Week 3 was a bit of a throwback to Week 1’s adventures with photographic composition. This time I was specifically looking for points and lines in compositions. If you’ve taken Design Principles, I’m guessing these basics won’t be new to you (I’ve never taken the class) because apparently points and lines are fundamental to design in general. So, art majors out there, I’ll try my best, but I’m no expert! I’ve also decided to break points and lines up into two posts because they’re surprisingly complicated (esp. lines), so I don’t want to rush through the basics if I can help it. That being said, I primarily looked to Harald Mante’s book, The Photograph: Composition and Color Design, to research points and lines in composition. Also, please check out my Week 3 set; I tried to do a more thorough job with the captions this week and hopefully they’re helpful!
I thought this quote from Mante was an appropriate introduction to the concept of “the point”:
“Usually a picture’s effect is determined by the interaction of several design elements and/or color contrasts. But sometimes certain elements and contrasts dominate to the extent of disturbing the viewer’s experience. One of these design elements with the capability to dominate or disturb is the point” (p.20)
As you’ll find in this week’s entry, a point might be more than a simple spot in a frame. Irregular shapes can represent a point and multiple points can act together to shape something else (e.g. a line). Points can be imaginary, competing, or just plain dominating.
One point dominates the viewing experience in this photo. The emphasis on the point was created by natural side light filtering through the petals. There’s a second similar photo of a different flower in my latest set.
A simple way to emphasize a point (or points) in an image is to look for something that breaks up a repetitive texture, shape, colour, or lighting scheme. This is exactly what I had in mind when I took the sun picture. Because of the background contrast, this individual point dominates similarly to the flower from the first picture.
Points can also be subtle. According to Mante, “Straight lines on an image plane can form shapes, but can also form imaginary points at their visible beginnings and ends and where they touch or cross each other” (p. 21). In the last photo, the horizontal lines intersect those extending from the image plane to create an imaginary point. (I could not find an example photo for this concept, so I’m taking my best guess at imaginary points here!)
This image clearly has multiple points in multiple forms . When a second point enters a composition, the first point’s “absolute visual weight transforms into a relative weighting–each successive point on the surface is in optical competition with all the other points” (Mante p. 22). I think the two blue points dominate in this image, but the dashed and dotted points, as well as the central green point, present some decent visual competition, in my opinion.
Here, I don’t think the points so much compete as they cooperate to form a new line. These points in turn intersect at a vanishing point across the James River. (While I didn’t take this picture this week, I decided it was worth putting up an old photo since it ties in well with this week’s topic.)
~~~~~ Lines ~~~~~
By now you’ve probably noticed there’s some major overlap between points and lines. While I was generally going for one element or the other in when composing my photos, the two are often inseparably linked. I think I’ll take a step back and wait on the line pictures because I want to make sure I really understand what I’m talking about before I continue!