Exercise: Positioning the horizon

This exercise is about dividing the frame by using the horizon line and how the positioning of the horizon within the frame affects the feel of the image. I have used a view of Hampton Court Palace, taken from the end of The Long Water to complete this exercise.

In this first image the water covers over three-quarters of the frame with hardly any sky. It feels a little unstable and the palace itself looks as though it is sitting on a watery platform, ready to roll to one side or the other at any point.

In this first image the water covers over three-quarters of the frame with hardly any sky. It feels a little unstable and the palace itself looks as though it is sitting on a watery platform, ready to roll to one side or the other at any point.

The emphasis in this image remains with the palace, but the drama of the sky has increased a little and the water is less dominant, It still feels as though a lot of the image is wasted.

The emphasis in this image remains with the palace, but the drama of the sky has increased a little and the water is less dominant, It still feels as though a lot of the image is wasted.

This image might be thought of as the 'standard' composition. The image is split horizontally and the palace is central,  but there is nothing particularly dynamic about the balance or composition.

This image might be thought of as the 'standard' composition. The image is split horizontally and the palace is central,  but there is nothing particularly dynamic about the balance or composition.

In this image the horizon is below the horizontal mid-point and feels quite 'natural. The looming sky is now a dominant feature and the image overall is very stable.

In this image the horizon is below the horizontal mid-point and feels quite 'natural. The looming sky is now a dominant feature and the image overall is very stable.

In this image, there is more sky and thus more drama, The composition feels very solid, although there isn't a great deal of difference between this and the image above.

In this image, there is more sky and thus more drama, The composition feels very solid, although there isn't a great deal of difference between this and the image above.

In the final image, the horizon (and the palace) is set very low. It is a very solid composition. I have deliberately darkened the sky in all the images (using a graduated filter in Lightroom) to show how what is going on above the horizon can have a distinct effect on the overall feel of the image.

Positioning of the horizon can have a profound effect on the feel of an image and these photographs are just one particular example. In these images there is very little foreground detail to come into play. If, for example, there had there been a boat in the foreground, the image would have differed much more from positioning the horizon higher in the frame, as the boat would have become much more apparent in the composition. In this example, I deliberately darkened the sky to highlight how the removal of it (by raising the horizon) affected the feel of the image.

My own personal favourites are the ones with the horizon set low, simply because the sky is quite dramatic and needs to be incorporated.