week twenty-two — gutter

i included a quote last week about the effect of lines as a compositional element in photography, and this shot serves as another example of their power. typically, when consciously composing a shot (and then in the post-processing), i try to think about how i want the viewer’s eye to move throughout the picture.

as a general rule of thumb, the eye will initially be drawn to the highest contrast or most color saturated area of the photo. it will then move sporadically around the rest of the photo, taking in all the little pieces in order to construct a view of the whole shot. this can prevent the shot’s story from effectively being told. it’s as if the viewer is opening the book to page one, and then skipping to random pages until he/she has read all the pages. all of the information has been transferred from the author to the reader, but the story hasn’t really been told. in photography, we don’t have page numbers at our disposal to create order to our storytelling. instead, we have compositional elements, and few compositional elements are stronger than the line.

in the above shot, the eye is initially drawn to the lower left, in the general region where the light rim of the gutter is contrasted with the dark window along the background’s brick wall (i darkened the window in post-processing order to enhance this contrast and help control where the viewer’s eye starts the story). it then follows the diagonal line that is the edge of the gutter down to the end. since there’s nothing at the end to hold the eye’s attention (just a textured brick wall), the eye has a choice to make.

it can become bored and leave the photo (hopefully not), or it can follow the line of the roof’s edge back to the foreground. on this journey back to the foreground, it hopefully notices the wire that is snaking its way through the gutter at the point that the two nearly touch closer to the near end of the gutter. it can then follow this snaking, curved line back to the far end of the gutter, creating a loop that keeps the viewer’s interest and keeps the eye from leaving the frame.

view on flickr or 500px

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