Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Positioning the horizon

Exercise - 6 photographs

In any image with an unbroken and clear horizon the frame can be divided in a multitude of ways, but there are probably 5 or 6 obvious positions within the frame to place the horizon. Top, middle, bottom and half way between each.

When there are no other obvious points of interest in a scene where to place the horizon becomes even more important and can even become the most important element within a scene. This exercise explores alternative positions for the horizon and the following images represent what I feel are the most distinct positions.

A very high horizon.

In this example the horizon is set high in the frame. Without an interesting foreground element the image is unbalanced and the foreground detail that there is is distracting. This image doesn't work for me. The scene is empty and lacks interest. In the second image the horizon is slightly lower but the same problems apply.

With the horizon high in the frame and an expanse of water in the foreground there is a feeling of space in the image, however there is little else of interest. In the next two images the horizon is set low within the frame. This works better in this case because there are interesting details and colour in the sky. Although with the horizon set very low in the frame you begin to lose the cloud formations at the top of the frame.

Horizon very low in frame.

More interest in the sky with a lower horizon.
According to Michael Freeman in "The photographer's eye" the composition of an image with the horizon positioned centrally within the frame is static, not dynamic. To me this means it will lack any element of risk.

Centrally placed horizon.

In the image above, the sky is interesting again because of the cloud formation and colour but the foreground lacks any interest. Where the horizon is placed in an image obviously depends on the scene being viewed and the elements within the composition. Some thought should be given to this at the time the image is taken. What works in one scene may not work in another.

For me the image that works best for this scene is the "normal " placement of the horizon that conforms to the "golden ratio", purely because the foreground needs to be minimised to allow the interest in the sky to dominate the image.

Most appealing horizon placement for this particular scene today.

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