Exercise 1.3(2)

The task

Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space.  To avoid the effects of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down).  Modern architecture offers strong lines and dynamic diagonals and zooming in can help to create simpler, more abstract compositions.

Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3.  How do different lines relate to the frame?  There’s an important difference from the point exercises:  a line can leave the frame.  For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and straight out of the picture.  It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no way back into the picture except the point it started from.  So for photographs containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it is important that they head somewhere in the frame.

I had been having some difficulty with finding things to fit this second exercise – On the Isle of Man there is little ‘modern’ architecture’ and the height of buildings is generally low – not to mention anything over two stories usually only goes to three and is a government building – I only have access to one of these which is currently covered in scaffolding so any views are minimal!

I didn’t have much more success in Glasgow in finding subject matter in the area I was in as many of the buildings in the centre are also low and relatively low – I did find one to do a more abstract photo as shown below:


This picture also came out very flat.

I was able to find some high spots in Edinburgh which I visited the following day around the area surrounding the train station at Waverley.

This one was taken from South Bridge and it slightly flattens the lined roofs with the train tracks receding into the distance with the cars on the right appearing much smaller.


This photo was taken from the opposite direction and showed trains leaving the station with the lines running into the platforms.  Again I was probably not high enough to truly show a ‘flat’ picture.

I was aware that opportunities back on the Isle of Man for this type of photo were even less likely as there are no buildings over about 3 stories and I was unlikely to be able to access these.  However, I was flying from Glasgow back to the island on the Monday so tried to take photos out of the plane window that would meet the requirements of this exercise.  As I was taking these through glass without the benefit of a filter they are not always completely sharp.

I felt this photo was in many respects similar to the photo by Atget (Badger, 2001: p.83) I referred to at the end of the first part of this exercise in that it gave spatial depth with the river flowing out of the photo.  Diprose and Robins (2012, p. 303) state that a lead in line going to the corner of the frame can be particularly strong as is the case in this photo.  The bridge and cars are somewhat flattened due to the plane’s height.


In terms of getting a flatter affect I felt this was probably the most successful and is of Glasgow from the air – the houses look the little boxes on the ground – the photo also has the lead in line to the centre of the picture.


This again was Glasgow from the air and showed some leading lines – however the motorway going out of the picture is unsettling as it seems to go nowhere.


This appeared to be an old quarry and it was the circular line around it that attracted my attention – however again it meant that the eye tended to go round in circles without stopping.


One of the photos from the air which has a good flattening effect is as the waves which,in the photo appear very textured, divide around the point of Ayr at the northern tip of the Isle of Man.  While this area is generally quite flat anyway there are some high shingle dunes and 3 lighthouses in the area which don’t appear on the photo.


This photo is of Peel Castle on the island from the air.  Unfortunately being in a plane made it impossible to take the angle with the causeway as a lead in line from the front.


However I have also taken one from the ground with the lead in line to the castle:


I think these two photos do illustrate the difference that I was trying to achieve with the two exercises – this second photo shows the depth that can be created by lines whereas the aerial shot is far flatter.

The first exercise does show how the photographer can create depth by the use of lines and perspective while the second exercise was demonstrating how lines can also flatten a picture either by focussing on the abstract or by taking the photo from a height.


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