Use Lines To Create Dynamic Compositions

It’s strange how the mind works. For me, an example is whenever I hear the word “lines,” it summons two vivid memories. I picture myself in elementary school listening to my art teacher tell me to color within the lines of the drawing she just handed out. Going outside the lines was a big “no-no.” The second memory is hearing a television ad for a four-wheel drive vehicle, instructing drivers to “Stay between the lines: The lines are our friends.” The premise was to actually take your vehicle off the asphalt and head off road where there are no lines. The commonality of my two memories is the concept of lines has great significance depending on the context. Photographically, lines are important aspects of composition. They come in all shapes and sizes. Diagonal, curved, straight, vertical, horizontal, zig zag and more. Each have meaning, importance and send messages to the viewer. Incorporate them the right way into an image and you’ll have a winner.

Diagonal lines are dynamic. They imply movement and speed. Diagonals are used as leading lines to depict motion. The subject itself can be placed on a diagonal to create movement in an otherwise static object. In the image of the penstemon in an old bristlecone trunk taken on Mount Evans, I intentionally rotated my camera from straight vertical which is the way the flower appeared. The penstemon was spot on vertical, but I wanted the viewer to experience the feeling the flower was more dynamic. In that the lines of the tree were also skewed, the entire image shows more motion than if it was made the way it was viewed.

In the image of the hot air balloon envelope, the concept of lines is multiple. The use of leading lines comes into play at the bottom of the frame. The sections outlined by the white support lines bring the viewer to where most of the color begins. There is also the obvious use of the patterned lines with the radiating swirls of the balloon itself. These lines bring the eye in somewhat of a circular motion following the colors to the central point in the right hand third of the frame. Finally, there is a subtle use of horizontal lines as the viewer enters the image from the left. These lines also lead the viewer to the central part of the spiral mentioned above.

In the image taken in Monument Valley with the dunes in the foreground and red rock formations in the background, there are two important compositional aspects regarding lines. The first shows how leading lines let the viewer enter the image and continue the journey to where the lines flow. The strategic placement of the ripples in the dunes and the foreground vegetation allows this to occur. The second is the concept of vertical lines. Vertical lines show strength and stature. Think about when you’re told to stand up tall. This implies you need to become more bold and look alert. The red rock formations in the background are stately, strong, and have dominance

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