Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Diagonal lines

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


Canon EOS 650D with EF 18-200mm f/3.5 lens; Leica X1 24mm.




Handrail: with this I was going for a classic example of using an existing horizontal line and diminishing perspective to create a strong diagonal. Shot at a relatively wide 24mm. The perspective adds a great feeling of depth to the image.




Sundial: this gives the dual impression of  leading the eye from top right to bottom left (how I naturally read an image) and simultaneously leading the eye in the opposite direction as diagonal lines emanating from a central circle, here placed to the edge, mimic the rays of the sun. This adds a sense of movement to the image. This was taken at 50mm for a relatively ‘lifelike’ perspective, albeit shot from an angle low to the ground.




Shutters: another example of diagonal lines appearing as a result of the light and the angle rather than existing literally. Shadows at the right time of day will produce a diagonal. In this instance the diagonal of the shadows is matched by the angle of the open shutters themselves, and the small pegs dotted between the windows. There is also an implied diagonal from top left to bottom right as your eye follows the top shadow of the left window to the lower shadow of the right one. Shot at 200mm out of necessity (closest I could get) but I think at this focal length the resulting shadows are well pronounced.




Steps: here I saw a confluence of diagonal lines: the steps with the strong shadow underneath, the retaining wall, the picket fence running at a right angle to it. As with the handrail photo there has been a certain amount of composition to achieve the strong diagonals; only the retaining wall is a true diagonal and the other lines are in reality horizontal and vertical. A focal length of 24mm was used here. The lines, in particular in the steps, give a strong sense of movement in the image.

What I’ve learned:

I’ve gained an appreciation of how to see diagonals in the world around me – those that actually exist, and those that can be created by the eye and the camera. I’ve been aware of the theory of diagonals adding dynamism and movement to an image, but this exercise has really brought that home to me. Also, the sense of depth that one can add to an image by using diminishing perspective and emphasising a strong diagonal can be significant.

I noticed at the end of Part 1: The Frame that I’ve used diagonal lines a lot in my own work on the course so far. Sometimes I’ve done this deliberately but often it’s been quite subconscious. I seem to be drawn to them. I might yet do a ‘research and reflection’ post on this subject…


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