Diagonals, unlike horizontal and vertical lines, are often created by the photographer as the angle of view or camera tilt can convert a line into a diagonal. This gives the photographer greater control over the impact of the horizontal line. All lines in an image will ask the viewer to follow them but a diagonal draws the eye to follow it more rapidly than a horizontal or vertical line and thereby creates a greater sense of movement and speed of movement. For the same reason it is also a stronger directional signpost. It is therefore a more dynamic and less stable line than a vertical or a horizontal.
In exercise 17 I looked for a variety of diagonals to test the way they worked in an image.
In fig. 1 the series of converging diagonals lead the eye quickly to the fort in the distance. This shows the power of the diagonal as a leading line but also shows how parallel diagonals photographed to create perspective converge and draw the eye deeper and faster into the photo and increase the dynamic effect.
We understand that the eye reads a photograph from left to right so the shoreline is well positioned just above the the lower left corner and pointing towards the upper right. Although the fort is not in itself an especially interesting subject it provides a focal point. If there is no focal point the converging parallels potentially need to extend to infinity so that the distance and depth become the subject, otherwise I felt there needed to be something for the lines to lead me to.
Fig. 2 is less dynamic, the perspective is much shorter so convergence is less significant. The main diagonal is created by the matching items on the Gurhkas’ uniforms and all lead us in the direction of the march. Because we cannot see either end of the lines we are left to imagine the length of the column which I think adds some interest to the photo. It is a softer use of lines, our eyes move along the column and there is a strong sense of movement but not rapid movement. There are also a lot of verticals formed by the soldiers’ bodies so there is a sense of stability as well. I find this image interesting because the composition underlines what the viewer already knows, they are marching and moving, they are soldiers so we might already see stable, solid, reliable and organised how ever they were photographed.
In the photograph of the lighthouse on the Tudor fort at Southsea in fig. 3 there are three lines or groups of lines and each appears to influence the image differently. The strong silhouetted lines from left to right are very powerful and lead us quickly into the lighthouse. There is a weaker and less angled pair of diagonals running from right to left and meeting at the same point but they catch the eye because they are brighter. Finally the two sides of the lighthouse converge to give a sense of height. Because the convergence is not dramatic we know that the lighthouse is not especially tall so these lines have acted as a measure. The rule of thirds is also in play so everything draws us to the lighthouse as the subject and then up the lighthouse to the green top.
I processed the lighthouse in black and white as shown in fig. 4 to test whether I reacted any differently to the two versions. The monochrome version is more graphic in design and seems to be as much about different and strong shapes as it is about the lighthouse but I found it difficult to find a tonal balance that gave me the strong whites that are such a feature in the colour version. I had to use a mid-tone grey for the sky to allow the lighthouse to stand out. I find the colour version a more pleasing design.
In fig. 5 I found a subject where there are opposing diagonals mixed with verticals and horizontals. The dynamics of multiple diagonals can become chaotic but clearly this does not happen when they point towards a single and central point. I wanted to bring out the sadly, dilapidated state of the building and have therefore intentionally left the image with quite a dark feel to it. I have used shadow and highlight adjustment to bring out the structure of the door. My interpretation of the role of the diagonals in this image is that they create a frame for the passerby, lead us to the door of the building and divide the frame between the man and the building.
In fig. 6 there is no passerby and I have used a portrait crop to bring in more of the building. the diagonals are less prominent and it seems a generally to be a much less dynamic image.
The columns in Winchester Cathedral provided an ideal subject to show the power of converging diagonals to create a sense of height and scale. The use of a wide angle lens and a deep DoF exaggerates the scale of the columns in both breadth and height. The small section of roof gives the viewer a point of reference for the height of the column and tells us that we are looking up.
I took this photo of Boris Bikes in London last year but wanted to include it as fig. 8 because I think it is a photo of a diagonal or of converging diagonals. Rather than the lines leading us to another subject the line of bikes is the subject.