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Monday, November 22, 2010

Ask the Artist: Placement of Horizon Line

My day off (Bruce was at the bookstore) took me to the wooded dunes for a while and later to Lake Leelanau and home by way of Leland, where I stopped to frame these two shots of the north lake. I kept looking back and forth from one to the other, trying to decide which I preferred, but what I noticed was that, similar as the two images are, my feelings toward them were very different. The first made me sit up straight and feel, if not slightly anxious, certainly alert, while the second gave me a feeling of calm. In the evening I showed them both to David and asked him to explain the emotional difference. He was happy to oblige.

“A higher horizon line indicates that the viewer is looking from an elevated position, also, and a higher position carries with it a sense of risk and danger. When you’re lower in the landscape yourself, you feel sheltered.”

Mountain vs. valley: It made perfect sense. Then the artist confessed that no one had ever asked him the question before and that he’d not been taught this or even thought about it until I asked. He’d made up his answer on the spot. Pretty convincing, though, don’t you think?

These days David is reading Paradise, by Larry McMurtry, and I’m engrossed in Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability (for one man's synopsis, click here; I will write more about this book sometime soon), but later in the evenings (and probably in the course of our cozy Thanksgiving day at home) we are (and will be) pleasurably immersed in Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. For a couple whose favorite books are Wind in the Willows and Harlan Hubbard’s Shantyboat, Life on the Mississippi is a natural read-aloud choice, and, happily, the season for reading aloud is upon us, one of winter’s soothing joys.


Karen Casebeer said...

Good morning...I couldn't resist this one! Photography theory probably would use the "rule of thirds" to answer your question regarding your question about placement of the horizon line. That rule states that the horizon should either go at about the 1/3 mark or the 2/3's mark, but not smack dab in the middle. The decision of whether to go with the 1/3 or the 2/3's mark would be based on where the visual interest rests in the picture. In yours, the top picture has the horizon placed at about the 2/3's mark, giving the visual interest to the water, which in this picture isn't very interesting, in my opinion. In the bottom picture the horizon line is just a bit above the 1/3 line. I think that one is more visually appealing to me. While the sky isn't great (your typical November gray) the hills on the horizon, coupled with the sky, make for the better photograph of the two, in my opinion. Just an amateur photographer spouting her opinion. :-) Karen

P. J. Grath said...

Hi, Karen. Nice to have you visit again! Another painter friend told me about dividing into thirds, and I do try not to put my horizon line smack in the middle, although my iconoclastic painter husband sometimes likes to do just that. Give him a rule, and he'll break it! My question with these photographs, however, really was not, "Was one more interesting than the other?" but "Why do they evoke such different sensations in me?" I suppose I must acknowledge that sensations can differ from person to person, but--we both liked the second one better, didn't we?

Karen Casebeer said...

Yes, we both liked the second one. I think, for me anyway, it's a more visually appealing shot. It's hard for me to analyze them from an emotional standpoint, which you were able to do quite nicely. Again, for me, the top picture made me feel overwhelmed by the amount of water in the scene. After stating that, I can feel on an emotional level how THAT would feel. Not fun!

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, you made me laugh! All that water! Fear of drowning! Oh, and it would be very COLD, too, this time of year! Not fun at all!

Ajijaak said...

Curious... I have a question for you! My friend told me of a cafe in Leland in which they have open mic night for poetry! If this is TRUE... I would LOVE to read my poetry there and you could meet me! I am in Manistee but spend a lot of time in Benzie Co. Let me know the scoop.

Love the pictures... reminds me that I need to post some Fall pictures before winter gets here.

Gerry said...

I, um, liked that first one a lot. No idea what it says about my assorted eccentricities. I am delighted to hear that David puts the horizon where he feels like putting it, rule of thirds be damned. As for me, it's all I can do to keep it straight.

I am very fond of that drawing of Sarah.

P. J. Grath said...

Anishinaabekwe, I would enjoy meeting you! As for a cafe in Leland with a poetry night, I don't know but will make a couple calls down there today to ask. Maybe someone at Leelanau Books will know. Happy Thanksgiving!

P. J. Grath said...

Gerry, hi. I think your preference for the first image shows your adventurous spirit! Are you a sailor? I can imagine you standing on deck, scanning the horizon, wind in your hair.

Was wondering if anyone had noticed the new Sarah image. It's actually an altered photograph taken of her when she was a puppy. I've used it for ads a couple of times and thought the corner needed something more visual along with the calendar.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!