Category Archives: Part 2- Elements of Design

Rhythms and patterns

Rhythms and patterns

When several similar design elements are grouped together in an ordered way, they form repetition. Visually, repetition has a very strong appeal and is a necessary ingredient of both rhythm and pattern.

Rhythm- Freeman (2007, p48) uses a musical analogy to describe visual rhythm. He compares the beat of a piece of music to an optical beat of a picture, whether the beat may be regular or of variations similar to each other.

In addition to repetition, rhythm also requires time and movement of the eye to be appreciated. The eye needs to establish the rhythm and then follow its flow through an image.

Pattern- Like rhythm, pattern is based on repetition. However, it is associated with area and not direction. Freeman (2007, p50) notes that patterns encourage the eye to roam across a picture’s surface and not to move in a particular way.

Simply put, rhythm is concerned with dynamic repetition while pattern is, essentially, spatial repetition.

Produce at least two photographs, one should convey rhythm and the other, pattern.

This photograph shows rhythm on a very simple basis. The natural tendency for the eye to view things horizontally encourages the eye to begin at the left of the frame, establish the rhythm and follow it through the photograph. In this case the eye follows the curve across the frame but, somewhat disappointingly, it does not lead the eye to anything of interest. There is direction, flow, and a steady, though predictable, optical beat. Freeman (2007) advises that when rhythm is predictable it can be a little boring. To avoid this an anomaly which interrupts the rhythm in the image can make a photograph stronger and more dynamic.

Rhythm 1.

Rhythm 1.

After considering this advice I composed the photograph below. The beat here is steady, moving left to right through the image, though much less predictably than the first photograph. The vertical bars on the windows draw the eye upwards towards the decorative design above. The designs alternate and then in the last window, there is no design, an anomaly that provides the break to the rhythm. By placing the break to the rhythm in the right side of the frame the viewer first has time to establish the rhythm. The Gestalt Law of Good Continuation (Freeman, 2007, p39) states that the mind tends to continue lines and shapes beyond their ending points thus the viewer would be encouraged to assume the continuation of the rhythm of the windows and designs beyond the short phrase in view.

Rhythm 2.

Rhythm 2.

As I noted earlier, pattern is built on repetition; however, it differs from rhythm in that is associated with area, not direction. The strongest patterns are those that fill the frame, allowing the eye to continue the pattern beyond the frames edge. Following this advice I have composed the next two photographs allowing the pattern to extend beyond the frame sides.

This next photograph illustrates a regular pattern, a side view of a basket I have at home. Numerous horizontal and vertical lines have been woven together to create the uniform pattern. When there is a larger number of elements in the frame (such as the lines in this weave) the sense of pattern becomes stronger than a group of individual objects (Freeman, 2007, p50).

Pattern 1.

Pattern 1.

In the photograph below, I noticed this pattern on the side of a car park building. On first glance I assumed it was a regular pattern, then with closer inspection realised that, while there are some elements of repetition, the pattern is quite irregular. I actually find this pattern of more interest than the image, ‘Pattern 1’. Perhaps because, as Präkel (2006, p73) suggests, rhythms and variations of alternating patterns are of more interest than patterns featuring simple repetition, which can become compositional clichés.

Freeman (2007, p51) notes also, that if objects, or in this case elements, are grouped closely the irregularity of the arrangement may not appear quite so disorganised as would first seem.

pattern 2

Pattern 2.

Prior to beginning this exercise the differences between rhythm and pattern in photography seemed difficult for me to fully grasp. However, the music analogy provided by Freeman (2007, p48) and in particular the ‘rhythm and stop’ explanation made the difference clearer.

As I now prepare for Assignment 2, I will try to use the advice of Präkel (2006, p73) on photographing pattern. As mentioned previously he suggests that photographers should attempt to capture the rhythms and variations of alternating patterns, but also try to convey something about what is being photographed.

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

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

Real and implied triangles

Real and implied triangles

 Produce two sets of triangular compositions in photographs, one using a ‘real’ triangle, the other making an ‘implied’ triangle.


A subject which is itself rectangular, or a detail or something larger

A triangle by perspective, converging towards the top of the frame.

An inverted triangle, by perspective, converging towards the bottom of the frame.


A still-life arrangement of 5-6 objects to produce a triangle with the apex at the top.

A still-life arrangement of 5-6 objects to produce an inverted triangle with the apex at the bottom.

An arrangement of three people so that their faces or bodies make a triangle.

6 photographs in total

 The course notes describe a shape as both an outline and an enclosure. Shapes can be regular, easily identifiable with a geometric outline, or irregular. The more regular a shape appears, the stronger the part it plays in the composition.

 Triangles are a more common graphic element than any other shape. Freeman (2007, p84) describes the reasons for this as

  •  they are simple to construct or imply, only needing three points in any arrangement other that a straight line
  • the effects of perspective make convergent diagonals common in photography, particularly with a wide-angle lens.
  • They have such a strong shape that it appears easily to the eye. Two lines are often enough, the third can be assumed or replaced by the frame edge.

Triangles are the most basic geometric shape as they have the least number of sides. As an element of design, triangles have the interesting combination of being both dynamic and stable. Dynamic, due to the diagonals and corners, and stable, on condition that one side of the triangle is a level base.


A subject, which is itself rectangular, or a detail or something larger.

Triangular roofs, Dubai

Triangular roofs, Dubai

I spotted these triangle shapes on the roof of a hotel on the beach. I climbed stairs on the opposite side of the street to gain some height, allowing the activity of the street to be eliminated, the triangle faces of the roof to be clearly seen and a glimpse of the sea to be seen in the distance. The afternoon sun also cast shadows from the roofing creating soft diagonal shadows on the side of the building. All the triangles in this image have stable bases. I particularly liked the way the base of triangle in the left side of the frame appears to be sitting on the horizon line. The overall effect relays both dynamism and stability.

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triangular roofs

A triangle by perspective, converging towards the top of the frame.

triangle by perspective

A natural tendency for linear perspective in for lines to converge on a vanishing point in the distance, forming two sides of a triangle. This can be seen in this photograph, which I took with my wide-angle lens set to 32mm and pointed upwards from the base of the high-rise building towards the top. Two sides of a triangle can be seen as the building contrasts well against the bright sky. The inverted corner detail on the building also creates two side of a further triangle shape, the third side can be assumed.

triangle by convergence

triangle by convergence

An inverted triangle, by perspective, converging towards the bottom of the frame.

Inverted triangle by convergence

As the course notes suggested, creating a triangle converging towards the bottom of the frame, by perspective, took some thought. After some research and practise, I achieved the task.

I took this photograph from underneath a bridge, which spans Dubai Marina. I pointed my camera upwards with the lens set to 40mm.

Freeman, (2007, p86) notes that this configuration of triangle, with the apex at the bottom, is considered to be less stable, be more aggressive and contain more movement than a triangle with a level base.

inverted triangle by convergence

inverted triangle by convergence


 A still-life arrangement of 5-6 objects to produce a triangle with the apex at the top.

Triangular rose arrangement

Triangular rose arrangement

 I decided to arrange flowers for this section of the exercise. I selected small red roses, a clear glass bud vase and a plain white base and background. This simple composition was chosen to ensure that the dark flowers would contrast well against with the neutral background, allowing the triangular shape to be prominent. After some measuring, trimming and arranging I took this photograph, close to a window to use natural light. I placed the triangular flower and petal arrangement in the foreground to add some interest to the composition. However, I used selective focus and an aperture of f/5.3 to ensure the arrangement in the vase was the main point of attention. It was only later, when writing up this exercise that I realised that I could have also ensured that the triangular arrangement in the foreground also had its apex at the top.

A still-life arrangement of 5-6 objects to produce an inverted triangle with the apex at the bottom.

Inverted traingle roses arrangement

Inverted triangle rose arrangement

I decided to continue with the still-life flower theme but varied the arrangement slightly to meet the exercise directions. I again, measured, trimmed and arranged the flowers, this time with the apex of the triangle at the base of the arrangement. I arranged a rose bud and some petals in the background to add interest to the composition, however it was only later that I realised this triangle was also inverted, something I hadn’t done with the first arrangement. Of the two arrangements, I like this one more. Possibly due to the triangular shape being mirrored in the background. Perhaps due to the movement that inverted triangles can bring to a photograph, or maybe due to the framing in this image placing the focus strongly on the arrangement, and shape, of flowers in the vase.

 An arrangement of three people so that their faces or bodies make a triangle.

Golfing triangle

Golfing triangle

 I took this photograph while attending the recent Omega Dubai Classic golf tournament. The bodies of the three golfers create points, which can be connected to create a triangle shape. The inverted, precariously balanced shape holds tension, which I think, reflects the game at play.

implied triangle

implied triangle

Things to consider

  • Consider altering your viewpoint, for instance, lowering the camera or tightening the framing. When planning the shot of the triangular roofs I sought out a higher viewpoint to remove the street activity from my frame.
  • Changing lighting
  • Rearranging the objects in view. In the shot of the inverted triangle under the bridge the overall image could have been stronger had the boats been eliminated. Perhaps by framing the shot vertically I could have achieved this.

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

Implied lines

Implied lines

Having explored horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved lines I will now consider some of the ways that they can be used in photographic composition.

The eye is inclined to follow a line. The more active a line is, the stronger the encouragement for the eye to follow it.

When discussing lines, Präkel (2006, p44) advises that lines can be a real or a virtual construct, such as an optical line that connects points. The process of the eye and brain working together to complete things, or close gaps is aligned with the Gestalt Law of Good Continuation. This law states that the mind tends to continue lines and shapes beyond their ending points (Freeman, 2007, p39).

Virtual lines, known as implied lines can be created by visual clues such as-

  • a row of points
  • the extensions of a line, or line, which seems to point in a certain direction
  • the extension of visible movement
  • the direction in which someone in a picture is looking, known as an eye-line.

Implied lines can be particularly useful in composition as they can be used to subtlety direct a viewer’s attention.

PART ONE- Look at the two photographs and find the implied lines in each, showing them in a sketched diagram. If the direction of a line is dominant, indicate this with an arrow.

1. In the photograph above there are several implied lines, which I have noted on the photograph. The direction in which the bullfighter is looking, produces an implied line while the direction the bull is traveling creates implied lines as an extension of visible movement. The swish of the bulls tail caused by the movement also creates an implied curved line. The sweep of the bullfighter’s cape establishes a strong diagonal line in the bottom right of the frame which seems to extend beyond the cape by aligning with the curved marking on the ground. The section of the cape in the upper right hand side of the photograph produces ‘real’ lines, which the eye seems to look beyond and extend.

Slide62. The implied lines I noted in this photograph are largely a result of movement and eye-lines with dominant directions, indicated by the arrows.

The man is looking ahead at the two horses, while his body suggests he is moving towards the animals. The horses appear to be looking at a point above and beyond the man, while their diagonal posture suggested to me that they were running in a curved direction.

PART TWO- Select three photographs of your own, and perform the same analysis.

1. The implied line in this photograph is created by the row of points (buoyancy aids). The eye follows the row around the curves and moves ahead to the buildings in the background.

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Beach, Dubai

 2. Again, the implied line is created by a row of points, in this case, trees. A curved line is formed at the eye travels from the foreground of the photograph to the background. This curved implied line also mirrors the slight curve of the pathway behind the trees.

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Safa Park, Dubai

3. In this photograph the implied lines are formed as an extension of ‘real’ lines pointing towards the boats in the middle ground. The lines and the overhanging trees create a rough circle shape in the centre. This is aligned with the Gestalt Law of Closure, which states that elements roughly arranged together are seemed to complete an outline shape as the mind seeks completeness (Freeman, 2007, p39).

View to Dubai Marina

View to Dubai Marina

PART THREE- Plan and take two photographs that use the following implied lines to lead the eye:

  • an eye-line
  • the extension of a line, or lines that points


Eye-lines are one of the most valuable implied lines that can be used in composition, for several reasons. Freeman (2007, p58) notes research by Deutsch and Deutsch (1963) on visual perception, which proposed “importance weightings” as an important factor in visual attention. Generally, certain visual elements will attract people more than others because of prior experience and knowledge. The human face is a subject, which has strong visual weight, especially the eyes and the mouth. Eye-lines also exemplify the Gestalt Law of Good Continuation in action as the viewer follows a person’s line of view to see what may be of interest.

  • Girl at Dubai Marina

    Woman at Dubai Marina

    For this part of the exercise I went to Dubai Marina looking for suitable subjects and scenes. I have very little experience of taking photographs of people aside from snapshots of family and friends so this exercise gave me a nudge to go out and get some practise.

    I took this shot of a woman looking across the Marina towards the yachts and high-rise building in the background. I used my telephoto lens set to 78mm with the aperture set to f/5 to keep attention focused on the woman, sharp against the blurred backdrop.

    While the viewer may not have direct eye contact with the woman in the photograph, the strong visual weight the human face holds will encourage the viewer to follow her gaze across the Marina seeking for clues as to what might hold her attention.


Gone Fishing, Dubai Marina

Gone Fishing, Dubai Marina

When I first came across this scene my eye was drawn to the diagonal line of the fishing rods. I considered the active nature of diagonal lines and how the more active the line, the stronger the encouragement for the eye to follow it. I spent some time viewing the scene from various angles through the viewfinder and waited for a boat to pass on the other side. The shot shows the diagonal line of the rods pointing to the yacht and their tips aligned with the horizontal line of the walkway on the far side of the Marina. I included the vertical mooring poles at each side of the frame to add some dynamic balance to the composition.

This exercise has been beneficial, as it has given me some insight as to how the properties of different lines can be used in photographic composition. While, implied lines cannot guarantee that a photograph will be viewed in a specific order they can be helpful as a design element, which can subtlety prompt or steer a viewer’s attention.

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

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



Like straight lines, curved lines also hold graphic qualities, however, their characteristics differ quite significantly. The unique feature of a curve, as discussed by Freeman (2007), is that is contains a progressive change of direction, avoiding any direct comparison to the straight edges of the frame. The progressive quality that a curve holds gives it rhythm, and a sense of movement and speed.

Curved movement is seen to be smooth and flowing, and expressively conveys a sense of elegance, gracefulness and gentleness.

Look  for and take four photographs using curves to emphasis movement and direction.

Metro rail line

Metro rail line

This photograph shows the metro line as it stretches away from the station, curving around the bend, and then disappearing from view. While there is no visible activity in the image, there is a sense of movement as the eye follows the rails and fencing along its length.

Path in Safa Park

Path in Safa Park

The hard edges on this path formed two definite curved lines. They curve to the left, leading the eye in this direction. I also noted several gentle curves, created by the top of the treetops and the suggestion of curves formed by the overhanging tree boughs.

Stacked sun loungers

Stacked sun loungers

This photograph shows a tower of stacked sun-loungers side-on. The viewpoint emphasises the curved lines of their design. Freeman (2007) describes a curve as to be thought of as a series of straight lines at progressively changing angles, which I think can be seen here. The eye is encouraged to follow the smooth rhythm of the curves as they rise and fall.

metro ceiling_edited-bw

Curved ceiling, metro station.

Here, the curved lines of the metro station’s design can be seen. While this shot also shows some strong diagonal lines, I have included it here to compare these with the curved lines.

Both diagonals and curves have a quality of movement. The diagonals here appear to connect to create zigzags, which are active and encourage the eye to move along them. However, the curves here are gentle, and the uninterrupted, smooth flow contributes to sense of movement and speed. The movement the diagonals convey is dynamic and active while the curves express elegance and grace.

The eye finds it pleasing to look at and follow the line of a curve; this makes curved lines an extremely valuable element of design. All of the examples I have shown for curves have been ‘real’ curves. Freeman (2007) explains that curves are harder to introduce into a photograph than diagonals, but it can sometimes be achieved by implication. While I have not come across the opportunity to capture this with my camera yet, I am aware of it now and will keep my eyes open for appropriate opportunities to experiment.

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


Diagonal lines

While many scenes can be found that contain true horizontal and vertical lines, there are few real diagonals. Camera angle and perspective can be used to create diagonals in photographs. I noted an example of this in the previous exercise, horizontal and vertical lines, where shooting from a low angle, along the length of the vertical column, it appeared diagonal.

Freeman (2007) and Präkel (2006) both agree that of all lines, diagonals are considered to be the most dynamic. Compared with the relative solidity of horizontal and vertical lines, diagonals appear unstable. This instability creates unresolved tension which, in turn, brings movement, direction, speed and, overall, life to a photograph. The photographer is also offered more freedom when working with diagonals, as there is no need to align the line with the frame edges as one would with horizontal or vertical lines.

Take four photographs which show diagonals strongly.

Diagonal - emergency stairway

Diagonal 1- Emergency stairway

I took this photograph while walking on a pathway underneath a high-rise building. While the stairway viewed side-on is a true diagonal, the oblique angle the shot was taken gives the illusion that the horizontal elements are also diagonal. The shadows caused by the late afternoon sun extend the diagonal beyond the frame edge. The overall effect is a zigzag, which Präkel (2006) describes as being representative of concentrated energy.

Diagonal 2- Arrangement of trees

Diagonal 2- Arrangement of trees

I noticed this cluster of trees in a local park. Had I taken the shot from a point a few metres you would see a row of trees planted in a linear fashion. However, from this angle, a diagonal arrangement can be noted. The wide-angle lens has created a diminishing perspective, which adds a sense of depth and distance.

Diagonal 3- Waterfall

Diagonal 3- Waterfall

Again, I took this photograph while walking in a local park. The water cascading could have been photographed as a vertical from a face-on position, but from this angle a diagonal was created. A slow shutter speed of 1/20s helped to blur the moving water, the whiteness of the diagonal contrasting well with the dark rocks, behind and on each side.

Diagonal 4- Sun canopies

Diagonal 4- Sun canopies

I took this photograph with my Panasonic Lumix camera, which has a long telephoto range. This image was captured at a 207mm efl, capturing a series of parallel diagonals at reducing distances apart. Freeman (2007) notes the power of wide-angle lens in making diagonals appear stronger but also advises that telephoto lens can also be useful when photographing diagonals. A long focal length can help stress a specific part of a diagonal by giving a selective view, as can be seen in the photograph above, ‘Sun canopies’.

Diagonals, whether true or created by camera angles or lenses, insert a sense of direction and movement into a photograph. As a graphic device they add a sense of activity and catch and carry the viewer’s eye along their length.

The following are a few examples of diagonal lines I came across whilst looking at photographs in some of the recommended TAoP course books. For ease, I took a quick shot of each with my mobile phone camera.

From Stephen Shore’s book, The Nature of Photographs (2007),

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Thomas Annan, ‘Close, No.61 Saltmarket’ (1868-77)

In this photograph the diagonals run along the length of the narrow passageway where the wall meets the ground and are repeated in the brickwork on the wall. The eye follows these lines towards the black void at the end of the alley.

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Robert Frank ‘View from Hotel Window-Butte, Montana’ (1954-56)

The diminishing perspective of the buildings and the length of the road create the diagonals here. The eye follows the length of the road seeking out details in the distance.

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Garry Winogrand ‘World’s Fair, New York City’ (1964)

There are multiple diagonal elements in this photograph, the kerb, the bench, the row of people, the bushes, and the pathway in the background. The mannerisms of the people on the bench and the people walking on the rear pathway all contribute to a sense of perceived movement and activity.

From Charlotte Cotton’s book, The Photograph as Contemporary Art (2009)

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Katy Grannan ‘Joshi, Mystic Lake, Medford, MA’ (2004)

The tree trunks create the strong diagonals in this photograph. They divide the frame into three sections, establishing a ‘frame’ within the frame in which the model is posing. Unresolved tension is created by the precarious angle the tree sits at.

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Yang Yong, ‘Fancy in Tunnel’ (2003)

The diagonals here, created by the numerous tiles, contribute to a sense of depth and distance. They draw the viewers away from the woman to the darkness at the rear of the tunnel and the dark figure standing there.

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Jeff Wall ‘Passerby’ (1996)

The horizontal lines of the kerb and path running away from the eye create the diagonals. This creates a sense of depth and distance, which is strengthened by the darkness at the far end of the street.

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

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

Thomas Annan (2007) Close, No.61 Saltmarket, 1868-77. [photograph] In The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore. London: Phaidon Press Limited, p99

Robert Frank (2007) View from Hotel Window-Butte, Montana, 1954-56. [photograph] In The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore. London: Phaidon Press Limited, p6

Katy Grannan (2009) Joshi, Mystic Lake, Medford, MA, 2009. [photograph] In The Photograph as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton. London: Thames and Hudson, p216

Garry Winogrand (2007) World’s Fair, New York City, 1964. [photograph] In The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore. London: Phaidon Press Limited, p111

Jeff Wall (2009) Passerby, 1996. [photograph] In The Photograph as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton. London: Thames and Hudson, p49

Yang Yong (2009) Fancy in Tunnel, 2003. [photograph] In The Photograph as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton. London: Thames and Hudson, p155




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

Exercise- Multiple Points

Set up a still-life with 6-10 similarly sized objects, each compact in shape. The background should be unfussy but not entirely plain. Add one object to the arrangement at a time, recording each position with the camera. The aim is to produce a final grouping, which is not so obvious as to appear boring, but hangs together visually.

In the previous exercise I looked at positioning a single point in the frame. By introducing more points into the frame, imaginary optical lines connecting the points are created. These imaginary lines can also create implied shapes.

I decided quite quickly to use earrings and other small jewellery beads as the ‘points ‘ for this exercise. Deciding on the background and arrangement took much more time. I found out as Freeman (2007) states that when positioning several objects the order and placement can be very demanding. I rearranged the still-life and points many times before I decided upon the composition below. I fixed the camera onto a tripod and pointed it down to face the tabletop.

I arranged two small jewellery boxes to add some context to photograph. I positioned the boxes at opposite diagonal corners with a small pendant spilling from one. This was to be my initial point. It wasn’t until later that I realised that the placement of the boxes had created an implied diagonal across the frame.

1 point

1 point

I then began to add additional points, one at a time. I was aware at the time that I wanted to create an arrangement that suggested the pieces of jewellery had spilled over from the boxes but I consciously avoided placing the points too close together as I wanted the details in each piece to still be seen.

2 points

2 points

3 points

3 points

I was aware at this stage that the point had formed a line, so I placed the fourth point in the, as yet empty, space in front of the large box. I didn’t realise until I looked at the photographs later that this had created a triangle.

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4 points

4 points

5 points

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6 points

At this step positioning the points required quite a lot of thought and I tried several different options before selecting this arrangement for points 7 and 8.

DSC_0169 copy

7 points

DSC_0171 copy

8 points

On studying the final photograph, I noted several ‘lines’ and ‘shapes’ that the points had created. More than I was aware of while positioning the points and taking the photographs.

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First viewing

On first viewing I noticed that 2 strong triangle shapes had emerged. Interestingly, one of the triangle sides is created by an implied line from the pendant to the hasp on the larger jewellery box, which I hadn’t considered to be a point while arranging the composition.

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second viewing

On further reflection I also noticed that I had unconsciously continued the diagonal line created by the larger box (see yellow line). This seems to have acted lie a boundary line, as I haven’t placed and points beyond it. Similarly with the red line, which reaches from the hasp towards the earring and bead. In between these 2 lines a triangle has been formed.

While working on this exercise I read the discussion by Freeman (2007) on Gestalt laws of organisation and found it useful in understanding the way that graphic elements in photographs, such as points, are interpreted by viewers. In particular, I could see where the Law of Closure- elements roughly grouped together are seen to complete an outline shape and the Law of Simplicity-the mind lean towards visual explanations that are simple; simple lines, curves and shapes are preferred, along with symmetry and balance have been applied as I carried out this exercise.

This exercise has been valuable, as it has shown me that it is difficult to achieve a natural looking still-life composition. However, being aware of the perceived lines that assembled objects create will help me in creating cohesive arrangements.

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

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

Exercise- Positioning a point

This is the first exercise in the section Elements of Design. The course notes suggest that working in black-and-white offers an advantage of focusing attention more precisely on the graphic element in a photograph.

Take three photographs in which there is a single point, placed in a different part of the frame in each example. Explain your decisions.

 The point is the most basic graphic element of all. For a subject to be considered eligible as a point it should contain only a small part of the frame area and contrast, in some way, with the background.

Freeman (2007) suggests that, practically, there are three zones in a picture frame for placing a single, dominant point with three differing readings

  • central- static, and usually dull
  • close to the edge- markedly eccentric, needing some justification.
  • slightly off-centre- moderately dynamic, without being too extreme

In preparing for this exercise I looked through my photograph library to search for examples where I had composed an image around a point. I found it helpful when doing this to consider the expanded the definition of a point, suggested by Präkel (2006), as a small area of concentrated detail. Even so, I found only a few photographs that could be considered a point.



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The gull is positioned central in the frame. The composition is simple and uninteresting.

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The speedboat in this image is, again, centrally positioned. I feel the composition would have appeared less static had a positioned the boat slightly off-centre, either to the right or left.

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This  desert rose flower fell from the tree above onto the top of a hedge. I positioned the flower slightly off-centre to the right. The ray of sunlight shining into the frame and on to the flower, from the top right hand corner helps justify the placement.

To demonstrate three different positions in which you can place a single point in the frame I chose to photograph a Black-winged Stilt, which I spotted wading in a man-made lake, in a busy part of the city.  I took the three photographs of the Black-winged Stilt in colour and then later converted them to monochrome

The first photograph has the bird placed centrally in the frame.

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1. Black-winged Stilt
180mm, f/10, 1/200s, ISO 100

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The composition is static, with no sense of movement or activity.

For the second photograph I captured the bird slightly off-centre.

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2. Black-winged Stilt
180mm, f/10, 1/200s, ISO 100

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The dividing lines show how the point has divided the frame. The horizontal line mirrors the direction the bird has taken as it wades through the water looking for food. This, teamed with the bird’s actions has added slightly more dynamism to the composition.

Präkel (2006) notes that the message conveyed by a single point is usually one of overwhelming isolation. I found that my eye seem to follow the direction pointed to by the bird’s tail feathers, towards an area of empty water. This empty, undisturbed water does seem to add an air of isolation and calm to this composition.

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3.Black-winged Stilt
180mm, F/10, 1/200s, ISO 100

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This image is my favourite of the three. It shows the bird placed low in the frame, towards the bottom right hand corner. Freeman (2007) describes placement such as this to be ‘markedly eccentric’ and requiring ‘some justification’.

By using the point as a marker to divide the frame I noted that the division was close to the Golden Section ratios.  Placing the bird closer the bottom of the frame has also made the bird appear closer to the viewer. The ‘empty’ space, in the upper part of the frame, contributes a sense of calm and quiet to the photograph.

This exercise has been useful as it demonstrated to me that, in this series of three photographs, the centrally positioned point was the least successful.

I took the three photographs of the Black-winged Stilt in colour and then later converted them to monochrome

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

Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne, AVA Publishing SA