Category Archives: 10 Lines

Exercise Curves

The brief:

Curves, like diagonals, have a sense of movement and direction, and in some ways can be considered a kind of diagonal line. Because they pull the eye in, they are useful in planned composition. Curves have associations of smoothness, grace and elegance, and so add these feelings to an image. For this exercise, look for and take four photographs using curves to emphasise movement and direction.


Fig. 01 Curves - Vancouver Public Library

Fig. 01 Curves – Vancouver Public Library f6.3, 1/800, 55mm, ISO 100

It was one of those very overcast days when I took this photo of the inner courtyard of the Vancouver Public Library. The building is built like an amphitheatre so curves abound in this building. I deliberately framed the shot so that both walls would begin in the top corners of the frame so as to emphasise the sweep of the curvature of the walls. Post-processing took place in Lightroom where I boosted the contrast to 100, brought my highlights down to -100, boosted my shadows to 100 and added 100 clarity, giving it almost an HDR effect. This brought out the details in the sky and building, drawing attention to the beautiful pillars and details in the concrete work and brought out the colour in an image that would have been very flat and muddy.

Fig. 02 Curves - Orchid

Fig. 02 Curves – Orchid f2.8, 1/60, 50mm, ISO 100

Curves occur in nature and the orchid’s petals are graceful and fanlike, the dark veins forming the ribs which come together at the base. No post processing done on this image.

Fig. 03 Curves - Wood

Fig. 03 Curves – Wood f8, 1/50, 30mm, ISO 100

A big, discarded tree trunk has been languishing in our alley for a few years and begun to rot, but I have been intrigued by the patterns and texture for some time so I decided to photograph it for this project. The disintegration process is so far advanced that the trunk no longer has concentric rings visible, but rather S-curves, which are punctuated by dark holes made by insects or woodpeckers. Some post-processing was done in Lightroom, mainly adding some contrast, bringing up the highlights and shadows and raising the black to emphasise the texture.

Fig. 04 Curves - Canada Place

Fig. 04 Curves – Canada Place f8, 1/250, 24mm, ISO 100

The iconic sails roof of Canada Place (cruise ship terminal) are practically a Canadian symbol. During Christmas and on special occasions these sails are illuminated with different colours. Normally one views them from afar and from a much lower viewpoint, so I was very pleased to be able to photograph this roof at eye level when we departed for our Alaskan cruise recently. The gracefully curving sails are reminiscent of the sails of a tall ship and they contrast with the horizontal green canopies and vertical posts below. The undulating pattern of curving sails carry the eye through the image. In Lightroom I boosted the contrast, pulled the highlights down to bring out the details in the clouds and lifted the shadows a tiny tad.

Reference List

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

Kelby, Scott (2014). The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 book for digital photographers, New Riders.

Exercise: Diagonals

The brief:

Diagonal lines are rather easier to create in a photography as they depend mainly on viewpoint. Whereas many scenes contain real horizontals and verticals – streets and buildings, for instance – there are few real diagonals; staircases are one of only a few instances. The camera angle and perspective, however, make diagonals common in photographs. To add to your set of examples of horizontal and vertical lines, now take four photographs which use diagonals strongly.

Figure 01 - Diagonals - Chuck Wagons

Figure 01 – Diagonals – Chuck Wagons
f8, 1/640, 22mm, 400 ISO

On a recent visit to a berry farm I found this display of chuck wagons next to a strawberry field which are used as supplementary restaurant seating during warmer weather.  I was reminded of my native country of South Africa’s history where the migrant farmers would circle similar type wagons (only bigger) in order to provide protection from marauding tribes. The diminishing perspective leaves one wondering if there are any more wagons circling off to the left. As it had been an extremely grey day, I experimented a little during the post processing in Lightroom, and dragged down my highlights, boosted the shadows and added lots of clarity. This brought out the detail in the clouds and enhanced the wooden texture of the chuck wagons. I also cloned out a couple of flagstones that were next to the second wagon that were quite distracting. I’m quite chuffed with the result.

Figure 02 - Diagonals - Canada Place

Figure 02 – Diagonals – Canada Place
f8, 1/640, 55mm, 100 ISO

I was determined to treat my holiday as a working vacation so I was always on the lookout for items to fit the coursework criteria. So imagine my joy when I stepped onto the top deck of the cruise ship and looked down on these layered diagonal lines. The zig zag pattern of the stairs provide a rhythmic motion to the image, which is accentuated by the diagonal underside of the staircase and the lamps on the stairs. These are further accentuated by the solid upright posts (positioned in a diminishing perspective) supporting the beam and balcony. Just a slight crop and contrast adjustment was done in Lightroom.

Figure 03 - Diagonals - Wake

Figure 03 – Diagonals – Wake
f8, 1/2000, 70mm, 200 ISO

Early in the morning, just before entering Tracy Arm, I noticed this wonderful undulating pattern of the ship’s wake as it broke through the water. The undulations form diagonal ripples across the frame before veering off into the distance creating a sense of calm. I only adjusted the contrast slightly, dropped the highlights a tad, opened up the shadows a bit and added a bit of clarity to this image using Lightroom.

Figure 04 - Diagonals - Lions Gate Bridge

Figure 04 – Diagonals – Lions Gate Bridge
f8, 1/320, 18mm, 100 ISO

Upon returning to Vancouver, the ship has to go under the Lions Gate Bridge to enter the harbour and this was taken as the ship sailed under the bridge. The bridge is two kilometres long stretching over the narrows between Stanley Park (a 400 hectare rain forest right in the heart of the downtown core, which was also just recently voted as the World’s Number 1 park in the world by Tripadvisor)  and the North Shore. At the bottom left of the frame the city is just coming into view.  The diagonal of the bridge is reinforced by the two diagonal streaking white clouds in the sky.


Reference List

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

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 [Accessed 7 July, 2014]