Thursday, January 27, 2011

Composition - Multi-Horizontal lines

As you might surmise, with the use of the single horizontal line it's difficult to make it a most predominant feature of an image. But with the use of many horizontal lines then we are able to use its effect and by breaking the image into parts create more varied areas of interest.
The banding can create tension between layers especially when compositional form is different either through colour or texture. There is almost the perception of a wall between the layers keeping elements at bay. 

The image of the sunset over a frozen lake demonstrates this banding and contrast effect between layers.

The number 3 is a strong design element and with other odd numbers. I guess its easier to find the  middle  with odds.

There is first the 3 layers of Sky, Earth and Water.
The brightness of  the sun and the darkness of treed landscape and the mid-tones of reflected light.
With texture there is the smoothness of distant shoreline, the speckled nature of the ice and the in-   between texture of the sky (smoothness and edges). Each major band is of a different size and colour and each has its own mini bands in between. The ducks on the ice, while not quite on the thirds, add the uniqueness to the image.

Contrast in its many forms is one of our primordial attention gathering tools.

Multi Horizontal Lines
While many of the attributes are the same as with single lines, there are some changes in our perception because now, with many scenes, there's tension created between bands and this gives the scene some potential energy.

less stable
more on-hold than timelessness

Just after a thunderstorm was passing over in downtown Toronto and with a low horizon sun, the reflections changed dramatically on the glass walls on the office towers. One building's normal tint caused its reflected light to turn a vibrant green.  Below the windows were white tile panels and with the green windows created vibrant visual image. There was a section where white diagonal tiles traversed the building and this created a strong focal point. Its abstract, not to every one’s taste but with the varied texture in each of the green bands there is nice detail found by gazing around.

 The edges of the white tiles help to compliment the lines of the larger bands.

More often we tend to see multi-horizontal lines in shorter lengths, especially around buildings.

The bottom image, which I have hanging in my own home, was an interesting study in different textures found on a concrete structure. The horizontal lines of the grooved lines, block work and the flat of steps all form a cohesive pattern of permanence. This stable pattern is contrasted with the diagonal  movement of the hand rail which is re-enforced for the diagonal tips of all the blocks and stairs.

In looking for images to use, I found that this was not a feature that I had used often.
It tended to show up in wider angle landscape images. Like the sunset photo there are distinct horizontal lines and bands in the photo below. There is some stability created by the bands but some tension is created with the singular lone boat out in the vast expanse set against the dark storm clouds and augmented with the wave like hill lines in the distance.

Contrast and conflict create interest within photos, and compositional elements are only aids to set apart or unify various parts of image. When developing images,   these aids help to identify areas that re-enforce the photographer’s vision.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photography and Composition

Compositional elements, sometimes used as rules or guidelines to aid with creation and understanding of good photographs, is really more about human life. It is our collective memory about all that we have seen and felt, which conveys to us at an instinctual level, how we will interpret symbols. That can be found within a mass of  different shapes, sizes and colours.

Some symbols are obvious, such as the boat.  But how about directional arrows formed by triangles in the sky or on land and the directional action of waves guiding the eyes - even placement within a grid of thirds.
The boat was originally white but I liked the turquoise as it adds a little more interest, and red would have been too strong for a more tranquil scene. There was no dogging or burning of any areas to enhance triangles. But if needed, I would use these techniques to increase the effectiveness.

Horizontal Line

The most simplistic of all elements is the straight horizontal line.

I am sure that most of us are familiar with looking out over a vast expanse such as prairie fields or the open ocean, and seeing far in the distance, the earth's horizon. The eyes filling evenly above and below. That horizontal thin line seems to balance the forces between the two.
At this distance, any change in nature can take hours to manifest and therefore at normal viewing moments, seems as stable as the rocks of the earth.
Most dynamic things are upright such as animals, trees, buildings, and when at their end of life, they all lay flat on the ground. 

This gives the horizontal line emotional impressions, such as

In this picture, a rule is broken (never having an even split between sky and earth) but here the centre is the focal point and the joining line (horizon) ties all the posts and buoys together. If you look closely you will see birds on almost every post and this is the final focal interest. Works well in large print.

It is rare that any single compositional element will define the entirety of the image but there are some abstracts. More often, they are used as tools to set mood, guide direction and fix attention.  Many elements may work in harmony to create a pastoral scene or in conflict to help focus the viewers thought on differences.
In the above image the very obvious horizontal line created by the white-stone brick work, anchored by the window and sign, sets up a contest for attention with the shadows of the tree which delays  easy recognition and thereby longer gaze at photo.  Next the '59' number, which are strong attention symbols, takes us to the corner of the image but our interest is drawn back inwards along the tree branch shadows then to the window, a focal point. Here we stop to look inside as human nature dictates.

These are all compositional design pieces that hopefully help to keep viewers attention on photograph.

While there are core principles for each element, I also think that these can be influenced by our lifestyles and where we live.

I would love to hear your perceptions on how you see its effects.

Niels Henriksen


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