(also see this blog post)
Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth…..
I’ve been thinking about this exercise and trying to shoot something to illustrate this almost every time I’ve have a camera in my hand for the last few weeks. So, here are my favourite shots using lines to illustrate depth. Please see end of page for my thoughts about this!
Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space….
This is much harder. I’m not certain I’ve even achieved it, but here’s what I have.
I think the problem I had with this is that it’s something I naturally tend to avoid. Strong lines running across the image into the frame seem to encourage this feel of flattening the space though, and using a zoom lens in central London gave me some shots that I think might work. I also tried a few images looking up. Converging verticals ruin this effect, and they just give a slightly uncomfortable feeling and act like lines being used to create depth instead so lead up and out of the image. If there’s no space at the top it can work, I suppose it gives a sense of height. But as I take a lot of images using an iPhone the converging lines becomes a problem as zooming on the iPhone leaves me with poor quality images so I have to crop instead. I usually think about cropping in terms of square formats as I use Instagram; I think that makes me compose in a slightly different way as I’m thinking in terms of a square frame even when I’m composing in a rectangular one.
Reviewing the shots and thinking about how the lines relate to the frame, to me flattening the pictorial space works well for more regular pattern type subjects. The image is stronger if the lines hit the frame. It also helps if there are strong colours or shapes as it can help focus attention on the slightly more graphic feeling that the technique creates. I think when I’m trying to compose like this I’m just thinking about composing in the frame in terms of what I’m trying to cut out. Leaving space around or focusing on the subject in a different way, using it to fill the frame completely. Without either of those things the images look dull. In general I find it quite powerful when it works well, the images have a more graphic quality to them.
When I’m trying to create a sense of depth using lines then I think I’m using the frame more as a way to create a sense of balance. If there are horizontal lines (like the horizon!), it’s a distraction, it doesn’t always help.
Using lines to create a sense of depth feels more natural to me. But looking at some of the mistakes I’ve made, I think that it doesn’t always work if the lines visibly converge too close to the frame, as it feels like a part of the image is somehow missing. My eye wants to see the rest, but not in a positive, curious way. It’s more uncomfortable than that. So using the rule of thirds and putting that point where lines in the images converge on one of those points feels a lot more comfortable. I also think the sense of depth is increased if there is something very close to the frame, almost partly framing the lines themselves. I took a few images (below) to experiment with that idea and I think it works. Maybe it makes the eye move a little slower as there are things you pause to see on the way, or perhaps it happens because it disguises the line of the horizon on the right, and the horizon usually cuts the image in half, but on this one it doesn’t go all the way across the frame so feels a bit more punchy.
I’ve made some sketches to think about the way the lines in an image interact with the frame. They’re just rough ideas to help me visualise more clearly what usually works and what doesn’t.