Exercise – Rhythms and patterns

Again, I’m slightly out of sequence posting this, but as I blogged previously, my time off in Poland allowed me to read ahead a little and begin to plan future exercises. It can be easier to go out looking only for diagonals for example, but by reading ahead, I was looking for lines, diagonals, curves, rhythms patterns and much more – photographic opportunity was everywhere. That said, there are still a couple of exercises that I didn’t get enough material for and that I’ll be returning to in coming posts.

Anyway, this exercise asked for 2 photographs that convey rhythm and pattern.

The difference between rhythm and pattern took a little research, but as usual, Mr Freeman does a good job explaining what we’re looking for. He tells us that they are both about repetition, but rhythm is the dynamic repetition across a frame that ‘needs time and the movement of the eye to be appreciated’, whereas pattern tends to be static, associated with area. Elsewhere, the difference is explained with a simple infographic.


Pattern - Sycow Bank
Pattern – Sycow Bank

Geometric patterns like these are everywhere. They produce static images with little to interest the eye – our brain knows what is going on immediately and so the eye doesn’t need to spend much time exploring the frame. Exceptions to the pattern, like the camera on the side of the bank here are quickly located and draw our immediate attention. Incidentally, I didn’t consider the implications of taking photographs of security cameras on a bank until it was too late. Luckily it was Sunday and I hadn’t parked outside!

Regular Pattern
Regular Pattern – Warszawa

The pattern becomes only slightly more dynamic and interesting when perspective gives it some more interesting angles as above but in this example, less imposing because we can see that the building is only 3 stories high.

Irregular Pattern
Irregular Pattern – Log Pile

Patterns can be irregular if there are enough individual elements contained in the frame. Again, our eye and brain tell us that ‘they get it’ and don’t need to dwell too long, even though there are no two identical shapes.

Irregular Pattern - Windscreen
Irregular Pattern – Windscreen

By filling the frame with a pattern, we subconsciously assume that the pattern continues beyond the edges; another useful property.

Irregular Pattern
Irregular Pattern – Grandma’s Produce

But by revealing the limits of the repetition, the pattern changes immediately. It is no longer so much of a pattern as a basket of jars.


Rhythm – Red Army Cemetery

Rhythm, rather than being static, should draw the eye across the composition. It should ideally be drawn to whatever it is that the photographer wants to show us. In my example, the eye is drawn to a rusty fence! But on its way, it has been shown exactly how many graves there are in this Soviet cemetery (while there are 167 of these graves, the cemetery actually contains 463 Russians, all killed just a couple of months before the end of the war).

Rhythm – Team LFCC

Rhythm doesn’t have to be about patterns. Here, fellow members of my cycling club are arranged across the frame. The riders and bikes all point from left to right and so our eye follows their direction. Again, a better photograph would have had something worth seeing on the right edge.

Rhythm - Roof
Rhythm – Roof

I’m not sure if this one works – I was exploring the idea that rhythm works best when when broken up by something. I love the design of this roof, and it came to mind as soon as I read about the idea of a composition becoming stronger when the familiar rhythm of a pattern is interrupted. In this case however, the size of the disruption of the pattern is too large when compared to the roof tiles that form the pattern.


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

Lamp, L. (Unknown) Design in Art: Repetition, Pattern and Rhythm (online). Sophia.org. Available from http://www.sophia.org/tutorials/design-in-art-repetition-pattern-and-rhythm [03 January 2014]

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