor to achieve my goal.
These two images were taken after the event at a nearby restaurant. Around twenty artists and art lovers gathered to celebrate the end of the year over Thai food and sparkling wine. I enjoyed continuing to experiment with capturing steepened perspective shots at this very long restaurant table. The beauty of photographing artists who are all friends is that for the most part no one is particularly concerned when you sit very close and experiment for twenty minutes taking images with both a wide angle lens and the huge telephoto lens on the camera.
Final Selected Images
My viewpoint on the floor was key to capturing this image of Bleach Queen in full manual mode on the camera. As the subject was moving towards me I had to work quickly to adjust both my shutter speed and ISO in the dark to find the correct exposure as I knew that the aperture would have to be as large an opening as was possible given my lens (f/2.8). Any lower ISO would not capture the image. I am pleasantly surprised at the quality of the image at this high ISO. There is certainly some grain but the image is still quite sharp. The overall effect is very atmospheric.
I think that the composition is a success due to the very interesting subject who is dominated the frame from a steepened perspective. I place the centre line on the back of the head running down to line up with the left shoe. For me this framing presents the performer in a position of power. At this moment during the performance they have the power over the audience as the focus of everyone’s gaze. Using this angle to create dominance reverses the traditional grand-narrative of transsexuals and drag queens as being effeminate and submissive. Bleach Queen’s makeup, costume and gesture are all acts of powerful defiance against our heteronormative culture and it’s norms of gender performance. I wanted to capture this reclamation of feminine power in this image. There is back lighting visible on the subjects head and soft defused light on the front of the face and clothing created by the reflection of the spotlight off the gallery wall. The lighting is soft and diffused adding to the femininity of the subject. The photographer’s flashes and the spotlight in the background work to successfully counterbalance the dominate central figure of the performer. The mirror in which we see the reflected face of a woman, the curator Lucy Miles, acts as the images punctum inviting us to share in the artist’s questioning of self-image and self-representation.
Still lying in my position on the gallery floor I was able to frame this image of the performer. It captures an intriguing interplay of colour, light and shadows that communicates much of the feeling of the live performance. Now standing directly in a spotlight close to the white gallery wall Bleach Queen stoically meets the direct gaze of the audience members. There is also red spot light on the floor in the far corner directing light up the wall. This combination of strong lighting sources has lead to a mind binding shadow play behind the performer. We can simultaneously see a direct silhouette of the figure front on as well as a what resembles a profile of the face complete with false eyelashes.