Art of Photography

Rob Townsend


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Exercise – Implied lines

Brief:

1. Find and indicate the implied lines in two given photographs
2. Repeat the exercise with three existing photographs of your own
3. Take two new photographs demonstrating (a) an eye-line, and (b) a line that points, or the extension of a line

Equipment:

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

Results:

1. Given images:

corrida

corrida lines

Corrida

Here the dominant implied line is the movement of the bull, followed by the swish of the cape. The head-down stance of the concentrating matador produces an eye-line implied line too.

horses

horses lines

Horses

The diagonal leaning in of the two horses gives a very strong implied line here. The movement of the handler from right to left is perceptible but a little less strong.

2. Existing images:

2012-02-26

beach lines

Beach

The combination of the shade provided by the nearby cliff and the connecting line of the person and the dog produces an implied line from bottom-right to centre-left.

DSC03548

bike lines

Bike

The diagonal angle of the rider coupled with the white line give a strong sense of the direction of travel.

train

train lines

Train

The lines of the train converge on the figure in the background giving a feeling of direction and velocity.

3. New images:

alley

alley lines

Alley

Here the shaft of light coming in from the bottom-left points directly at the figure moving from the background to the foreground.

eyeline

eyeline lines

Eye-line

Even though the eyes are not visible, this over-the-shoulder shot invites the viewer to look at what she is photographing herself, which leads the viewer’s eye to the boats on the other side of the river.

What I’ve learned:

I found this exercise a little more challenging than the previous ones, as I find it easier to identify reasonably obvious lines than implied ones (not surprisingly). So this took a little bit of thinking about and a certain amount of trial and error. However, once I stepped through the first part of the exercise it made the second part easier as it made me look at my own photos in a slightly different way. This in turn gave me a better idea on how to seek out such implied lines for the new images in the third part. Implied lines is not something I naturally look for in images, so I need to add it to the ever-increasing list of things to consider before pressing the shutter! But I have found this exercise interesting and will keep this concept in mind in the future.

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Exercise – Curves

Brief:

Find four examples of curves that emphasise movement and direction. The curve should be prominent and ideally be the first thing the viewer would see. Make note of the different ways in which curves appear to the eye and the camera.

Equipment:

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

Results:

Sea wall

Sea wall

Sea wall: a classic example of shooting from above and relatively wide (24mm) to really emphasise the sweep of the curve in the road. It gives a good feeling of depth to the image.

Piano

Piano

Piano: a low and close take on the sweeping side of a grand piano, to emphasise its curves. To me this evokes the sense of listening to it being played, the ebb and flow of the notes (if that doesn’t sound too synesthetic!)

Drapes

Drapes

Drapes: I saw two complementary curves in this image: the drapes themselves, and the shaded arch created above it by the lighting.

Staircase

Staircase

Staircase: a little similar in style to the sea wall image, but this time working in the vertical dimension. For this I shot from low down and wide (18mm) to get as much of the bottom-to-top sweeping curve in the frame. I see a secondary set of curves in the metalwork of the railings, in a rhythm that is reminiscent of footsteps up and down the stairs. There is a further set of curves in the leaves of the plants to the lower right.

What I’ve learned:

I found this exercise similar to the diagonals in as much as I found myself seeing examples everywhere I wasn’t expecting too; the world is full of curves (or certainly the part of it I’m in). I tried to limit my shooting to those images where the curve added a sense of movement and/or depth, and helped to guide the viewers eye around the picture.

As with the diagonals, the images that I felt were more successful were the ones that encouraged the viewer to move around the picture in a particular way. Curves help to do this in a similar way to diagonals, if a little less directly.

As with the last two exercises, I am increasingly aware of how the photographer can influence the reaction on the part of the viewer through the choice of specific elements of graphic design. It’s becoming clearer to me when, and how, to use different kinds of lines to drive the eye around the image.


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Exercise – Diagonal lines

Brief:

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.

Equipment:

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

Results:

Handrail

Handrail

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

Sundial

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

Shutters

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

Steps

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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Exercise – Horizontal and vertical lines [take 2]

I did this exercise earlier today but decided after posting that I wasn’t happy with it, as the subjects chosen were too obvious. So I’ve redone it. The original post is still there, in the interests of honesty!

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; Leica X1 24mm.

Results:

Horizontals first:

Horizon

Horizon

Yachts

Yachts

Skirting

Skirting

Canopies

Canopies

In redoing this exercise I made more of an effort to find horizontal lines that weren’t too literal. I looked for images where the horizontal line was clearly identifiable, but was at least in part brought out by the composition that I chose. Once my eyes were opened to this concept, I did manage to find four examples where the horizontal line is visible.

Now onto the verticals:

Palm tree

Palm tree

Pillars

Pillars

Kerbstones

Kerbstones

Tower

Tower

Second time around I was looking out for examples where the vertical aspect of the image was clearly evident, without it being simply a photo of a vertical line. I am happier with this second attempt, as these are all photos of something (rather than abstract lines) but the vertical element is clearly identifiable.

What I’ve learned:

The learnings are broadly the same as my first go at this exercise, so I will repeat them here.

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 can be 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 tower) 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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Exercise – Horizontal and vertical lines [take 1]

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.