Parts 3) Significant Horizontals

I've been plagued by horizontals all the time I've been taking photos, as an artist or designer it isn't a problem, one simply doesn't include them. Unfortunately the real world is full of unreasonable horizons, walls, buildings roadways and the like, all waiting to drag ones eyes off to the edge of the frame. I've taken lots like this, I got the curved fence line and the dark line of the wall to pull the eye right to the middle of the frame ... only to have it run off to the left or right along the horizon line.






... any horizontal feature in the centre tends to bounce the eye from left to right, and stops it exploring round the rest of the frame


... however, if one moves it down the scene the eye will explore the larger space and give more attention to the sky




... moved up the opposite happens




So knowing what you want to say can effect framing, or cropping if one gets it wrong, and produce quite different results with fairly minor changes in framing, allowing one to control what the viewer will find most interesting in the print






The same effect seems not to occur vertically to the same extent

A similar feature vertically while looking quirky doesn’t stop the eye exploring both sides of the image.

I'm probably stating the obvious, but I see so few people doing it I thought it was worth mentioning.

If you have a subject in the foreground and take your shot with the camera at the same height, the horizon ends up in the middle, like I said obviously. If one stands on an upturned bucket or sit on it, the horizon moves up or down in relation to the subject, like I said obvious, but useful sometimes.

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Part 4) Patterns (the Gestalt principles of Proximity, Similarity, Continuation and Common Fate all rolled together)

Or the rule of “any group of three or more similar objects in the same place is worth blowing a few frames on”



We humans love to find symmetry and patterns, the brain will organise them be attracted by them gets satisfaction looking at them, from ancient Greeks organising stars into groups to William Morris wallpaper still selling well in B&Q after more than a century we love patterns it seems.

Now; pattern, and 2D surface design is my specialist field: but I’ll spare you that, so;

Any objects in a regular repeat will form a strong visual bond, this pattern is so strong if one relaxes the eyes a little a set of phantom tiles are visible as the brain tries to see a check rather than a straight repeat, of little use but demonstrates how strong the effect can be.




Any deviation in either repeat




... or form is also immediately seized on by the eye as being more significant




Even with large sections removed, it retains its integrity as a single unit, in fact





If it is distorted the brain would rather add in another dimension, depth, than not see the regularity





... even when that distortion isn’t the normal perspectives projection



The effect starts with as few as three objects




... and most of the effects still work even when distorted




... the practical upshot of all this bunk is that anywhere where there are patterns or repetition, from aqueducts on the outskirts of Rome to a picket fence round ones garden is worth a second look because there is always an audience ready to be tricked into thinking you’re really good when it is in fact just their perception that’s bloody clever.


A couple of related topics

The eastern aesthetic

In the East the aesthetic ideal has a much more ancient tradition, going back in Japan over a thousand years as opposed to the few hundred here since the renaissance. While I know a bit about it having had a keen interest in both woodcuts prints and bonsai for many years a lot of the concepts are as much spiritual as visual so not as useful in this context, I don’t pretend to have any deep understanding but one thing seems to hold up to inspection.

The Japanese aesthetic ideal or Iki, has a concept of Fukinsei and is like beauty through irregularity or asymmetry, a bit like those paintings of blossom or bamboo one sees and one way this manifests itself in all their visual arts is by an aversion to even numbers, 2 is tolerated but one will more likely find 1 3 5 7 or 9 trunks in bonsai, or stones in suiseki, and stems in Ikebana. (lots of pretentious Japanese words there and not a bokeh in sight).

I find I share the odd number aesthetic but I’m unsure now if I’ve learned it or if it’s actually a human trait and is a widespread shared value. There certainly is a beauty through asymmetry that the western philosophy doesn’t explain properly for me.

The modern western tradition has it's roots in Greco-Roman classicism rediscovered in the renaissance where it was controlled by the church and codified by the Victorians who removed any remaining sensuality that the Greeks admired so much. So in contrast the western aesthetic only becoming decimated generally about 150 years ago by a few seminal works like Racinet’s "designs from historic ornament" or whatever that is in French, and only really became generally available to even to the middle-class at the start of the 20th century and the beginnings of industrial design.

The Greeks being big on maths and geometry passed their tastes to the giants of the Renaissance who imposed a bunch of rules on it, then the Vatican removed the sensuality and passed it to the Victorian Arts and Crafts chaps who took out any remaining knob jokes and cast it in iron.

Since then, in the west, there has been some artistic backlash in the 20th century but still the ascetics of the west remains a concern for the middle and upper class, the common man is still happy with William Morris pastiche and Laura Ashley, nothing like the Shinto aesthetic rooted in the common place taste of the common man, that applies as easily to a work of art as to the artist who made it and which was for centuries a movement of the masses.


which brings me to the Golden Ratio …



As an aside;

I have a friend in Corfu who has a "comfortably appointed" home and contemporary Ionian taste is like super-bling popped in a cut-crystal case and sat on a lace doyley. One can trace that stylistic tendency back through Byzantium and Rome almost 2/3rds of the way to Hellenic times.

I think it's reasonable to assume the less austere Classical Greek shared that bling type of taste, but his culture would however have been more earthy, there are an awful lot of art containing ladies with there bits out and Greeke with large fallacies that the Victorians either didn't loot or hid when they came back from the grand tour.