Horizontal and vertical lines

Horizontal and vertical lines

As discussed in the Multiple points blog entry, several points within the frame are viewed as being joined together to suggest lines and shapes. This exercise looks specifically at lines, horizontal and vertical.

Freeman (2007) notes that, like points, lines establish location within the frame. However, lines are considered to have stronger graphic qualities than points as lines can convey the dynamic features of direction and movement.

Take four photographs that illustrate horizontal lines and four photographs to depict vertical lines. Try to avoid repeating the context in which the 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.

 Horizontal Lines

Freeman (2007) believes that the horizontal line is often considered to be the baseline in composition. Reasons for this include-

  • our frame of vision is horizontal, horizontal lines are easily the most comfortable for our eyes to scan.
  • the horizon line is a fundamental reference point, considered to be a base that supports.

In turn, horizontal lines are generally thought to express stability, weight, calm and restfulness. Präkel (2006) agrees, stating that of all lines, horizontal lines are the most stable. He notes that horizontal lines respond to gravity, they appear to be at rest and motionless.

Horizontal bridge-1_edited-1

Horizontal 1- Bridge, Safa Park

Horizontal 1-While there are a few vertical elements to this image (the trees, lamppost, bridge supports), it is the horizontal lines of the bridge that are strongest, due to the clear contrast with the lighter background.

horizontal railings at marina_edited-1

Horizontal 2- View through railings to Marina

In this scene I used a shallow depth of field, f3.5, to help place the focus on the foreground detail, the horizontal railings. The light colour of the railings, contrasted with the darker water and sky in the background helps emphasis the horizontal lines. I decided upon a vertical format to include more rails,  and therefore more horizontal lines into the frame.
wires BW_edited-1

Horizontal 2- Power lines in the desert.

Pylons and power lines are a frequent sight in the desert area just outside of Dubai city. I took this photograph out of the window of a moving car. The movement added motion blur to the shot, which, I think, has made the power lines look very fine, delicate and wispy. Again, the light shade of the horizontal lines enables them to stand out well against the darker sky.

vapour trail BW-1

Horizontal 4- Vapour trail across sky

 I took this shot from the balcony of my apartment. The higher-up perspective this allowed helped me to make to place the buildings in front quite low in the frame.  This helps place focus on the horizontal line of the vapour trail.

Vertical lines

Freeman (2007) believes that the vertical line is the second primary component of the frame. Reasons for this include-

  •  it is naturally seen as being in alignment with the edges of the frame. A vertical form sits more comfortably in a vertical format, while a series of verticals becomes a horizontal construct.
  • a vertical line is the main element in an image of a human figure or a tree. Its direction is the force of gravity, or something escaping it.

Without the supporting base of a horizontal line, vertical lines usually contain a sense of speed and movement, in either up or down directions. A series of verticals can be viewed as a barrier or post, and could be viewed as expressing power or strength.

Vertical 1- The Address Hotel, Dubai Marina

This image contains many vertical lines. Areas of shade and tinted windows create strong vertical lines, while the bold white vertical feature at the front of the building draws the eye up and down it’s height. The vertical format of the frame also helps to emphasis these features.

Vertical 2- Flag poles

I attempted this shot several times but couldn’t quite get the perspective I was looking for with my wide-angle lens. I changed lens and took this shot at 95mm. I decided to use a shallow depth of field to keep the focus on the initial vertical, a flagpole, with the other verticals gradually blurring into the background.

dhow vertical

Vertical 3- Dhow vessel

This tourist vessel, a traditional styled dhow, contains many vertical lines. I framed this shot tightly to try to emphasis the vertical features of the door, windows and rails. On close inspection you will see that many of the vertical lines are not in align with each other. For me, this does not make the verticals a weaker element; it adds interest to the image and raises questions about the boat traditions and design.

Vertical 4- Decorative columns

These columns are a decorative feature in a park area close to where I live. I took the photograph from a low perspective to emphasis the columns height and to persuade the eye to follow the vertical lines they contain, upwards towards the decorative detail and beyond. I included a section of the sky in the upper right hand corner to encourage the sense of travelling upwards too.

The angle of this shot and the use of a wide-range lens means that the verticals in this image could also be considered to be diagonals.


While undertaking Assignment One- Contrast, I found it difficult to choose, what I would consider to be, an interesting subject for straight, However, by breaking straight down further into horizontal and vertical lines during this exercise has helped me to see photographic opportunities in many places.

This exercise has also helped me appreciate the importance of exact alignment with the frame edge when working with horizontal and vertical lines. When I reviewed my photographs at home I found that several of the lines were slightly off and required straightening during editing.

It is interesting to note that several of the photographs I had taken contained both horizontal and vertical lines, although I did try to emphasis one over the other. Freeman (2007) states that together, horizontal and vertical lines are complementary. He quotes the painter and teacher, Maurice de Sausmarez, describing a vertical above a horizontal as ‘producing a satisfying resolved feeling, perhaps because they symbolise the human experience of absolute balance, of standing erect on level ground’. I consider the photographs, ‘Vertical 1- The Address Hotel, Dubai Marina’ and ‘Vertical 3- Dhow vessel’ to be good examples of verticals supported by a level surface.

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne: AVA


One thought on “Horizontal and vertical lines

  1. Pingback: Diagonals | catherinefinniganphotography

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