The limitations in your photography are in yourself. –Ernst Haas
Diagonal lines, as we learned in our entry, are the subliminal connectors that keep the viewers eye within and moving around the picture. As you looked at the busy example by Rembrandt we saw how he cleverly positioned his supporting elements to facilitate the movement and study of each subject. Similarly, Karsh utilized exquisite posing and darkroom technique to force the viewer to study Churchill’s piercing eyes, and in so doing we can just imagine his character and wisdom. Both artists used the diagonal line to cleverly create geometric triangulation, and by consequence keep the viewer engaged as the artist intended.
Should you study classical rules of composition in photography you will inevitably come across tutelage advocating the use of C-curves and S-curves as leading lines — lines to lead the viewer into the picture. Well, let’s simplify this prospect even further: C-curves and S-curves are little more than a diagonal line that has consumed too much wine! Regardless if the line is a straight or curved diagonal its sole purpose in making a picture to draw the eye to an intended point or place of interest.
I would wager that as you learn to find supporting elements to enhance the impact of your image you will more than likely be able to locate some natural element that could be used as a diagonal traffic director. Curves are child’s play to the composition; they are easy to find and natural supporting components – we need only look for them. Finding the straight diagonal is the fun and a challenge in making pictures.
It has been my experience that diagonals most often work best with wide-angle lenses. The wide-angle lens will allow us to get closer to the diagonal element, such as a low angle camera on a roadway. Consequently the diagonal will oftentimes become the primary element in the picture so care must be taken not to allow the supporting diagonal overpower the intended subject. With judicious care and placement of the supporting diagonal or curve, we will inevitably be drawn to the subject that captured our attention and is the intended subject.
Go to your park, your backyard, or anywhere else the muses may take you. Find a comfortable location to settle in, and leave your camera gear untouched. Why did you stop here? Of all the possible locations, why did you select this area to sit and ponder? There is a very real possibility that something caught your eye, and you are already composing the picture in your mind. What is it?
Now that you have located the unique tree, the colourful flower, the man-made structure that made you stop in the first place, start searching for the supporting element. What is nearby that you can use that will draw a line from the front of your picture right back to the attraction that will be your subject?
Don’t be afraid to move around looking for a fence, a line of rocks, or perhaps cirrus-whip clouds pointing downward, or anything else that will draw the viewers attention into the picture, and eventually to the subject. That diagonal component is here – be it a curved or straight line; you just have to find it.
Now the practise of photography begins, and with it the ensuing fun. And remember, if you are having fun, you are doing it right.
See the Full Learning to See Series
- Learning to See – Part 1
- Learning to See – Part 2
- Learning to See – Part 3
- Learning to See – Part 4
- Learning to See – Part 5
- Learning to See – Part 6
- Learning to See – Part 7
- Learning to See – Part 8
- Learning to See – Part 9
- Learning to See – Part 10
- Learning to See – Final