Exercise – Horizontal and vertical lines (part 2)

The course notes tell us not to read further until we have completed the previous exercise. What they don’t explain at that stage is that we will be asked to write further about the photographs produced for it. As I’m currently in Poland for Christmas, I’m writing up these notes on an iPad (mini) with only occasional internet connection. So, rather than attempt to re-write the previous entry, I’ll add this second part.
The next stage of the notes, and the companion section in Michael Freeman’s book, discuss further the horizontal and vertical line in composition. Having read it, I may have looked for simpler images with single lines rather than the patterns of lines that I used. The notes also give examples of types of lines that we may have used in the exercise – I did pretty well, but missed a couple of obvious ones, namely the horizon and the upright human figure.

Looking back at my pictures with these notes in mind, I offer the following observations on them:

Sticks – those logs aren’t moving. Not now or ever. The horizontal lines give the picture stability, both graphically and expressively.
Crossing – again, horizontal elements provide a strong base. The diminishing width and depth of the lines forms diagonals and introduces dynamism leading the eye to the cyclist.
Decking – the most static image of the set. Our eye does not need to wander over the entire image because of the lack of interest in the right half, reinforced by the regular horizontal pattern.
Drain – the most dynamic of the horizontal set because of the pattern. The eyes this time are looking for an exception to the pattern and eventually find it in the bottom left.


Gate – I read that vertical lines can ‘confront’ the viewer and they do in this image – literally because it is a heavy, metal gate and expressively by blocking our view of the tree and entry beyond. They are bold and solid.
Flags – a dynamic image caused by the vertical lines (and framing) encouraging the eye to move up and down the vertical axis.
Windows – could have been used as horizontal example, but felt vertical due to the arrangement of frames to be stood on their narrow edge, presumably to maximise storage space (although quite why they needed storing in the first place I’m not sure). A horizontal structure is formed by the arrangement of repeating, vertical shapes, adding stability.
Trees – another horizontal structure formed by vertical elements and horizontal framing. They eye compares the vertical lines to the edges of the frame, looking of for the reassurance of that alignment.


The final picture, my favourite of the set, is pleasing because it provides equilibrium by containing both horizontal and vertical elements. Our brains (mine at least) enjoy the idea of the upright structures ‘standing’ on a solid, horizontal base, here provided by the sign and road surface. This equilibrium as added to by the symmetry of the image.

I’ve written a couple of time previously about the challenge I face discussing my photographs using a ‘visual language’, and that continues. I hope to speak with my fellow students about their feelings on this. I guess it’s something that almost all ‘non-artists’ will struggle with, but it is exactly what this stage of the course is all about.

Also, having completed this exercise, I then had a little time to more reseach on the topic and discovered a number of websites discussing it. I need to find time to immerse myself further in my studies and do this research BEFORE taking the pictures!


Freeman, M (2007) The photographer’s eye – Composition for Better Digital Photos. Lewes; The Ilex Press

Forbes, T. (2012) Episode 114: The use of line in composition (Online). YouTube. Available from  http://compositionstudy.com/#/line/ [24 December 2013]


    • Hi – I’m studying with the Open College of the Arts towards a Photography degree (probably). I’m in the very early stages and these exercises form part of their level one course called the Art of Photography


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s