PROJECT – LINES
EXERCISE 1. HORIZONTAL, VERTICAL, DIAGONAL AND CURVED LINES
While I was looking for subjects to illustrate lines in images, I was very taken by stacks of straw bales, large round bales and lines of cut stalks in local harvest fields. It was a windy day of cloud and sunshine and the light was constantly changing with the movement of the clouds. I used two Canon 7D bodies, one with a 100 – 400 zoom telephoto lens to create foreshortened images and one with a standard 17 – 85 zoom lens for closer work. The shorter lens was fitted with a polarising filter in order to increase the contrast in the sky and to reduce light bounce off the straw bales. I shot in both RGB and Monochrome and increased the contrast in order to get a range of images and to bring out the detail. I also visited Abercastle harbour as I remembered that there were boats moored with mooring lines that might provide additional images. In order to broaden the range of subjects I also photographed a few local cottages in soft evening light.
As the day progressed, my camera with the 17-85 mm lens started showing ‘error’ messages suggesting that the contacts needed cleaning and the images were coming out with the wrong exposures. I changed the lens for a wide angle for a few shots and the error messages stopped and the exposure was no longer incorrect. I also cleaned the contacts on the faulty lens and the ‘error’ messages returned. The problem must therefore be rather more fundamental and within the lens itself. Looks like a new lens is required!
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1. SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS – PEMBROKESHIRE LANDSCAPE
The horizon forms a strong line here dividing the land and the sky and the line of trees and hedgerows on the horizon strengthens the effect of the line. The use of the polaroid filter enhances the contrast of the clouds and the blueness of the sky whilst the sunlight striking the fields on the left provides a contrast with the darker land on the right. The positioning of the horizon 1/3rd from the bottom and 2/3rds from the top of the frame was intentional as it emphasised the dramatic sky and avoided including more of the less interesting stubble field.
2. STACKED POTATO BOXES, TREFELYN FARM, MATHRY
In the corner of a local field I found these stacks of empty potato boxes. The patterns they formed interested me. The horizontal lines are created by the slats and associated gaps running through these stacks of potato boxes and they provide a strong stabilising and connecting element within the image. The stability created by the horizontal lines is offset somewhat by the different angles, varying vertical gaps and contrasting shades and textures which add to the interest of the image and prevent it from becoming just a grid like a chess board.
I spotted this table in a local shop and was taken by its unusual construction and the way the colours of the stones which formed the base were changed when viewed through the glass top. It seemed to me that it created an image that was surprising and that could not be identified at once, thereby raising interest and questions. Rather than placing the horizontal edge of the top nearer to one of the margins of the frame, I chose to place it just off centre which I felt made for a more dramatic and surprising image. To me, it also worked better just below the centre line rather than just above.
4. SIGN BY CATHEDRAL CAR PARK – ST DAVIDS
This sign adjacent to the car park at St Davids cathedral caught my eye when I was out on an early morning shoot. The early morning mist and the fact that I was using a telephoto lens helped to make the sign stand against the background. I think that what drew me to the subject was the fact that the sign created a frame with the light and delicate vegetation within contrasting with the heavy solidity of the wood uprights and cross piece. The horizontal element could dominate the scene if it were placed lower in the frame where it would form a base. Placing the high in the frame enables the
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1. STRAW BALE STACKS, LONGHOUSE, TREFIN
This shot of stacks of straw bales in the field of stubble has both horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines and I was struck by the different emotions that they generated. I intentionally placed the nearest rick in the ‘rule of thirds’ position as it seemed to have greatest impact there and it also allowed me to include the two other ricks in the frame. The positioning of the nearly horizontal horizon just below the centre line was intentional as I wanted to obtain a balance between the sky and the field so that neither dominated thereby giving more weight to the ricks. I chose a lower view point so that the ricks were starkly positioned against the sky as much as possible.
The vertical lines provided by the sides of the two left hand ricks is mirrored and enhanced by the vertical side of the frame and create a sense of strength and solidity to that area of the image. In contrast, the diagonal lines of the sides of the leaning rick on the right of the image give an appearance of weakness and impermanence that is rather unsettling. The diagonal lines of the stubble lead the eye deep into the image towards the furthest, leaning rick whereas the bright, near- horizontal band of sunlight links the 3 ricks and draws the eye back towards the ricks on the right hand side of the image.
2. ROADWAY WITH TELEGRAPH POLES – TREFIN
Only closer consideration of this photograph there are a number of lines, some obvious and others not so, which all contribute to the overall impact of the image. The image is dominated by the strong vertical lines of the telegraph poles which create a frame for the curving roadway and hedge. Apart from the top and bottom edges of the frame, the only horizontal lines in the image are the wire connecting the two nearer poles which creates an upper edge to the frame for the roadway, and the invisible but implied line joining the tops of the three blocks of hedgerow. Other implied lines, this time diagonals, are created by the tops of the poles on either side of the road which focus attention inwards towards the disappearing point of the lane. This leading of the eye towards the vanishing point is heightened by the diagonal line of the wires joining the poles on the right of the road, but the effect is softened by the fact that the wires form curves rather than straight lines which would have created a very rigid feel to the image. The fact that some of the poles are naturally slightly off the vertical also softens the effect somewhat and creates and air of slight instability and tension.
3. STONE STAIR CASE AT STRUMBLE HEAD
When viewed in terms of lines, both overt and implied, within this shot of a stone staircase at Strumble Head, there is a lot going on as there are horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines involved. The central vertical line created by the interface between shadow and sunlight running up the centre of the staircase is itself composed of short diagonal lines. The staircase itself also appears to be a vertical line from this particular angle of view but with diagonal sides to form a long rhomboid shape. The red hand rail and the tops of the surrounding walls also provide obvious diagonal lines whereas the treads of the staircase introduce a flight of horizontal lines. The tops of the walls on the skyline also provide a horizontal line, the continuation of which is implied across the gap at the head of the staircase. The austerity of the image is reduced and the interest enhanced by the zigzag line of shadow running up the centre and the contrast between the sunlight on the left of the image and the darker shadow on the right.
4. COTTAGE WALLS, TREFIN
The vertical line created here by the corner of the cottage is emphasised by the contrasting paintwork used on the two walls. This central and dominant line is mirrored and enhanced by the other secondary verticals created by the window on the left and the shadow on the right. The presence of the diagonal lines in the right hand shadow and in the interfaces between the cottage walls and the roadway add movement and interest as they lead the eye to the base of the central corner from where the verticality of the corner takes the eye up to the top of the image and then round again to the shadow. If the diagonals were not there the image would not have the interest and impact that it has. I took this in evening light in order to get the soft tones and the long shadows.
5. OPTICAL ILLUSION IN PAINTED BRICKS
I couldn’t resist including this shot again because it shows, as with some previous images in this project, both vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines within the image. Whereas the vertical lines created by the colour contrasts and the edges of the brick columns are the dominant feature of this image, there are secondary semi-implied vertical lines created by the vertical joints between the bricks. Horizontal lines are formed by the upper and lower joints between individual bricks and more subtly still there are diagonal lines created by the joints between layers of bricks on the lateral surfaces of the columns. These diagonal lines lead the eye both back into the depth of the image and forwards towards the front of the picture depending on ones perspective – indeed, they create an optical illusion whereby it is difficult to be sure what relationship in space the different elements of the subject have with each other, and in that way the image is reminiscent of pictures by M C Escher, especially his flights of stairs. (See http://www.mcescher.com/)
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These cottages have, understandably, been the subject of many local and visiting artists’ paintings and photographs. There are not many places that allow a photographer to capture the full image of the cottages as there are a number of power lines, poles and bushes in front. This angle creates converging diagonals which lead the eye into the picture and give a great depth of field to the image. The diagonals create interest, movement and energy to the photograph which would not be present if the shot had been taken face on. The shot was taken during the evening under dull light conditions to give a softness and an almost monochrome effect reminiscent of the work of the local painter John Knapp Fisher. (http://www.johnknapp-fisher.com/Home.html) I have it in mind to take a series of photographs of local cottages and scenes in the manner of John’s paintings to market as cards and prints.
I could not resist including this shot even though the light rain has spotted the lens thereby taking away something from the image. All the diagonal lines created by the rows of stubble, the edge of the standing corn and the distant hedgerow lead the eye back to the group of trees and distant farmhouse on the horizon. Even the slightly downward sloping horizon leads in to this point. I used a tripod, a slow shutter speed and a very narrow aperture of f/29 to get the depth of field.
3. THE OPEN SEA BECKONS – ABERCASTLE
The converging diagonal lines of the edges of the slipway channel the eye down to the water’s edge and out towards the open sea. The downward sloping diagonal lines of the headlands and the implied direction of the moored boats (with one exception!) also focus the eye on the exit from the harbour where the white cloud adds interest and focus. For this shot I used a narrow aperture of f29 to get maximum depth of field and a polaroid filter to reduce glare from the sea and to provide greater contrast in the sky. I set WB to ‘cloudy’ to boost colours.
My main purpose in visiting Abercastle was because I remembered the mooring ropes and thought that they would make interesting diagonals for inclusion in this Exercise. I first tried to photograph them from the inshore end of the harbour but found that taking the shot from the seaward end towards the beach made for a more interesting image. I chose the red rope to place at the front of the shot as it provided foreground interest as well as layering and depth to the image. The main diagonal lines, the mooring ropes, lead from right to left from the dark rocky shore, whose angle they mirror, towards the light open sea and out of the frame. However,he main focus of the image, which draws the eye back into the picture, is the central group of houses behind the beach and the centrally placed nearest boat which strengthens the attention on the focal point . The downward sloping diagonal of the hillside on the right of the houses takes attention down to this focal point as do (to a lesser extent) the diagonal lines associated with the houses on the extreme left of the frame. Although it was pure chance, I like the way that the red colour of the rope is picked up by the red of the right hand boat.
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1. A SECOND CUT – LATE HAY, MATHRY
This field of newly mown and rowed grass was a ‘must have’ for the Lines exercise as well as being a lovely image in itself. The curious variations in the straight rows were a gift to create additional interest and to raise questions (why did the farmer feel it was necessary to make these minor diversions?). I used a 100-400mm telephoto lens set at 400mm to focus attention on the mown field and to avoid unnecessary additional peripheral detail from encroaching. This allowed me to place the bush and hedgerow in the bottom of the image to provide layering and foreground interest. In addition, the dark and dense block created by these elements provides a valuable contrast to the soft, light texture of the curving rows of mown grass and creates a solid base on which the image stands. Both the curving lines of the rows and the curving angle of the hedge lead the eye down the image and towards the right hand margin.
2. AT ANCHOR, ABERCASTLE
The curving lines of the boat itself and of the shadow were what immediately caught my attention in this subject, particularly as the effect was in part transitory. The shadow below the side of the bow only formed a large curve like this when the boat was at a certain angle to the sun, and as it rocked, the angle to the sun and hence the shape and size of the shadow changed constantly. For the purposes of my image and its appeal, it was essential that I caught it when the curve and size were at its maximum. It was only later that I noticed the strong diagonal lines of the seat plank and the board in the bows. Not only do these diagonals bring excellent contrast with the softer curves but the tone and colour of the shadow on the side of the seat matches the shadow on the side of the boat and adds to the patterns created by the various lines within the image.
3. FLOODING TIDE, ABERCASTLE
I was attracted by the water swirling into and around this tyre as each wave reached it at the top of the tide line. I used a 100-400mm telephoto lens and a tripod to take the shot and set a slow shutter speed of 1/20th sec in order to blur the water. The water curving around the tyre brings the eye from the top (back) of the image to the bottom (front) and the water falling in an arc into the centre of the tyre also creates a focus there. The curve of the tyre also leads the eye around in a circle from the back to the front and back again. The curves and arcs create a sense of movement and interest. The water has a curious over-exposed quality to it and yet the tyre appears to have been correctly exposed possibly as the spot meter was centred on the tyre. I believe that although this was unintentional, the lighter water frames the tyre well and makes it stand out.
4. LET SLEEPING LOGS LIE
I couldn’t resist the image of these logs stacked in a neighbour’s garden. Not only were the somewhat curved shapes unconventional and interesting, but the way that they were seeming to nestle together, almost spooning round each other, created a sense of calm and intimacy from what are clearly rather rough and hard individual pieces. The almost monochrome palette, which I tweaked somewhat in post production processing, also enhances the sense of rest, calm and togetherness.
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