Technique Tuesday: Horizon Placement & Depth

AW: One of the most common errors I see in portfolio reviews is the placement of the horizon in the middle of the photograph. In my opinion, this flattens out the image, creating less of a sense of depth.  Placing the horizon high in the frame or low, on the other hand, can create a dynamic that allows the eyes to wander through the image far more easily.

In the first image, with the horizon in the middle, the eye just stops. In the second, the high placement of the horizon allows me to add more foreground, showing the expanse of beach and tide. There is a nice play between the forms of sand and the drama of the setting sun.  In the third shot, with the horizon low in the frame, the focus is on the sun and how it reflects on the water, giving greater emphasis to the clouds overhead. High and low horizons create less predictable images and to my mind, offer a greater sense of depth and drama.

MH: Because the horizon line is so straight, it cuts the picture space into definite sections and has to be factored into what you want to emphasize.  In each of these images, we get a slightly different sense. Placing the horizon in the middle might be desirable if stability and tranquility are what you want to convey.  However, it relies on a very dramatic sunset to make a powerful statement.

With a horizon placed high in the frame, the foreground becomes more important, and requires either a texture or an interesting detail.  However, if the drama of the sky is more powerful, then lowering the horizon is a better option.

This lesson and more from The New Art of Photographing Nature – Order yours today in my online store! As always, include a signature request and I’ll be sure to sign any books ordered through the store- however, my time between travels is limited so please note this can delay orders. If you want to get your prints and books signed in time for the holidays, now is the time!

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