Above the waist with a waist level viewfinder.

Instructions on shooting above your head with a waist level viewfinder.
Instructions on shooting above your head with a waist level viewfinder.

Ever try this? It looks pretty simple, if you have a waist level view finder and want an overhead shot, just hold it over your head!

I tried this once quite some time ago. It really messes with you.

It’s hard enough to get used to right and left being backwards with a waist level view finder. For some reason if you switch it up and shoot over your head it’s like you have to start back at square one again. Framing becomes a fresh new challenge all over again. I’m not sure exactly why but my brain just seems to forget what it knew when looking down when it tries to do it looking up.

The controls are on the wrong side. In order to shoot this way you have to flip the camera around so all the controls that are on the right hand side are now on the left and vice versa. This makes operating the camera very difficult.

Also it’s really hard to use the built in loop to finely focus this way. When using a waist level finder the way it was intended you usually have a neck strap or tripod assisting you in thwarting gravity’s effects on your camera. Not so above your head! You can at least rest assured that if you do slip and drop your camera, your face will be there to soften its landing.

These are the three challenges you’ll be facing when you attempt this technique. Framing may seem more difficult, operating the camera will require more than normal thought, and you’re on you’re own against gravity. It’s not all bad news though, there are a couple silver linings that aren’t immediately apparent with this graphic.

On the plus side you’re not restricted to just TLRs. You can try this out with any camera that has a waist level viewfinder. Hasselblad, Kowa 66, Pilot 6, Bronica, Mamiya, you name it. If it has a “chimney” style viewfinder you look into, you don’t *have* to look down into it.

This technique isn’t just for overhead use. You can also look sideways through a waist level view finder. While the camera controls may not be reversed, up and down will be! This might be something that 6×4.5 shooters are more accustomed to as 6×4.5 cameras often don’t have rotating backs like their 6×7 cousins.

To sum up: Yup you can use a waist level viewfinder in non-waist-level ways which may open up creative possibilities for you. Just expect an even weirder experience behind the camera. 🙂