Shapes, patterns, textures and lines are all key components of an image. They exist in just about every subject. The key is how you weave them into your photos. Abstractly, each of the above can be singled out and become the main character of a photo. They can be photographed from ground level, up high or down low. They can be made in strong light or in overcast conditions. Seasons show no preference as to which provides more potential. Be it summer or winter, day or night, images with patterns, textures, shape and lines can be created anywhere.
Shape plays a dominant role in identifying objects in everyday life. The silhouette of a dormant tree in winter or the outline of an airborne flock of geese at sunset need no explanation as to what they are. The outline of an elephant or a willow tree bathed in early-morning light both have distinct shapes. If the subject is iconic and universal, integrate its shape into an image. Early and late light will make them glow. Photograph them against the backdrop of a bright stormy sky or colorful sunset to create silhouettes. Be aware of background mergers or distractions and eliminate them from your compositions.
Patterns reveal themselves in different ways. They can be rhythmic, harmonious, flowing or random. Patterns can be found in nature or man-made. They can be formed through color or structure. Regardless of how they’re conceived, through careful study of the world before your eyes, compositions with organization and order can be made.
Patterns can be harmonious when elements that constitute the picture are unified. The items don’t have to be exact duplicates of each other, but they need to blend together. Cracked mud beds, fields of flowers, and tree trunk shadows on virgin snow are great examples. When you search out a pattern, look for a composition where a single element breaks it up yet doesn’t interfere with its integrity. This creates a focal point for the eye and simultaneously makes a stronger image.
Texture is everywhere in nature. From vein-like structures of a leaf to cumulus clouds that envelop the sky, view what you see with discerning eyes. To help train the eye, walk through a forest, your backyard or the nearest local park. Look more closely at every object. Be it a giant maple or a few blades of grass, study the surface of a single item.
What makes a photograph of texture a good one? If you want to reach out and touch the picture to see what it feels like, the image deserves recognition. If the picture prompts you to think of words such as coarse, soft, bumpy or cracked, it deserves recognition. Texture in a subject is best revealed when strong light obliquely skims across it and creates shadows and highlights. Sunrise and sunset are the best times for this. During midday, when the sun is overhead, the light is flat. No dimensionality appears on the surface of an object.
Lines in a photograph help convey a sense of depth, movement and rhythm. Lines and their direction of flow have a psychological impact on the viewer. Horizontal lines bring to mind thoughts of peacefulness and tranquility. When people sleep, it’s in a horizontal position.
Vertical lines symbolize power, strength and dominance. The expression of looking up to your elders signifies authority and control. Consequently, subjects with vertical lines do the same. Trees and mountains are great subjects to portray this dominance. When people stand tall it represents pride. Animals raise themselves to a vertical stance to ward off predators.
Diagonal lines evoke speed, movement and action. If you go in close to make an abstract, tilt the camera at a 45-degree angle to imply subject movement. Curved lines show the grace and beauty of a subject. Be it a shapely figure study or the sinuous formations of sand dunes, they depict harmony and elegance.
The flow of the curve can be long and sweeping or short and rapid. The wider the sweep, the more serene and peaceful the representation. Converging lines command the viewer’s attention to fixate upon a single focal point. Whenever parallel lines recede to the horizon, the illusion of convergence is the result. Railroad tracks and roads, each shot from a low angle, are classic examples.
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