Exercise 18 Curves

Exercise 18 continues the study of lines with curves. Like the diagonal line the curve can have a dynamic impact on an image but it can also impart grace, elegance and beauty. There is no shortage of curves in nature, including the human form, and many subjects that we find beautiful are simple or complex combinations of curves such as flowers, hills, trees, animals and beaches. The list is endless.

We have used curves and circles in our architecture since the earliest structures, surely this was not solely motivated by ease of engineering. Circles appear to be a reassuring shape for an enclosure, the shape may link to the circle of life or just look better but European prehistoric structures are often, if not mostly, circular and thereby curved. Curved shapes in architecture continue through history, notably with the interiors of medieval cathedrals and into modern times where elegance and beauty in design is often achieved through curves such as the Royal Crescent in Bath or the Sydney Opera House.

Fig. 1 Pigeons in Window - 1/640 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

Fig. 1 Pigeons in Window – 1/640 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

Fig. 1 is a a simple photo of an existing, tangible curve with silhouetted pigeons.

The curve is potentially more emotive than straight lines and in being so becomes a powerful graphic design tool for the photographer. An arrow in flight is direct and dynamic, we draw a stylised arrow as one straight and two diagonal lines, it is a loud statement telling us that something important is happening at the tip. A meandering river still communicates movement but suggests a smoother, more graceful and flowing feeling. If we draw something to express graceful we will use a curve. So, whist a curve will communicate movement it is a smoother and more graceful expression of speed.

Fig. 2 London Eye - 1/800 at f/2.8, ISO 360. 24-70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 2 London Eye – 1/800 at f/2.8, ISO 360. 24-70mm lens at 24mm

In fig. 2 I have set out to express smooth movement with that curving path heading to the London Eye. The Eye itself is a huge curve that we recognise as a circle despite part of it being hidden and from this angle seems to lean out over the River. using a mask and the curves function in Photoshop, I have processed the image to increase the contrast between the path and its surroundings to make it a more prominent feature.

Fig. 3 Southsea Fort Lighthouse - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140. 24-70mm at 24mm

Fig. 3 Southsea Fort Lighthouse – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140. 24-70mm at 24mm

For fig. 3 the image is based on the curving stairs and its shadow on the wall. I run the risk of a curve leading the eye to nothing with the curve of the wall and the top railing leading to the same point. However, I think that the photo is really about the stairs and the wall and the flow of the image from right to left consolidates this. I have processed this photo to create plenty of form and detail in the shadows and to emphasise the brickwork which is bright in the winter sun.

Fig. 3 Southsea Fort Lighthouse - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140. 24-70mm at 24mm

Fig. 4 Southsea Fort Lighthouse – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140. 24-70mm at 24mm

Having seen fig. 3 as a study about the stairs and the courtyard I wanted to test the role of the lighthouse in this composition so fig. 4 is a square crop of the same image. It has a totally different feel to the image, much more peaceful, a quiet empty courtyard with stairs leading out of it. Fig 3 is more open with the inclusion of the sky and the lighthouse gives us a destination for the stairs.

Fig. 5 Southsea Lighthouse - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 110. 24-70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 5 Southsea Lighthouse – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 110. 24-70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 5 is an alternative composition of the same scene. This framing excludes the courtyard and focuses much more attention on the lighthouse as the subject. The curves continue to play an important role and help to create a sense of movement from ground level to the base of the lighthouse.

There is an interesting comparison to be made across the three photos. the curving stair plays the most important role in fig. 4 but I find it an empty composition. I like the peaceful courtyard and the strong shape of the lighthouse in fig. 3 which I think brings balance to the composition with the large empty space counter balancing the strong vertical shape of the lighthouse.  Fig.5. is a more complicated composition and the inclusion of the bell might be a mistake and fall foul of being unnecessary detail plus, in the context of an exercise about curves, the strongest lines are the vertical wall to the right and the implied vertical of the lighthouse.

Fig. 6 Roman Baths - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1,250. 16-35mm lens at 16mm

Fig. 6 Roman Baths – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1,250. 16-35mm lens at 16mm

For fig.6. there are tow very distinct curves creating a frame for the building behind the Roman Bath at Bath. I have included this photo because the framing is very distinctive creating an eye shaped view of the building but in trying to bring out the shadows at the top of the frame I have made the image too flat and uninteresting.

Fig. 7 Roman baths - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1,000. 16 -35mm lens at 16mm

Fig. 7 Roman baths – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1,000. 16 -35mm lens at 16mm

Another shot in the series, fig. 7, works better and the curve is a softening influence on the composition and balances the line of arches. It would be interesting to re-take this image on a bright sunny day as more distinct reflections of the arches in the bath would add life the image.

Fig. 8 RAMC Memorial - 1/100 at f/4.5, ISO 320. 24-70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 8 RAMC Memorial – 1/100 at f/4.5, ISO 320. 24-70mm lens at 24mm

In fig. 8 the subject is the statue at the Royal Army Medical Corp Boer War memorial on the top of, the wonderfully named, Gun Hill in Aldershot. I have use the curving lines of the memorial to lead into the statue. In this image the lead lines are graceful which suits the subject.

 

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