Exercise 10 Positioning the Horizon

1/200 at f/4 ISO 100

1/200 at f/4 ISO 100

My efforts for this exercise had a few false starts as weather and poor choice of locations prevented me capturing useful images on two occasions. I arrived home earlier than normal yesterday evening and was welcomed by a beautiful evening and so was able to take an appropriate set of images locally.

The exercise asks for a clear and unbroken horizon which is hard to find so I have selected a horizon which is clear and only broken by the undulation of the hills and a few trees, a typical scene on the Surrey and Hampshire borders.

Within the constraints of the exercise I endeavoured to capture four images that were as interesting as possible. Simply moving the horizon and the declaring the result to be poor seemed unhelpful. I always work in RAW to allow the greatest scope for post production work and, with these four images, that was important. In each case I created an inverted “S” curve on the foreground and then, with the exception of fig. 4 I used a mask to set a curve on the sky to darken the blues and to minimise burnt out highlights. There was also a bit of dodge and burn. I spent enough time on this to create images for display on a monitor or the web but it would take a little longer to do this really well and I do not believe the images are good enough to warrant that much effort.

1/1000 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 1 – 1/1000 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig.1. In this shot I have retained enough foreground to give some depth to the photograph. The sky is the best feature but I failed to get a good colour into the blues and overall it is a poor composition. This sky does not justify this amount of the frame.

Fig 2 1/1000 at f/3.3 ISO 100

Fig 2 – 1/1000 at f/3.3 ISO 100

Fig. 2. This is a better balance, although the immediate foreground is plain there is a nice light on the grass and the hedge to the left. The sky has some tonal variation and the pylon is starkly graphic against the clouds.

Fig. 3 - 1/400 at f3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 3 – 1/400 at f3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 3. The first point to get out the way is that this is a careless exposure. I had been using a wide aperture to take unrelated photos in the other direction whilst waiting for the light to fall in the way I wanted across the foreground. I should have significantly increased the depth of field to ensure that the foreground was sharply in focus. I find the blur distracting.

In terms of the horizon I find this a well balanced shot. It is probably just about 1/3 v 2/3 and the pylon neatly fits the sky. something more interesting in the foreground would have helped the composition and I had been hopeful that the sun would reach some part of the oast houses.

As mentioned previously, Thomas Smith (1797), the person credited with coining the phrase “the rule of thirds”  said that, in the paintings of the old masters, the sky often occupied a third and the land two thirds, and he found this ratio of two thirds to one third more pleasing that the precise formal half or any other proportion. In this case I agree.

Fig. 4 - 1/160 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 4 – 1/160 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 4. The sky is irrecoverably burnt out and an interesting foreground and light on the oast houses would have made this image work better. The position of the horizon would work for the right shot as there is real depth to the image. I like the way the shapes of the hills which are topped with sunlight, the strips of sun and shade and the converging lines all emphasise that the buildings have been tucked into a fold of the hills. The texture in the foreground is helpful as a counter point to the smooth textures of the more distant hills.

Each of the framing exercises have underlined good principles about selection. It is clearly vital to instinctively select the right framing especially when the light is changing quickly and the best shot might only be available for a few seconds.

I like to think that, in the past, I have regularly used the position of the horizon creatively and the sky is an exciting subject if there is just enough foreground to provide a sense of place or an appropriate balance. I also like low angled shots using a deep foreground to lead into the subject and have found this especially useful when photographing hills and mountains.

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