Exercise: Horizontal and Vertical Lines

The brief:

Produce four examples of vertical and four of horizontal images, avoid repeating the way in which a line appears. The aim of this exercise is to find some of the different ways in which horizontal and vertical lines appear to the eye and camera.


Figure 01 - Vertical sign post

Figure 01 – Vertical sign post
f5.6, 1/640, 24mm, 100 ISO

This photo in figure 01 was shot at a local community garden close to my house. I was immediately drawn to the contrasting colour of the rusty decorative post and the bright green grass with the backdrop of the bright blue (very rare in this part of the world) sky. I was careful to align the vertical of the rusty post with the side of the frame.  I feel the repeating vertical chain link fence to the left of the post, as well as the vertical trees behind the garden enhance the verticality of the photo, thus creating a sense of order. A very slight crop was performed in Lightroom to remove some white space to the right of the gate post next to the post, the contrasted was boosted a little and some clarity added.

Figure 02 - Vertical - The Drop

Figure 02 – Vertical – The Drop
f8.0, 1/160, 180mm, 100 ISO

Figure 02 was shot from on board a cruise ship in Vancouver’s harbour looking onto the Vancouver Convention Centre. It is a view that is only seen by those flying by in a float plane, or helicopter, or from a cruise ship. The blue vertical sculpture is called The Drop and it is by the German public art group Inges Idee, four artists – Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas Schmidt and George Zey, and this is their first installation in North America. It stands 18 metres high and pays homage to the elements of water, or more plainly put, the amount of rain we get in Vancouver. Although there are strong horizontal lines in the photo I feel that The Drop dominates the image against the muted colours of the building. The vertical posts supporting the platform under the sculpture also add to this strength as do the line of black umbrellas behind it. A sense of scale is provided by the man in blue jeans standing next to the sculpture.

Figure 03 - Vertical - Container Cranes

Figure 03 – Vertical – Container Cranes
f8.0, 1/320, 55mm, 100 ISO

As our ship set sail for Alaska, I managed to take this photo (figure 03) of the large orange container cranes with the four rows of stacked containers and accompanying overhead cranes. This is a good example of parallel verticals in a horizontal frame, as stated by Freeman “parallel verticals frequently fit better into a horizontal frame, which gives them a greater spread — important when there is a need to show a quantity” which is exactly the case here. The solid horizontal base of the pier provides the necessary counter balance to these heavy machines.

Figure 04 - Vertical - Waterfall, Tracy Arm, Alaska

Figure 04 – Vertical – Waterfall, Tracy Arm, Alaska
f8.0, 1/320, 55mm, 200 ISO

Vertical lines occur in nature as well, as can be seen in figure 04 of this vertical waterfall coming down a cliff in the fjords of Tracy Arm, Alaska. The surrounding thick moss provide a decorative frame for the waterfall as it plunges down the rock into the glacial waters below evoking a sense of awe at the untouched beauty of this wilderness.


Figure 05 - Horizontal - Bench

Figure 05 – Horizontal – Bench
f8, 1/160, 35mm, 100 ISO

This red bench (figure 05) in the community garden caught my eye and I particularly liked the layered backdrop of shrubbery and the vertical cyprus trees behind it, as well as the colour contrasts. I should have stepped back a fraction as I now notice that I cut off the tip of the bench’s cement support closest to the camera.

Figure 06 - Horizontal - Steps

Figure 06 – Horizontal – Steps
f6.3, 1/125, 100mm, 100 ISO

The large concrete steps at the Vancouver Public Library in figure 06 form solid horizontal lines providing stability to this image and dominate the lone figure sitting there in a semi state of undress examining something in his hand. I converted this image to black and white as colour does not play a significant role here.

Figure 07 - Horizontal - Glacier rock

Figure 07 – Horizontal – Glacier rock
f8, 1/160, 135mm, 200 ISO

The bright green glacial water of figure 07 forms a solid horizontal anchor layered on top of which is a contrasty horizontal caramel striation at the base of the rock followed by solid grey and cream lines, which is offset by clumps of green moss on the rock face. The serenity of this abstract-like image is further balanced by the centre vertical striation.

Figure 08 - Horizontal - Mist

Figure 08 – Horizontal – Mist
f8, 1/1600, 140mm, 200 ISO

My final photo is one of those images that the more I look at it the more I like it. It was taken in Steven’s Pass in Alaska. There are a lot of horizontal lines happening in figure 08. The grey sea forms a two-toned horizontal base layer, while the island on the left forms another horizontal layer with a thin layer of white mist in the far distance. A blue mist (yes, it was really blue) floats across the scene just behind the island, while a thick cloud socks in over the mountain range. This scene evokes a sense of mystery and foreboding.

Horizontal and lines lend stability and calmness to an image, while vertical lines tend to create more movement and and eye activity through the image. Very rarely, though, will we find one without the other close by in support.

Reference List

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press. Lewes, England.

View on Canadian Art, (2010) Vancouver Art: The Drop [online] Available from http://viewoncanadianart.com/2010/04/18/vancouver-art-inges-idees-the-drop/ [Accessed 7 July, 2014]