Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Horizontal and vertical lines [take 1]

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EDIT: After publishing this (and, to be honest, after looking at other students’ efforts) I decided that I really wasn’t happy with this exercise. Way too many really obvious examples; I should have been much more creative. So I’ve done it again.

Brief:

Find four examples of horizontal and four examples of vertical lines. The line should be prominent and ideally be the first thing the viewer would see. Make note of the different ways in which horizontal and vertical lines appear to the eye and the camera.

Equipment:

Canon EOS 650D with EF 18-200mm f/3.5 lens.

Results:

Horizontals first:

Road marking

Road marking

Doorstep

Doorstep

No entry sign

No entry sign

Handrail

Handrail

I found horizontal lines a little more difficult to find than verticals. The obvious option of the horizon itself led me to the handrail image, but I had to think a little more laterally for the others. I saw various horizontal lines in man-made constructions such as buildings and street furniture but many of these had multiple lines and rendered the final image a little too cluttered. This set of four represents the ‘purest’ horizontal images I could capture, where the content of the image didn’t overwhelm the graphic elements.

Now onto the verticals:

Palm tree

Palm tree

Building corner

Building corner

Illuminated street sign

Illuminated street sign

Slalom cones

Slalom cones

I saw lots of vertical lines – they’re everywhere once you start looking for them. However, many of them were basically similar in nature – lots of lampposts, drainpipes, poles etc. The set here starts with a fairly obvious one (the tree) but I tried to make the others a little more interesting. I was drawn to the building by the contrasting tone of the cornerstones, which made a strong, wide vertical line. The street sign shot from above stood out for me, a line of light protruding from the wall. For the final one I chose the intermittent line made by the small cones used by rollerbladers for slalom tricks.

What I’ve learned:

I’ve learned that horizontal and vertical lines are everywhere, once you start seeking them out. They aren’t always easy to isolate and make the central element in an image, but when they are, the resultant images can have an appealing simplicity and solidity.

Horizontal line images seem ‘heavier’, more grounded, especially when the line is in the lower portion of the image. They exhibit a stillness that is quite calming.

Vertical line images also have this static quality to them, but not in exactly the same way. The vertical lines that literally come up out of the ground (the tree, the building cornerstones) have an implied solidity to them. I found the vertical images to divide the frame more, as maybe I naturally read images from left to right; the line stops the natural flow of the eye from left to right and marks a transition point in the image.

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