Where is the horizon line?
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Old 02-17-2010   #1
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Default Where is the horizon line?

So taking pictures, one is supposed to frame the picture using the rule of thirds and the horizon. The question is, what happens if there is no visible horizon, or it is a wavy, or some other weird thing.

For example, taking a picture where there are trees crowding the horizon, does the horizon start at the top of the trees, or where one assumes the horizon is?

Or taking pictures of a mountain range, does the horizon start at the lowest point, or the highest peak, or somewhere in the middle.

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Old 02-17-2010   #2
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

Where there is no visible horizon line you'll have to depend on your own judgment. If a mountain range is present in your composition wouldn't you assume at least some portion of the mountains are 'above' the horizon. Have you ever stood on a beach and looked at a friend with the sea forming the horizon behind them. Mentally visualize that line across your photo. That would be where it would be assuming the scenery is near level. From my perspective the horizon is below my eye level but above my feet. Although due to the curvature of the earth it must in fact be physically below my feet, 'from my level perspective'. If it is entirely hidden behind buildings or hills or trees then I'll have to try to determine a level stance with my straight ahead viewpoint You can cheat a little in determining where you place it in your photo but if it's out of place very much it will be instinctively noticed.

One way to determine a horizon line would be to hang a plumb weight down from a perpendicular line like the bottom of a yardstick Like a T square.

I think the biggest help with this is simply to find (look for) opportunities to see the actual horizon and learn to mentally superimpose a line on it and practice seeing that line in the viewfinder while matching it to that horizon and while leveling the camera so that the line is at the same height on both sides of the scene. The vertical position of the horizon is where you decide to put it as part of the composition your trying for.

Can't say any of this follows any rules but just seems to be what I've gone through in the past.

When the horizon cannot be seen then it can be represented for the purposes of composition to be smooth and level appearing like the ocean at a distance of about 7 miles at vertical height that appears natural to you. I feel like it's more like about 40 percent high from the bottom to the top of my view but I've not confirmed this.

I've gone back and searched for 'horizon placement composition' and found several results.

gene
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Old 02-18-2010   #3
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlickerLight View Post
...taking pictures of a mountain range, does the horizon start at the lowest point, or the highest peak, or somewhere in the middle.
To me, it's all about the balance of the image. Two-thirds of the image is sky and one third is land, or vice-versa. Sometimes the landscape looks good with equal amounts of both. Like most rules in photography, only follow it if it creates the image that you see in your mind's eye...
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Old 02-18-2010   #4
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

There is a very long and still rather active thread regarding the "Rule of Thirds" now on the forum- check it out!

There are many cases where the is no horizon per se such as traditional tripes of studio portraiture, some scenics, architectural interior photographs, macro work and tons more. If a portrait photographer is working with a seamless or cyclorama background, that is because he or sher does not want to deal with the distraction of a strong horizontal line in the composition- they prefer to isolate their subjects on a simple field. Nonetheless, the rule of thirds and many other compositional theories can be applied in camera angles, poses and placement of the subjects. .

The thread I am directing you toward also deals with the issue of whether or not a photographer should conform to any rules at all. Some do and some don't and the arguments are right out there, up front in in your face kinda way- it's a good read.

OR- we could start it all over again right here- GIVE ME STRENGTH!

i HOPE THIS HELPS! Ed
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Old 02-18-2010   #5
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

Ed, could you put a link to the thread you are talking about.
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Old 02-18-2010   #6
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

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Ed, could you put a link to the thread you are talking about.
http://photocamel.com/forum/photogra...le-thirds.html

ks
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Old 02-18-2010   #7
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

I looked through the rule of thirds thread, and have been following it. My question was more for when it varies, or is invisible, but a viewer would know it should be there.
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Old 02-18-2010   #8
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

I suppose you can create a grid and place it over a photograph and see what elements of the image fall on certain lines or intersection of lines and, if you wish, see if critical componants of the image fall on the 'thirds of the format". As an example; are the eyes in a head and shoulders portrait are in the upper third of the composition. You can also look for strong lines such as diagonals lead you eyes to the motif of the image. You can look for "S" curves in a pose that gracefully leads to the face in a 3/4 feminine portrait. You can take a print and draw on it with a grease pencil yo trace all of theses lines or mark off the "thirds". You can also examine the lighting from this clinical point of view. It's like preforming an "autopsy" on an image rather that enjoying it first and perhaps analyzing it later. Imagining finding a beautiful rare flower and pulling off its petals instead of just appreciating it.

Shooting into a preconceived pattern on a viewing screen or ground glass is almost like using a paint-by-numbers set.


All of theses are good exercises but here's my philosophy on the entire matter. A good photograph should have a degree of viewer impact, a mood, a story and/or a statement. That means that all the componants came together in a perfect or elegant way and combined to create a powerful image. This is what I look for first and foremost when I am judging or appreciating any work of art. I first enjoy it, relate to it, absorb the statement and then analyze it or perhaps not.

I used to have this problem when going out with my wife to "enjoy" a movie. I would get so absorbed in the technical aspects of the film that oftentimes I would miss the story line, the plot and the dialog. We would go for a snack after the movie and my wife liked to discuss the dramatic aspects of the film and all I would talk about is the lighting. The did not bode well to say the least and it became expensive, having to go back and see all the movies twice, once to look at the technicalities and once to just lay back and enjoy the total story. The advantage was that if the movie itself "stank" I could enjoy the cinematography nonetheless. If friends say the acting, the direction and the story were disasters, I can say "yeah" but the photography was great, that is, if was indeed well photographed. Oh- by the way I love "stupid" and slapstick movies- they are funny and serve as an escape. If I want to see disaster, heartbreak, devastation and sorrow all I have to do is turn on the news and I don't have to pay for the popcorn.

A good composition in a photograph is achieved when nothing can be added or removed from the total work to make it better and anything that IS added or removed would hurt the compositional aspect of the image.

Well that's my take on the matter!

Ed
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Old 02-18-2010   #9
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

Well I dont worry about the horizon. I shoot what looks right or good to me. Im one of those who doesnt like rules cluttering up my shooting.
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Old 02-19-2010   #10
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Default Re: Where is the horizon line?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlickerLight View Post
I looked through the rule of thirds thread, and have been following it. My question was more for when it varies, or is invisible, but a viewer would know it should be there.
You use the implied horizon. All these rules of composition are dealing with psychology, not photography per se. A photo with the subject dead center feels static, not necessarily boring as some say, one with the subject off in the corner feels violent, most people are more comfortable with something in the middle, hence "rule of thirds". However, you may not want the photo to be comfortable feeling.

So, because this is all psych stuff, dealing with feelings, we go by where we think the horizon would be if we could see it.

When you deviate from the norms it is usually best to do so glaringly, so it is obvious you are doing it deliberately. For instance, no one will think you got the horizon at 60 degrees accidentally.

ADDED: Let me add that it is not unlevel horizons that are so jaring, it is out of plumb verticals. I you have a photo with a level horizon and all the trees leaning, maybe because of prevailing winds, it feels uncomfortable, and it you print it with trees vertical most viewer will just think that they are on a slope. As I said it is all psychological stuff.


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