A Slanted View

In most every form of art, if you successfully incorporate lines into a composition, the result is a better final piece
In most every form of art, if you successfully incorporate lines into a composition, the result is a better final piece. When used properly, they enhance the work. Lines can be found everywhere. From a photographic standpoint, this is a great thing. They can be used to lead the eye to a specific portion of the image, they can be abstract and become a stand alone image, they can be used as supporting elements, and they can effect the overall mood of the photograph to make it more dynamic, peaceful, or infer motion. If you don’t think about “lines” each time you go out in the field, it’s my hope the following will inspire you.

Leading Lines: Leading lines do exactly as the words imply. They lead the viewer to key elements in the composition. The most classic one is the graceful S curve. Commonly found along country roads, on footpaths through a forest, and along a meandering river, look for S curves that start along the bottom of the frame and lead the eye through the scene. Position the line so it flows through the image in a graceful and fluid manner. Railroad tracks are another quintessential leading line. In this case, the converging lines bring the viewer to the horizon. The same can be accomplished photographing desolate highways where the road is straight and narrow. Zig Zags, C Curves, and other shapes or flowing forms are also great candidates to use as leading lines. How about using the lines painted on a high school track to lead the viewer to the athlete. You have the option of getting to a vantage point along the curve of the track or at the end of the straight away to create a tunneling effect as the lines lead toward the runners.

Outdoor Photographer Tip Of The Week

Abstracts: Lines make great abstracts. Get in close and look for the picture in a picture. For instance, rather than photograph an entire building, work the brick or stone patterns into a composition of lines. Tilt the camera on a diagonal to add a further abstract quality. Go to the zoo with a long lens and zoom into the patterns on the side of a zebra. Get out a macro lens and photograph the wood grain on a fence post. The local junkyard provides a great opportunity to photograph the lines of old time front-end grills. You may need to go no farther than your sofa if it has upholstery tucks or fabric patterns to find some nice lined abstracts.

Outdoor Photographer Tip Of The Week

Horizontal/ Vertical/ Diagonal: The direction of the line has a tremendous psychological/subliminal impact on the photograph. It makes a lot of sense - let me explain.

a) When you go to sleep you lay down in a horizontal position. When something is perfectly horizontal and on a surface, it has no movement unless it’s propelled by another force. Gravity doesn’t make it tilt to one side. All this being said, horizontal lines imply tranquility, peacefulness and rest. Incorporate them into a composition to give the image a quiet feel.

b) If you want to look powerful and exude a feeling of strength, you make yourself as large as possible - stand up tall. The expression,”Stand up for yourself” implies vigor. Standing at attention implies robustness. It’s no wonder that vertical lines represent strength and power. Use them to bring a dynamic quality to your images.

c) If you’ve ever looked at an ocean scene with a crooked horizon, there’s an uneasiness in that the horizon should be straight. It gives the impression that the water runs downhill. Well in order for water to do this, it translates to movement. It’s with this in mind that diagonal lines imply motion. Many nature photographers purposely tilt their cameras on a diagonal when photographing flowers that grow vertically to create a sense of motion. Look for diagonals to show movement and if you can’t find any, try tilting the camera on its axis.

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4 Comments

    Pearl – you are most welcome 🙂 I’m pleased you find them useful and I hope you’re able to incorporate them all into your photographic endeavors.

    I too enjoy reading your tips! You mention in this article that “Many nature photographers purposely tilt their cameras on a diagonal when photographing flowers that grow vertically to create a sense of motion. Look for diagonals to show movement and if you can?۪t find any, try tilting the camera on its axis.”
    Can you send me or post an example of what you mean.

    Thanks,
    Barb

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