TAOP: Lines Project + Horizontal and vertical lines exercise

The second project of part two of my photography course is ‘Lines’.  A simple idea on the surface, as lines are described as ‘the edge of things, and the quality that makes them stand out is, more often than not, contrast.’  They can be:

  • the edge of something bright against something dark, and vice-versa
  • an implicated line – our imagination basically ‘joining the dots between points’

The simplest are straight lines – horizontal, vertical and diagonal.  Horizontal and vertical lines create stability within an image, where as diagonal create a sense of motion and tension.

Exercise: Horizontal and vertical lines

The first exercise ask me to go out and find four examples of horizontal and four examples of vertical lines – avoiding repetition of the manner in which they occur – e.g. avoid repeat images of vertical lines in buildings.


Given the weather and my location I’ve had limited choice for where I can get examples for this exercise, so I’ve pulled an image out of the archive amongst the other shots.  It’s a from a warm sunny day in Spain last November, so it’s a nice contrast from the sleet and cold winds today!  I also used this from a previous exercise ‘positioning the horizon’.

Salt Lake Horizon
(ISO100, 1/30sec exposure, f/22 aperture – shot on manual with narrow aperture for great depth of field.  I was resting on a watchtower’s barrier so didn’t need a short exposure to keep it steady, so I kept the ISO low to minimise noise, though a couple of stops higher wouldn’t have been an issue in the available light)

So, this is a natural horizontal line created by the land falling away in the distance.  It’s a fairly static and calming image.

(ISO400, 1/125sec exposure, f/5.6 aperture – shot on aperture priority on the same photo trip as yesterday’s exercises, so just for simplicity and ease – basically a case of ‘don’t have to think about settings much’ choice)

A man made series of horizontal lines (walls and the crack in them).  There are other vertical lines from the mortar in the brickwork, and the grass in the background, but I think the horizontal lines do dominate the image sufficiently.

(ISO200, 1/320sec exposure, f/8 aperture – shot on aperture priority with aperture to set to get reasonable depth of field.  The light was good so the ISO didn’t need to be too high and I could still get a short and sharp exposure while hand-held and crouching down)

This is another man-made example, this time a road and contrasting alternate colours painted upon it.

(ISO100, 1/10sec exposure, f/2.8 aperture – shot on manual and camera-mounted.  Automatic focus point was the dark background so I had to shoot manual to avoid over-exposing the brighter silver pawns)

The horizontal line here is probably more ‘implied’ by the relationship between the points in the image – a line is drawn by the viewer because the pawns are arranged in a horizontal line.

Horizontal Lines Summary

The exercise goes on to list examples of horizontal lines.  I’ve included three of the types it’s listed (the horizon, man-made flat surfaces and a row of objects all at the same distance from the camera).  Additional examples would have been low shadows when the sun is low and to one side and a mass of objects seen from a low angle.


There were considerably more options for vertical lines when I was out-and-about, so I’ve got most of these pictures in the past couple of days – though one of them came from a visit to Hebden Bridge just over a week ago.   I found that more examples here were man-made, however.  I did take more shots including shadows, etc, but I wasn’t especially happy with them.  I also tried one with the sun light reflected on cobbles – but other lines were far too distracting for it to work as and example of vertical lines.  Perhaps some post-processing would have changed that, but I am really trying to avoid that.

(ISO400, 1/80sec exposure, f/8.0 aperture – not sure if this was shot on manual or aperture priority, probably aperture as I was on a random wander as opposed to specifically out to take pictures. 

This is a sundial in Hebden Bridge.  There’s also the vertical shape of the building and chimney in the background.  There are some diagonal lines in here too, but I think the vertical lines dominate the composition.  I also like the slight irony of water beads covering the sundial.

(ISO400, 1/80sec exposure, f/5.6 aperture – shot on aperture priority on yesterday’s photo trip) 

The trunks of the trees are more-or-less vertical and dominate the image here.

(ISO400, 1/200sec exposure, f/5.6 aperture – shot on aperture priority at the same time as the above)

Man made vertical lines here – contrasting sharply with the background.

(ISO200, 1/60sec exposure, f/8 aperture – shot on aperture priority on a general photo wander in good light.  Narrow aperture for greater depth-of-field than in previous shots)

Here the row of bollards creates a vertical line, along with the chain and actually including the woman in the background.

Vertical Lines Summary

Once more the exercise provides some examples of vertical lines.  Again I’ve got some – walls, posts – other man made structures, tree trunks and a standing human figure.  Other examples were a road of or path seen end-on from a high viewpoint and a row of objects seen from a high viewpoint when the sun is directly behind or in front of the camera (no doubt to ensure shadows don’t create alternative lines).

As mentioned, I included some examples in my shoot, but not on here, that could also be examples of vertical lines, but the images weren’t really strong enough to be convincing.

A bit more on the effect of horizontal and vertical lines

The section goes on to describe the quality of  these lines – to create a division, direction and locate things inside the frame.

Horizontal lines have a strong locating effect as we use them as a natural base for things to stand on.  They create stability.  Vertical lines have more of a sense of movement and confronting the viewing.

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