A place to think about composition in photography

Posts tagged “boats

Increasing the tension in a picture

The landscape view

I liked this view of the boat, looking at it from below against a blue sky is an effective device.

Isolating the prow of the ship and including the mooring lines in the frame helps create a simple composition.

There is literal tension from your knowledge as a viewer that the mooring lines are stretched taut:

Picture of white ship against a blue sky

Landscape picture of a moored boat

The Portrait View

I like this view even more.

Using the portrait format allows an even more dynamic view.

The tension in the picture is increased because including more of the mooring lines makes it look as though the ship is rearing upwards trying to pull free from its restraints.

portrait picture of a moored boat

portrait picture of a moored boat


Playing with Horizons

The horizon doesn’t always have to conform to the thirds convention.  Memorable photographs can be created with horizons placed very high or very low.  The effect of this is to emphasise the foreground or the sky.

The interesting stuff happens when we leave out the horizon altogether.  Have a look at this photograph:


At first sight this seems like a perfectly ordinary picture.  The more you look at it, the more it seems slightly surreal.  This is caused by the fact that there is no horizon in this photograph.

Why the viewer is engaged

We are so accustomed to seeing the horizon line that the viewer invents one where none exists.

The first assumption the viewer makes is to place the horizon line at the water line of the large boat.  This creates a problem because this makes the small rowing boat seem to float above the boat.  Then what about the floating red and white buoys?

The gaze searches above for a horizon line to make sense of all this but cannot find one. The viewer has to work a bit harder and build a three-dimensional plane on which we know everything must float and that means the horizon must lie beyond  the frame of the picture, it must be there surely….?

All this happens very quickly as we take in the image but the first impression of calm familiarity gives way to unease about where are the real reference points in this photograph and this creates an atmosphere of gentle mystery that holds the attention of the viewer.

I’ll return to this theme in future posts because we all need a little mystery in our world of seeming certainties.