All images are made up of a series of lines, shapes, and forms (Figure 4.4). Lines are what lead viewers into the frame and to the subject (also known as leading lines). When artfully composed, an image will have leading lines that direct the viewer's eye where you want it to go. They may be bold and noticeable, creating a direct path to the subject, or they can be subtle and less obvious. Straight lines convey a sense of strength and power and often have a static feel to them. Diagonal lines also signify power, but rather than being static, they convey a sense of motion within a still photograph.
Figure 4.4 Lines, circles, and shapes make up this graphic image of an old church. Black and white emphasizes the graphic quality.
Straight lines can pass through an image horizontally or vertically. A horizontal line going through a photograph can create a sense of calm, giving a static feel to an image (Figure 4.5). I find straight, horizontal lines in a photograph to be dividing lines or barricades, keeping the viewer on the outside looking in. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, a horizontal line can either make or break an image. On the other hand, a vertical line can give a sense of strength and height, leading me directly into the frame with no question as to where I am trying to direct the viewer's eye (Figure 4.6). When making a bold composition with a straight line leading towards the subject, I like to center myself on the leading line to give the image symmetry and power. Vertical lines can be leading lines, or they can be the subject itself, as in the case of the tree trunks covered in snow, in Figure 4.7.
Figure 4.5 The spider-web-covered fence blocks me from entering the cemetery, which creates a strong message. Using a wider aperture to blur the background further emphasizes the fence, with just a hint of the cemetery beyond.
Figure 4.6 The dock leading to the beautiful lake scene beyond is as much a part of the picture as the subject it leads your eye towards. I used a 180-degree Fisheye lens to include as much in the frame as possible.
Figure 4.7 Rather than being leading lines, the tall, straight tree trunks with their branches covered in snow are the subject in this image. The contrast of white against the reddish trunks makes this a very simple yet strong composition.
I like to use diagonal lines moving through the frame to convey a sense of motion that is hard to capture in a still photograph. I often use diagonal lines to lead the viewer's eye to the subject, as in Figure 4.8. The fence leads through the fields to Jenne Farm in the distance.
Figure 4.8 Diagonal lines have a feel of movement that is hard to convey with straight lines. This image of Jenne Farm, with the fence line leading to the buildings, incorporates a diagonal line that becomes curved with the rolling hills.
Diagonal lines can create a graphic element when they converge, as in the close-up of a dew-covered spiderweb in Figure 4.9. The nature of a spiderweb creates a sense of vanishing point as the drops start big and become smaller as they move towards the center of the web.
Figure 4.9 Shooting on a parallel plane with the spider web allowed me to use a mid-range aperture of f/8 and still have depth of field throughout. The slight breeze forced me to increase my ISO to reach a faster shutter speed. Hand-holding the camera gave me more versatility in my composition.
Diagonal lines can also be the subject, as in the image of a sand fence as it zigzags along the beach towards the ocean (Figure 4.10).
Figure 4.10 Moving in close with a wide-angle lens emphasizes the entry point into the frame, with the diagonal lines moving back and forth and leading the viewer to the beach beyond. The ocean and sky in the background are supporting elements in the image, to give it a sense of place (Chapter 6).