Posted by: kerryl29 | June 29, 2020

The World at Our Feet

Over the years, for some reason, I’ve gotten into the habit of looking at the ground when I size up a would-be photography site, particularly (but by no means exclusively) when I’m in a wooded setting.  This has produced approximately zero “trophy” shots; it has, however, generated a collection of what I consider to be intriguing images of the intimate variety.

Spring Forest Floor, Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

Forest Floor Intimate, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Beach Stones, Au Sable Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

These images, often filled with details and/or patterns, can produce a remarkably evocative picture of a place despite directly displaying only a tiny portion of it.

Fall Forest Floor, Morton Arboretum, Illinois

Driftwood & Beach Stones, Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Dunes Abstract Black & White, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

I don’t often visit a location with this sort of image specifically in mind.  (An exception would be those occasions when my goal is to photograph what I term “flowerscapes.”)  And yet it’s remarkable how often I find myself indulging this secondary inclination.

Aspen Leaves and Grasses, Preacher’s Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Forest Floor, Auxier Ridge Trail, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

Fallen Maple Leaves Close-up, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Perhaps the best thing about this sort of subject is that it’s almost literally always present.  You simply have to be aware enough to consider the possibility.

Leaves and Roots, San Miguel County, Colorado

Whirlpool black & white, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Coos Canyon Intimate, Oxford County, Maine

I don’t think there’s a place I’ve visited for photography over the years where I haven’t at least considered a subject of this genre.  And more often than not I’ve followed through and produced the image…or images, plural.

Lichen Wall, Acadia National Park, Maine

West Rim Florals, Zion National Park, Utah

Ice Abstract Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Clash of Seasons, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

What I’ve found is, once the idea of a ground-level intimate pops into my head, I become awash to the plethora of possibilities that exist all around me.  And that’s when the creative part of the photo experience really comes to the fore.

Seashells Black & White, Coral Cove Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Olivne Pools Intimate, Maui, Hawaii

Sand Ripples and Beach Stones Black & White, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Just remember to look down every now and again.  That’s likely all you’ll need to do to immerse yourself in this wonderfully rewarding type of landscape photography.

Pink Canyon Abstract, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada



  1. Excellent advice, Kerry! It’s something I try to do, but it can be hard to remember to step outside what my wife calls my “laser focus”, and look around for “targets of opportunity” rather than just the specific objective for that shoot.

    • Thanks, Steve. You need some kind of reminder, a mnemonic device of some sort. After the primary purpose (assuming there is one) of your session has been satisfied, it’s time to poke around. Eventually it will become habitual. Part of the goal is to extricate oneself from “the shot” mentality. I have blogged on that subject before:

  2. I actually don’t get too much time photographing so don’t write much of these types of posts but it’s neat reading yours

  3. This is the perfect response to those who claim, “There is nothing to photograph here.” There is always something interesting to be found as you have so aptly demonstrated. This collection of images is inspiring; I enjoyed viewing them very much.

  4. I do have photos of rocks and even remember exactly where I took the photos because I like them so much and it is easier to return home without the load of carrying the rocks, which is something I used to do a lot. These are lovely intimates and as I return to Jasper in a couple of weeks will be taking photos of more than the mountains.

  5. I love these! Although I no longer have a “good” camera, I often take pics looking below me. Great views 👏🏻

    • Thanks!

      BTW, the nature of the camera isn’t nearly as important as the person behind it.

      • Great words. Thank you!

  6. Enjoyed your images and advice. I also have found some neat images on the ground. I would also add look up. Photographing a tree looking up into the branches for instance can produce some fascinating images.

    • Thanks very much for the kind words.

      I concur with your suggestion and, in fact, may use it as inspiration for a future blog post as I’ve used this technique on a number of occasions myself over the years (though not as often as looking down).

  7. I’ve been looking down ever since I got my first camera, a Kodak Brownie, and sharpened my interest when I becam an Ansel disciple. The value of being aware of all the visible potential around us cannot be overemphasized. In my days of early photographic passion I followed his advice and carried a piece of cardboard with a 35mm-format cutout to help me to see the extraordinary in the greater spectrum of the ordinary. And I value the details around us very highly. I love your ice abstract.

    • Thanks, Gary. Sounds as though this is a case of my preaching to the choir. 🙂

  8. Lovely patterns

  9. Nice photos and interesting compositions, its amazing what you will see when looking at the ground. I really like the Coos Canyon Intimate, Oxford County, Maine photo because I find it looks like a heart.

    • Thanks. The heart shape in the Coos Canyon image is what attracted me to it.

  10. Beautiful Groundwork! 😊

    • Thanks very much!

  11. Hello there. I stumbled upon this story minutes ago. Lovely photos. My fave, maybe, is the Aspen leaves and grasses. Your story caught my eye because my latest piece has a related theme. Take care.

    Neil Scheinin

    • Thanks very much! I’ll have to check out your post.

  12. I’ve often seen people stand over a flower and take a picture aiming downward. That rarely leads to a good picture. Sometimes, though, as you’ve shown, aiming down at the ground works well.

    • Thanks, Steve.

      Perhaps an extreme close-up of a flower–a true 1:1 macro shot, for instance–might make for an interesting image in some instances when produced from directly above…but, agreed, most of the time it’s not the best perspective for flowers.

  13. […] the comments adjoined to the recently posted entry “The World at Our Feet,” blog reader David E. Smith made the poignant suggestion that, when photographing, […]

  14. […] caused me to look down while I was striding through the area and I noticed a fallen jasmine blossom nestled in the ridges […]

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