Category Archives: 06 Dividing the frame

Exercise: Positioning the horizon

The brief:

To find a viewpoint outdoors that gives you a reasonably interesting landscape in which there is an unbroken and clear horizon. View the scene through the camera and consider the different positions in which you can arrange the horizon line in the frame. Take a photograph of each so that you end up with a short sequence in which the horizon is ranged from top to bottom.

Finding an unbroken and clear horizon is almost impossible here in Vancouver where I live as the city is surrounded by mountains, water and in the distance, islands with more mountains. So I headed down to Ambleside beach, one of the very few places where I could get a semblance of a horizon, albeit with mountains in the far distance. My outing was squeezed in between rainstorms, so the scenery is not as vibrant as it can be on a bright, sunny day. The peninsula that is jutting out on the horizon is Vancouver West and at the very tip the location of the University of British Columbia. In the distance behind the ships is Vancouver Island with its mountains.

I took a series of 6 photographs from the same position, hand holding the camera.

Figure 01 - horizon top

Figure 01 – horizon top

This was the highest I could get the horizon in the frame without changing position. There is a lot of sand and messy driftwood foreground in the photo, which detracts from the horizon.

Figure 02 - horizon slightly above centre

Figure 02 – horizon slightly above centre

With the slight decrease in the amount of foreground the horizon is receiving a bit more attention. A few more clouds are visible which also helps to draw attention to the upper half of the frame.

Figure 03 - horizon a little above centre

Figure 03 – horizon a little above centre

The foreground has decreased quite dramatically and the photo is looking more interesting.

Figure 04 - horizon centre

Figure 04 – horizon centre

In Figure 04 the horizon is in the centre of the frame. The photograph lacks tension and if it wasn’t for the cloud formation, would be very static.

Figure 05 - horizon below centre

Figure 05 – horizon below centre

With the horizon below the centre in Figure 05, the image is now beginning to develop a visual tension. More focus is on the sky than the foreground.

Figure 06 - horizon bottom

Figure 06 – horizon bottom

I would probably have been able to put the horizon on the final photo a little lower if I had changed my stance slightly. In comparing Figure 05 with Figure 06, it seems that I did, in fact, shift a bit, possibly one side step, as I now have a third log in view at the bottom right corner of my frame. However, I did not want to lose the figures in the foreground as I think they create an interesting anchor point in the frame. The boat that has just entered the frame also provides another point of interest. There is definitely more visual interest in the sky in Figure 06, with the rain clouds rolling in over the sea.

The horizon placement in these images probably work in each scenario, but I definitely prefer Figure 06, with the emphasis placed on the sky which has more visual interest than the grey sea.


Exercise – Balance

The brief:

Take half a dozen of your own already-taken photographs and decide how the balance works in each one. Look for what seems to you to be the dominant part (or parts) of the image. Identify them in a small rectangular sketch and alongside sketch the ‘weighing scale’ interpretation.

Figure 01 - Balance 01

Figure 01

Balance scaleI have identified three dominant parts to the image in Figure 01. The Hotel Europe (centre) is balanced equally by the buildings and large tree on either side. Although there are cars in the foreground I do not regard them as being dominant, but rather providing secondary visual interest.

Figure 02 - Balance 02

Figure 02

Balance scaleIn figure 02 it is clear that there are two dominant parts in this image, namely the woman in the pink dress and the colourful mural on the wall that she is looking at. Her gaze confirms this. The building behind the painted wall simply continues the visual line of sight. This is an example of dynamic or asymmetrical balance.

Figure 03 - Balance 03

Figure 03

Balance scaleAnother example of dynamic balance is featured in figure 03. The woman wearing sunglasses and the man in the hoodie behind her form a cohesive dominant part of the image and therefore I have grouped them together, while the woman on the left just entering the frame forms another dominant part.

Figure 04 - Balance 04

Figure 04

Balance scaleFigure 04 is an example of a centrally balanced image.

Figure 05 - Balance 05

Figure 05

Balance scaleAnother example of dynamic balance: the man’s torso and the puppet are the two most important components of this image.

Figure 06 - Balance 06

Figure 06

Balance scaleAlthough there are many dominating components in figure 06 I feel that the main balance lies between the two individuals seated on the bench and the high rise buildings on frame right as they are diagonally opposite each other. The buildings are darker and taller than Canada Place (the white structure in the middle) and if one looks carefully in the square I have marked around these buildings, one will see that Canada Place originates in this square, so it is really an extension of that section. I also feel that the colour plays an important part in determining dominance, white being a recessive colour and tends to blend more into the background.

I found this exercise quite difficult for a number of reasons – sifting through a ton of images to make a few selections is a daunting task at the best of times. (Maybe I will keyword my future images with balancing terminology in future). There is so much to consider when considering balance – it isn’t just about the weight of the image, but also about tone, colour rhythm and tension. As stated by Freeman in The Photographer’s Eye (p. 42), “the more extreme the asymmetry, the more the viewer expects a reason for it.”