Posted by: kerryl29 | July 13, 2020

Looking Up

In 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, remembering to look up is a good idea as well.  He’s absolutely correct.  It’s something I do…not quite as routinely as looking down, but, particularly in wooded settings, something I always try to remember to consider.

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Hemlock Hill Black & White, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

At first glance it may seem as though this is essentially a random exercise:  point the camera up and fire away.  That’s not the case with this perspective any more than it is with a more conventional “looking out” approach that probably covers something approximating 90% of the landscape images I produce.  These “looking up” images are just as compositionally purposeful as any others.  Considerations of line, form, pattern, depth and placement of elements within the frame all play a role.

MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

Bare Aspens Black & White, Sunshine Campground, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Similarly, the notion of a “vision statement” is just as relevant with a “looking up” image as it is with any other.  What does this scene, depicted in this manner, say?  What is it trying to convey?  Those questions remain important, whether the camera is pointed up, out, down, or any other direction.

Aspen Afternoon, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Moonset, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

Aspens, Belly of Abraham, David Thompson Country, Alberta

The point is that images that fit this broad category aren’t gimmicks; I don’t see them that way, in any event, though I can understand the first blush inclination to view them as such.  (And it isn’t beyond my notice that collecting examples of this style together, as I have here, might tend to belie my claim.

I have very deliberately put some of these images, which have a kind of superficial stylistic similarity, together.  In the many years that I have been seriously photographing–well over 20 at this point, what you see above represents roughly half of the images of this sort that I have made over that time.  I have examined this perspective on countless occasions, but it’s quite rare in my experience that things come together enough for me to actually click the shutter.  The above images were made using an ultra-wide angle lens an unconventional perspective and I concede that it’s necessary for me to see the image “though the lens” to assess whether the end product is something I consider meaningful.  Most of the time, in my experience, the attempt has fallen short, but when it works…well, it seems to really work.

Not all of these images have the same apparent “look” to them, even if they include trees.  Some of the obvious differences in look come from the fact that a longer focal length was used.  Some of it comes from an entirely different vision that led to the creation of the image in the first place.

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

And, of course, sometimes the subject matter is entirely different, whether it be birds in flight…

Canada Geese in Flight, Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

Wood Stork, Paurotis Pond, Everglades National Park, Florida

Egrets in Flight, Pah-hay-okee, Everglades National Park, Florida

…or something completely different.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Sun’s Eye, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

So, when you’re out with your camera, remember to look up every now and again.  You never know what you might see.


  1. Amazing collection!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Amazing theme, looking up. And the pictures are beautiful the tall structures and trees like over powering tho!
    Nice one 🙌👌

  3. Your are an exceptionally gifted photographer. I really enjoy viewing your images. I really appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge. Your insights will help me to improve my work.

    • You are too kind.

  4. I echo David Smith’s thoughts 100%

  5. There’s an upside to looking in the opposite direction from down.

    • Where’s that rim shot emoticon? 🙂

    • Many upsides to be had from many different perspectives, and very few downers.

      • Still looking for the rim shot emoticon… 🙂

    • I remember a story from a school reader in around the second grade. A boy named Jason [a name that was new to me] played a trick by hiding a bicycle atop a flagpole. [I don’t remember how he got it up there.] No one hunting for the bicycle thought of looking up to find it.

      • Sounds like something from Dr. Seuss…except it would have been an elephant rather than a bicycle on the top of the flagpole.

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