Don’t Cut the Horizon in Two

The first time I attempted to take pictures professionally was when I was ten years old.  It was on a trip to Florida with some friends of the family.  I fell in love with Florida’s lush vegetation and spacious ocean views.  I was convinced that I could capture everything on film just the way I saw it.  Imagine my dismay when I got my film back and it looked nothing like what I had seen!  I thought I could point the camera at a scene and the shot would be exactly rendered the way I had seen it.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen casual photographers make is cutting the horizon in two.  I think it’s because it seems like a logical thing to get an even amount of foreground and background.  But all this will do is make your photo look static.  Although a photograph is an instant in space and time, it needs to look like there is a certain amount of movement going on in the picture.

That is also why if you place an object dead center in a picture it also looks as if there is no movement going on.  Another common mistake.

An object needs space to breath.

Imagine the sailboat in this picture sliding along the edge of the horizon until it had got to the center of the photograph.  And then I had taken the picture.  Can you imagine it?  It wouldn’t look very good would it?  It would look stuck.  It would look static.

What I have been talking about is commonly referred to as the rule of thirds in photography.  If you break objects up into thirds in your photographs they will appear visually interesting and filled with life.  Kai Virihaur has a nice description on his blog, a1 Photo Tips, if you would care to learn more about this topic.

In this picture I shot Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains off center so the horizon wouldn’t be split in two.  That is approximately one third of the picture. The other two thirds of the picture is interesting layers of clouds.

After awhile these kind of composition techniques will come second nature to you and you will instantly know how to compose and frame a picture before you shoot it.  Just remember you can’t swing your camera at a scene and snap! – expect everything to appear as you see it.

Give a little thought to your composition, and you will be extremely pleased with the results.

Note:  Because I have some pressing projects I need to attend to, I will not be able to update my blog after today until next week.  Thanks for stopping by everyone and I will speak with you soon!

Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson

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