Positioning the Horizon

The most common occurrence of dividing the frame when photographing is using the horizon as the dividing tool. I set out here to photograph the same scene, placing the horizon at different points within the frame, to see how it affected the image dynamic. I was tasked with coming up with six photographs, each with the horizon in a different place and discuss which I preferred and why.

Horizon 1

The horizon is placed at roughly 1/3 of the way down the frame. Just above the foreground interest. I wanted to give the impression of the sea stretching out in front of me with the breakwater leading my eye to the horizon. The green of the outcrop adds some balance to the composition. This would be my standard start shot for this kind of scene.

Horizon 2

Here I lowered the horizon to take in more sky. It adds more drama by making the horizon seem less imposing. It is quite an unnatural feeling to have to look down to see the subject of interest (the horizon). The outcrop now looks like it is at an angle however the horizon is still straight (horizontal).

Horizon 3

I took the portrait shot as I wanted to show more dramatically how the water plays such a big part in a country built on it’s need for it’s port trade. The horizon is just above the middle, but the portrait style gives me much more water in shot. I think I could have done with less sky in frame.

Horizon 4

I have dropped the horizon very low in the shot here and cropped out the breakwater. I actually think it works quite well which I wasn’t expecting when I took the shot. The green outcrop adds some needed contrast to balance the shot. The sky towers above the city (seen in the far distance in the smog, centre right), making it feel quite insignificant.

Horizon 5

My least favourite shot of the sequence. In trying to show the expanse of water in front of the horizon by moving it to the top of the frame I get no scale or context as there is nothing in the foreground. The water is out of focus but fails to lead the eye to the horizon. The green outcrop, which was useful in the previous shot, now seems redundant and adds nothing to the image squashed, as it is, in to the top right corner.

Horizon 6

With the horizon at roughly the same height in the frame as the previous shot I achieve an entirely different framing by pulling back and adding the missing foreground interest. I have also changed my angle of view. The foreground now also brings the green outcrop in to play whereas in the previous shot it just looked out of place. So now I feel that both the foreground and outcrop are sending my eye towards the horizon.

The last shot, horizon 6, is probably my favourite of the series. It starts as close to the shore as possible to give the maximum impression of distance to the horizon. As described above, the colours and shapes of the breakwater and outcrop bring the eye naturally and easily to the horizon. The horizon is somewhat unnaturally high in the frame but I don’t mind this, as I wanted the sea rather than the sky to play the dominant role.

I also like the portrait image as it is not usual to take horizons like this but I enjoy the sense of drama it gives to the distances involved in getting the horizon.

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