Leading Lines

In an earlier post, I discussed my view about simplifying “The Rule Of Thirds”. Today “Leading Lines” will receive my overly simplified approach!

Why leading lines are important?

Leading lines are spoken about regularly in many genres of photography and for good reason. They help draw the viewers eye in a specific direction through the image and land their attention on the subject. Whilst most often vertical in nature from bottom to top, they can also be horizontal, diagonal or converging.  

In Landscape Photography

Landscape photographers seek out these lines using them to create dynamic effects within their work. The lines usually lead from front to back. This is also known in photographic terms as “creating depth”. Learning how to find and incorporate leading lines into your work will quickly & greatly improve your images. Leading lines can be manmade (railings, walls and fences, roads & paths, lamp posts, etc) or naturally occurring organic materials (fallen logs, trees, rivers, grass patterns, rock formations, cloud patterns, etc). Most photographers will try and find these naturally when they arrive at and initially scout a location. They can literally spend hours just looking.  

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In Seascape Photography

Leading lines can be a little harder to find in seascape photography. Sometimes you can use piers and old railings as a subject and a leading line all in one.

Other times, natural lines in rock formations can be found and exaggerated to create strong leading lines. Simply get down low and tilt a wide angle lens downwards. This creates a very strong near foreground which then leads the viewer into the image via the bold strong lines.

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Creating Leading Lines

Many roads lead to Rome and there is another way to potentially create leading lines even when they are not initially visible to the naked eye (with the right conditions of course).

Simply find a location where waves roll in and roll out slowly again. Then compose a shot in exactly the same manner described above by getting down low to the foreground with a wide angle lens. Wait for a wave to roll in, as it recedes, trip your shutter button. Depending on the time of day, a neutral density filter may be required to slow down the shutter speed and create the desired effect. The receding waters should create unforeseen leading lines through your image leading into the frame. In my experience this technique is best suited to shutter speeds between 1 and 15 seconds long. This also depends on the strength of the waves rolling in. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shutter speeds to find the one that works best you in any given scene.

Another Tip

A little technique I use to guess the best shutter speed for a scene is to simply stand and count as the wave recedes before I set-up. If it takes 5 seconds for a wave to recede I usually set my shutter speed at around 2 or 3 seconds. Also try tripping your shutter at different times as the wave recedes, for example, try a few shots as the wave starts receding, then a few as the wave is in the middle of receding. You will be surprised at how much difference there is in the effect.

The results can be extremely powerful and create a great sense of movement and drama within your images. Additionally, the waves can clean a scene beautifully as the hide a messy foreground below them.

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Watch Outs

Waves and cameras don’t go together very well. Being low and close to the water means you need to have one eye on the camera and one eye on the incoming waves. There always seems to be a larger than normal wave every now and again so be careful you don’t get your gear destroyed. More importantly, never put yourself in danger – only ever get as close as is safe!

You will also need a good supply of micro fiber clothes with you as your filters will most likely get covered in sea spray and need constant cleaning.  

Once you try this technique a couple of times, you will be surprised how easy it is to accomplish. Go and enjoy creating this leading lines!!

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