Focus on Travel Photography

Photography Composition Rules Close-Ups Simplifying Filling the Frame Choosing a Format Placing the Horizon Line The Rule of Thirds Lines Taking Pictures Through Frames Patterns Textures High and Low Camera Angles Abstract Composition Establishing Size Color
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You may not think of lines as being as exciting a travel subject as, say, a jungle snake slithering through the grass. But photograph that snake and you will surely have captured a distinctive—and emotionally charged—line. Nor would the idea of photographing a line in the sand seem irresistibly intriguing, unless it was the sinuous line of a sand dune shifting in a desert wind.

Lines have many uses in a photograph. They can divide, unify, or accent certain parts of a composition. If they are interesting enough, they can become a visual topic in themselves: Who could resist the lines of a spider's web glistening with dew? Stay alert to catch transient lines, like shadows or shafts of light, before they disappear.

Lines lead the eye into a scene. Stand on a train platform and you'll see it's all but impossible to keep your eye from following the line of the tracks to the horizon. Parallel lines that appear to converge this way create what's known as one-point or linear perspective, potent for showing distance and depth in a photograph. Curved lines can lead equally well: The undulating lines of the country road draw the eye into the frame.

Leading lines are most effective when there is some relation between line and subject, such as winding stone steps leading to a castle door. You can exaggerate their impact further by using a wide-angle lens and finding a vantage point close to the beginning of the lines—kneeling to get close to train tracks, for example.

The shape and the direction of lines in a photograph are also forceful setters of mood. Straight lines, whether vertical or horizontal, seem stable and formal. The sharp lines of a picket fence have little sensuousness, but consider the alluring slopes of rolling hills or a tanned body lying on the beach.

Next: "Taking Pictures Through Frames"