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Monthly Archives: March 2015

The question is where to place the horizon and why.

The horizon as an element of the composition can change the story of the photograph just like any other object, therefore it can make or break the image. Shifting the horizon by tilting the camera up or down can alter the entire balance of the scene. Other elements can help to decide where to place the horizon, if it is something interesting in the foreground, the horizon will be positioned higher, if there is something captivating about the sky (background), the horizon will inevitably be placed lower.

7. Positioning the horizon 1.

1. High horizon line

7. Positioning the horizon 2.

2. Centre placed horizon

7. Positioning the horizon 3.

3. Low horizon line

I took these photos on a holiday in Portugal, it doesn’t look particularly impressive, but the fact is that these are the famous cliffs at Cape St. Vincent, the historical End of the world. I prefer the first photo with a high horizon line showing the most of the rocks as that’s the purpose of the photograph. The midday clear sky only appears as a block of colour which overpowers the other two pictures, the centre placed horizon creates a very static composition, definitely boring and unbalanced arrangements.

 

High horizon line positioned on the upper third of the picture using Rule of thirds

4. High horizon line positioned on the upper third of the picture using Rule of thirds

Centre placed horizon

5. Centre placed horizon

7. Positioning the horizon 6.

6. Low horizon line positioned on the lower third of the picture using Rule of thirds

The next morning I took few more photos on the beach near our hotel. Starting with the fourth picture, the rocks on the beach give enough interest to tilt the camera down so as the photographer in the far distance, the clear morning sky doesn’t add much to the composition, there are only few clouds, therefore I placed the horizon line high considering the Rule of thirds to create a balanced arrangement.

I wanted to see dramatic lights so I went back in the late afternoon. As the sunset progressed, gorgeous colours appeared and created this astonishing scenery. This time I used a tripod to be able to use slower shutter speed to smooth out the water and reduce distraction in the image. On the fifth image I captured a single rock as a foreground element but I also wanted to keep large part of the colourful sky so I decided to place the horizon right in the centre. Usually this creates a static composition, however in this case, diagonal lines are produced by the colours, shadows and the white line possibly created by an airplane, overall it seems dynamic. Unfortunately the rock in the foreground fades into the shadows, I couldn’t increase the exposure any more because I would have lost the beautiful tones of the sky, I should have moved to the left a bit more to get some light from the sun or perhaps I should have considered using a flash. Anyway I will try both next time.

I quickly composed the last photo before it became completely dark, the foreground is nearly black, the attention is on the upper two thirds of the picture, the first star also appears more brighter than on the fifth picture giving more interest to the sky, placing the horizon on the lower third seemed appropriate.

I think the last 3 photos worked better than the first 3, perhaps having lots of different elements in the frame is better than only one or two, considering the Rule of thirds when composing the shot also helped to achieve a better proportioned picture in the last three cases, and of course, the light is much more interesting at sunrise or sunset than under the harsh midday sun. However the very first image could have been a good one by capturing more of the cliffs with an extreme wide angle lens or maybe from a distant point of view, but still keeping the horizon very high. I think I could have achieved tonal balance between cool and warm tones. I will definitely be experimenting with this in the future.

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Balance is the sense of harmony, a well-composed image which seems pleasing to the viewer’s eye. For this exercise I had to choose six already-taken photographs and analyse how the balance works in each one of them. Photos are interesting to study from a different points of view, before the course I have only seen photographs as good or great but I didn’t really know what makes them special and these exercises are making me look at them with a different eye which I rather enjoy.

Two unequal objects - shelves

1. Two unequal objects – shelves

 

 

Balance 1 final

The vase on the small shelf adds to the visual weight, creating balance with the large shelf on the right.

6. Balance 2.

2. Two unequal objects – the tree and the sea (Prasonisi, Rhodes)

The small part (tree) is placed on the left edge of the frame to create dynamic balance [2] with the large part (sea) which is closer to the centre. I also noticed that the amount of green colour is also in balance with the amount of blue tones in the photograph.

6. Balance 3.

3. A large centre placed and two symmetrical objects – The sea and the Greek columns

Balance 3.

The static balance [3] is created by the two columns placed symmetrically into the composition, creating a perfect frame for the large object – the sea.

6. Balance 4.

4. Two unequal objects – the peach and the yellow watermelon plate

Balance 4.

Similar to the second picture, the peach on the left side helps to create a balanced image with the watermelon plate.

 

 

6. Balance 5.

Two (or three) unequal objects – Volcanic rocks, Mount Teide, Tenerife

 

 

Balance 5.

Similar to the previous image, placing the large rock slightly off centre gives a balanced composition with the smaller rocks closer to edges of the frame. The warm tones of the rocks and the cool sky blues are also in balance.

6. Balance 6.

One object in the centre of the frame – Blue jellyfish

Balance 6.

The subject is in the centre of the picture, the weight distribution is even, creating static balance. Although there are more jellyfishes in the frame, they are not upsetting the balance of the image as they are all out of focus in the background only giving the sense of depth, lights in the vast darkness.

Every single photo I used for this exercise was taken before I read anything about balance or composition, I composed them instinctively and fairly quickly, most of them were taken on a holiday. I realised I tend to take photos with only one or two objects creating simple compositions and I haven’t really been experimenting too much with greater amount of subjects, maybe I deliberately avoiding them thinking it’s too difficult.

Now I also spend more time analysing, what I see and what I want to see on my photograph, before pressing the shutter button. I noticed that I haven’t really paid much attention to colours and lines either at that time however I discovered tonal balance between cool and warm tones in some cases and in the future I definitely will look for different compositional elements in order to achieve more interesting and more creative photographs.

[2] [3] Freeman, Michael (2007) The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press

Usually I go out or arrange something at home to photograph, but that day it just presented itself, I only needed to look out the window… It was a miserable day, very dark and rainy, and there was the sunshine coming through the clouds for a brief moment – quite bizarre weather conditions – and then the rainbow appeared. That’s when I shot this with the Canon 15-85 mm kit lens on my Canon 60D.

15mm

15 mm

I took this photograph from the top floor window, unfortunately the 15mm wasn’t wide enough to capture the entire rainbow and I couldn’t move back otherwise I would have had the window frame in the picture as well. The wide angle separates the trees and the houses well, creating a sense of depth.

35 mm

35 mm

50 mm

50 mm

85 mm

85 mm

As the focal length increases, the angle of view decreases, compressing the scene, the trees in the background appear a lot closer to the houses than they actually are. As I changed the the focal length, I focused on the left side of the rainbow as it was more visible and dramatic, dividing the sky into two sections, and the chimneys also became a point of interest.

This exercise made me realise that the character of the picture can be easily changed by using various focal lengths, just as placing the subject to different positions within the frame. Depending on where I want to guide the viewer’s eye, I can zoom in and magnify an element, perhaps barely visible, it becomes the centre of interest, a completely different image with different qualities, inevitably changing the purpose of the photograph.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, beautiful soft light was coming through the window giving a nice contrast between the bright white walls, the window sill and the tiny flower pot, the background is fairly even and free from clutter, potentially good enough to be the subject for the next exercise.

2. Object in different positions in the frame 1.

Conventional viewpoint

This was the first picture I took, I concentrated on only one flower head, the most beautiful part of the subject, that was the first thing that came to mind, but I also wanted to capture the plant itself, like a close-up portrait focusing on the subject’s eye. I did not pay much attention to the background here, If I would have a macro lens, I would probably have taken a picture of the flower head only. The bright weather, the way the light hits the flower and a bit of green colour from outside suggest it is spring or summer time, giving a mood-boosting feel about it. On this occasion I used the 30mm Sigma lens with my Canon 60D.

 

Right in the centre

Right in the centre

Placing the subject in the middle provides stability and usually lacks of dynamic tension however in this case the window, window frame and the window sill create diagonal tension [1], they would converge into one line, if they would be extended towards the left side of the picture, far away from the viewer, creating greater sense of depth. The vertical lines aren’t distorted much because of the viewpoint, the lens is pointing above the flower, just around the midpoint of the lines, the starting and the ending point are approximately the same distance from the viewer. The flower’s reflection in the window also adds interest, although stepping back to capture the entire mirror image would have been more effective. Comparing to the first picture, I have mixed emotions about it, positive and perhaps lonely feelings as we can see more detail of the background, but there is nothing else there, only the plant.

 

Off-centre

Off-centre

This is very similar to the first picture I have taken without thinking too much about the composition, however I stopped down the aperture just to get most of the flower in focus and to include more of the background, but the subject is still clear and isolated from its surroundings, lowering down the horizon giving more attention the background even if it is blurry, still indicates the season change just as much as the opening flowers.

 

Close to the corner

Close to the corner

I find myself often shooting in vertical format, when the subject’s shape requires it, maybe because I like to get close and fill the frame. In this case I thought it would definitely be better to take a horizontal shot to get a more satisfying composition. I wanted to exclude the edge of wall and the window sill on the bottom left corner, initially I thought it is distracting, but it adds more power to the image. Placing the subject close to the corner emphasizes the vastness of space, the large white area represents emptiness, it is strange how a blank space can change the entire meaning of the picture. I prefer the last image in terms of composition and generated feelings, the flower has stronger connection with the background than on any other image. The first and the third picture are less powerful, there isn’t much to think on, too simple arrangement.

In the end of this article I realized that I haven’t taken all pictures from the same distance – way too late I know – allowing the subject to occupy the same amount of space within the frame, giving the same chance of connection with the surroundings, so I took some more photographs, this time it was my valentine’s day flower bouquet photographed from the same distance and angle. Although I placed the subject carefully into the frame for each required composition, I still think the flower pot is working better with its background, maybe because the light was much more dramatic. All things considered, I think I managed to illustrate different types of relationship between the subject and its background.

[1] Freeman, Michael (2007) The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press

The first

Conventional viewpoint

Right in the centre

Right in the centre

Off-centre

Off-centre

Close to the corner

Close to the corner