How to create dramatic landscape photographs with leading lines
Composition is used as a way of organising all the elements in a photograph to produce pleasing, well balanced images.
When it is applied well, it can mean the difference between a snap and a photograph you’ll be proud of.
So once you are comfortable with the rule of thirds (see my how to master composition blog) you can try the leading lines technique for fantastic results. You can use objects, lines, shapes and even patterns to lead the eye of the viewer. It creates amazing perspective and can even suggest movement in the scene.
Photographers always want to provide interesting compositions that will take our eyes on a compelling journey. My good friend Anita Nicholson has been a finalist in many landscape photographer awards and her work is often published in magazines. She is happy to share some of her expert know how ….
”As Rachel has noted, finding leading lines in the landscape and using them in your photography can help you to create really engaging images that ‘lead’ the viewers eye into a scene, drawing their attention to your main subject. St Mary’s lighthouse at Whitley Bay is a much loved local landmark and the causeway leading across to it provides a perfect and very strong leading line. The image above ‘Straight to the Point’ shows how effective the use of a strong leading line can be, pulling your eye along the causeway straight to St Mary’s lighthouse standing proud as the main subject of the photograph.
Leading lines need not always be straight. A curving line can be equally effective and there is something very pleasing to the eye about a beautiful, softly curving line. Blyth pier is a favourite subject as it has a wonderfully gentle curve that leads the eye round to the little lighthouse on the opposite side of Blyth Harbour. The decking of Blyth Pier also provides plenty of interest with it’s repeating patterns and texture. This image, taken on a cold and frosty morning, was taken on the curve of the pier, to really make the most of the pier’s curving leading line.
I love strong geometric leading lines, as you can see from the above two images. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to use softer leading lines that lead the eye into different elements of a scene. This photograph ‘Snow on the Beach’ taken at Bamburgh Castle is a good example of using a foreground feature to ‘point’ or lead the eye to other elements in the photograph. The main trunk of the drift wood leads the eye to the moon rising over the ocean, while the two right hand branches lead the eye to Bamburgh Castle.
Leading lines can also be used to draw the viewer’s eye beyond your main subject and into the distance or even out of an image, suggesting more that is of interest beyond your immediate scene. Hadrian’s Wall provides fantastic photographic opportunities as it can be used as a clear leading line that stretches for miles and miles. I love this little tree at Caw Gap (sadly no longer there), it is perfectly placed right next to the wall. In this image ‘Up on the Roof’ the wall leads nicely to the little (bad hair day!) tree and then it dips down this beautiful stretch of wall as it disappears off into the landscape, leaving the imagination to wander.
It can also be fun to spot and photograph cross-cutting lines in the landscape, to create a more abstract effect and to lead the eye to different places in the scene. This photograph was taken at Duddo Stone Circle one pretty grim day when I was struggling to find much to photograph. Luckily the newly planted crop made for superbly graphic and strong lines in the landscape, cutting right across the clear footpath to Duddo Stone Circle in the distance. What had been a pretty uninspiring photography trip turned out to be a brilliant one, thanks to finding these great lines in the landscape. The main path to Duddo Stone Circle provides the more conventional ‘leading line’ to what would normally be the subject, but the cross-cutting crop lines confuse the eye a little, thereby making all of the lines themselves the main subject of the photograph. It’s great fun to play with lines and features in the landscape like this, to really get more from your photography and to make the whole experience even more of an adventure.
Thank you to the lovely and talented Rachel, with whom I’ve had the great pleasure to work with for the past six months,
for the opportunity to write a guest blog and feature on her website.”
Beautiful images by Anita. I love the ‘bad hair day’ tree. What a shame it is no longer there.
The last black and white image has an interesting emotional quality; to me, it feels like there are two paths to take in which I can choose between the slightly trodden path with ‘things’ at the end or broader well defined ‘path’ that leads to unknown. Leaves me feeling thoughtful of how this may represent life. ooooh! Which path would you choose?
I hope you feel inspired to start using leading lines in the future.
Thanks for reading!
If you liked this blog and what to find out more about Anita’s work you can follow her on Twitter or instagram