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Food For Digital Thought: Direction, Length, and Thickness

Lots of lines going everywhere.

Lots of lines going everywhere.

I teach my fellow photographers how to incorporate the Elements of Visual Design into their photography. In my online classes with the BPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet I explain that of all the elements, Line is the most important…why you ask?

Because without Line, none of the other elements would exist. In fact, you and I wouldn’t be around nor would trains, planes, and automobiles for the simple reason that we all have an outLINE.

Quickly, there’s all kinds of lines, but the three main ones are: Horizontal, Vertical, and Diagonal. Diagonal lines have the most energy and tension because it’s the anticipation of the lines falling forward.

Having said that, there are three things that all lines have in common: direction, length, and thickness. These three are what you want to be looking for when you’re out shooting. Forget that the road your standing, walking, or driving on is going to the horizon. Imagine it not as a road, but instead a Vanishing Point leading the viewer in a particular direction, either from right to left, left to right, or the foreground to the background. It’s anywhere from a few blocks to a few miles long, and it’s from two lanes in thickness to a four lane interstate.

What about a stand of Birch trees you often see in photos, especially when the leaves have turned during the Fall. They’re trees right? But what else are they? They’re a bunch of textured predominately white lines that all go in the same direction and are all different in length and thickness. They also form a pattern which incidentally is one of the basic Elements of Visual Design.

In the above photo, taken in Tuscany, After I had traversed the short distance from the bottom to the top of this small sidewalk from the street to another street above it, I looked back and saw a whole lot of lines, instead of the concrete ramp and railings.

This kind of thinking is what’s always part of my thought process. Since Line is so important to our virtual existence, not only do I look for lines but when I do see it, I break them down into the three categories to see what each one is doing and if they’re pertinent to my final composition.

So, the next time you’re out and about looking for subject matter, instead of using the left side of your brain and taking pictures of roads, golf cart tracks, and trees, switch that side off and click on the right side…the creative side and I can promise you that not only will your photos have more of an impact, but you’ll wind up having a lot more fun in the process.

They're golf cart tracks, but what else are they

They’re golf cart tracks, but what else are they

As Henry David Thoreau once said, “It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see”.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2105 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me sometime. July 26th will be my 27th year at the Maine Media Workshop...the granddaddy of them all. I’ve always picked this week as it’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. It offers a completely different set of photo ops: color, motion, people, energy, light, and design. A great way to break up photos of the beautiful coastline, fishing villages and lighthouses that Maine is known for.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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    { 2 comments… add one }
    • Joe July 1, 2015, 8:05 am

      Thanks once again for the great review.


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