Get High

June 16, 2016 ·

Hugh O. Smith

Photographed on a backstreet in Orange, France. Orange was built in 40 BC by the Second Legion of the Roman Army under Caesar Augustus.

No. This is not a marijuana advocacy article. It is however, an exploration and exhortation to change your point of view.

Alternative  perspectives can often turn a “ho hum” photograph into a great photograph.  Many photographers simply shoot straight on but you should consider changing your point of view.

When I am photographing, be it a model, travel work or landscape, I try to get up high, using whatever is available to do so. Often, it simply means shooting from my hotel balcony or a hilltop.

Many photographers keep a step ladder in their rigs. Ansel Adams kept a ladder in his photography truck and mounted it on the roof. Dorothea Lange often shot from atop her car.

A small change in perspective (even a few feet) can make a huge difference in the finished photograph.

When I travel I look for high vantage points. Imagine what these photographs would have looked like had they been shot from ground level and you will understand what I mean.

Often, if staying in a hotel, we ask for a room on a high floor and with a balcony. When booking a room, we look at the area surrounding the hotel or home before we commit.

When eating at a restaurant or just being tourists, we “eyeball” the area, looking for unique perspectives.

Piano player in a Montmartre Bistro, Montmartre, France
Piano player in a Montmartre Bistro, Montmartre, France

The first photograph was taken of a piano player in a Montmartre restaurant. I shot it from the 2nd floor of the restaurant.

Boys playing basketball in Orange, France. Orange was the capital of a wide area of northern Provence, which was parcelled up into lots for the Roman colonists. "Orange of two thousand years ago was a miniature Rome, complete with many of the public buildings that would have been familiar to a citizen of the Roman Empire, except that the scale of the buildings had been reduced – a smaller theater to accommodate a smaller population, for example."
Boys playing basketball in Orange, France. Orange was the capital of a wide area of northern Provence, which was parcelled up into lots for the Roman colonists. “Orange of two thousand years ago was a miniature Rome, complete with many of the public buildings that would have been familiar to a citizen of the Roman Empire, except that the scale of the buildings had been reduced – a smaller theater to accommodate a smaller population, for example.”

From a high vantage point, again in Orange, France gives the homes a unique look and emphasizes the geometry of the street scene.

Locals in Marseille harbor.
Locals in Marseille harbor.

Staying in Marseilles, we asked for a room higher up. Our room was on the 5th floor and offered a great view for high perspectives.

People walking in the ruins of the Arles Amphitheater, Arles, France
People walking in the ruins of the Arles Amphitheater, Arles, France

This was taken from atop the amphitheater in Arles, France. I simply waited for someone to walk into the scene and shot it.

The entrance to Fort D'if the inspirtaion for Alexander Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It lies about 1 mile from Marseille in the Bay of Marseille.
The entrance to Fort D’if the inspirtaion for Alexander Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It lies about 1 mile from Marseille in the Bay of Marseille.

This was an easy choice at the entrance to Fort D’if the inspirtaion for Alexander Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It lies about 1 mile from Marseille in the Bay of Marseille.

A God's Eye view of children at play in Paris, France
A God’s Eye view of children at play in Paris, France

As we are preparing to leave France, we booked a room on the fourth floor of an apartment near Charles d Gaulle Airport.

Look up and change your perspective and see if getting high doesn’t pique your interest and add a distinctive flavor to your photographs.


Hugh Smith
June 2016

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Hugh O. Smith

A Philadelphia native, I have lived in Baja California for the past 3 years.  I make photographs. You can follow me at www.jargonart.com  I started shooting as a stringer for newspapers and in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania.  I opened my commercial studio in Center City, Philadelphia in 1972. I shot catalogs for Spencer Gifts and Lenox China among others.  I shot fashion, runway and headshots until about 5 years ago as my wife and I started slowing to a merciful crawl and traveling and writing.  My work has appeared in magazines from Shutterbug to Sports Illustrated and I am a regular contributor for Trillium Art Magazine. I am a regular editor and contributor to 1X.com Magazine.  I have exhibited in Europe as well as the U.S.  My work hangs in the permanent collection of private collectors as well as corporate venues.  Currently, my work is in the permanent exhibit at Polo’s Gallery in Rosarito, Mexico.  I have published 6 books including Art of the Muse (books 1 and 2) as well as 'Italy, through my lens.' Paris, Through my Lens.' 'Ireland, through my lens.' and others.  You can also follow all of our work at www.jargonart.com 

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