Positioning the Horizon

Before doing this course, I never really paid conscious attention to where I placed the horizon, probably because I focused more on the subject that I wanted to portray than the position of other elements in the image. Now that I'm learning more about the influence the placement of all subject in the image have on the overall feeling of the photograph, I am becoming more and more aware of why some pictures look really stunning and others of exactly the same subject can be boring. It's an exciting learning curve!

I took the pictures of  the horizon a few days ago at the beach. Since it's dry season, we only seem to have clear blue skies in Dakar, which makes the sky a very neutral counterweight to the sea and the rocks. If I had taken a series on a nice cloudy day in the Netherlands ( my home country), the feels of the images would have been very different.

In the first picture the horizon is at its highest and because of that a row of rocks on the bottom has been made visible. These rocks frame the incoming waves, which accentuates the movement of the sea and the liveliness of the water against the seemingly calm sea. This is the most dynamic picture of the series

 High horizon, the stress of the image is on the rocks and the incoming waves

High horizon, the stress of the image is on the rocks and the incoming waves

The next image looks less attractive than the first one, mostly because the frame of the rocks is missing and the surface of the image seems flatter. In a way the colours are less vibrant as well, which may have something to do with the horizon being more prominent and the different position of the camera.

 Horizon just above the center

Horizon just above the center

With the horizon in the middle the photograph seems a bit more balanced than the previous one, but it certainly has a more static feel to it, because the incoming waves are not so visible anymore and because the clear sky gets a more prominent place. On the other hand, because the rocks in the front are not visible anymore the rocks seem to form a line to the middle right of the image, suggesting a movement that wasn't there in the first pictures. 

 Horizon in the middle

Horizon in the middle

Now that the horizon is below the middle, the clear sky gets the overhand, making the subject look flatter. If there had been a big bird on the rocks in the back or a really high wave, I think the horizon would have been a good position, because it would have been visible above the horizon. The ocean behind the rocks is much more visible, again, if there had been a subject there, like a boat, or bird flying, the placement of the horizon would have been okay.

 Horizon just below the middle

Horizon just below the middle

Now that the horizon is at its lowest, clearly a subject is missing. We need some clouds, birds, aliens, whatever, to fill up the sky to make this an interesting image. The rocks in the front don't have any function now that there is nothing to balance them with.

 Horizon very low in the image

Horizon very low in the image

As mentioned above, this exercise has helped me to realize how the placement of a subject in its frame really shapes the way the image is looked at and therefor experienced. When looking at Bruno Barbey's work, I saw a picture that he took in Istanbul, with a diagonal horizon. It's a really nice example of how the position of the horizon functioning in pointing out to meaning and intention of the image