Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis


Posted in art, awareness, photography, technique by Jason Gray on June 23, 2010

“In painting, the curve is a hill; in photography, the hill is a curve.” -Arnaud Claass

In art of all kinds, line draws the viewer’s attention towards the main subject. This device is an age old tool, and one which was particularly useful to the painters of the Renaissance (discoverers of perspective), who developed definitive strategies for moving the eye across the canvas. In this case, line acts as a sort of sign, which provides instructions on how the artist intends the viewer to advance through the work of art. Photography is no different, and it is worth the photographer’s attention to mind how lines form and what they say when he/she is composing the picture.

Essentially, there are two types of line:

1. Real Lines, or lines that are physically visible (telephone poles, edges of buildings, etc.)

Example 1:

Example 2:

2. Implied Lines, or lines created by non-physical factors (pointing gestures, a person’s gaze, etc.).

Example 1:

Example 2:

In addition to understanding what lines exist for a composition, it is important for the photographer to grasp how directionality can affect the mood of the work. (Note: Mood is loosely defined as the overall emotional effect of a work of art or the characteristic feeling which dominates the scene within a composition.)

The three axis representative of directionality, and how they each affect the work are as follows:

1. Vertical Lines convey a sense of grandeur and dignity.

Example 1:

Example 2:

2. Horizontal Lines suggest peace and stillness.

Example 1:

Example 2:

3. Diagonal Lines heighten energy and tension.

Example 1:

Example 2:

When taking these rules into consideration, it is important to know that they can be broken and they can be bended. Also, it is sometimes an effective tool to orientate your picture so that it contradicts, strengthens or re-interprets the lines held within it. For instance, if you have a largely horizontal line dominated subject, and you want to emphasize its grandeur (maybe as architecture), you could compose your shot vertically and thereby alter the mood. Whatever you do, trust your instincts. “Doubt is the sharp awareness of the validity of alternatives.” -Philip Guston

Coming soon: Shape


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  1. […] Composition- the arrangement of elements in a photograph Posted in photography by jasongrayfineartist on June 23, 2010 1. Line […]

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