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Landscape Photography - Photographing Horizons
The horizon is the line where the earth and sky appear to meet. The position of the horizon in a landscape determines where the interest of the picture lies- if it is nearer the top of the picture than the bottom, the interest is in the landscape, and vice versa.
That is why it should never run across the middle of the photograph, because that automatically splits the picture into two equal parts which compete for the observer's attention.
In a strong landscape such as occurs in hilly country, the horizon will be in the upper half, or, indeed, it may with advantage be eliminated by trimming away the sky. But by the sea, a low horizon will carry a sky which dominates the scene with its cloud formation.
There are three different ways of adjusting the position of the horizon: by tilting the camera up or down; by keeping the camera level and raising or lowering the front; and by keeping the camera level and later cropping the image in photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.
Tilting the camera up or down introduces some distortion of the
perspective of the picture. This passes unnoticed in a picture made up
of rounded and irregular-shaped masses. But if there are any strong
vertical lines, e.g: straight, tall trees, or the sides of high
buildings, the tilt may be unpleasantly obvious. It is also impossible
to join up the separate prints of a panorama series made with a tilted
The ideal way of controlling the interest and adjusting the level of the horizon in the picture is to use a camera with a rising and falling front. This method does not distort any vertical lines in the picture and shows a natural perspective of trees and buildings.
If a landscape is photographed with a camera without a rising front, verticals will not be distorted so long as the camera is kept absolutely level. In this case the horizon will run across the centre of the negative, but there is no reason for it to run across the center of the print. The top or bottom of an image can easily be trimmed away to give the picture the required balance, and in an enlargement the photographer is free to please himself about the position of the horizon. This is the only method open for making panoramas with a camera that has no rising front.
viewpoint will determine how much is included in the foreground and how
the foreground objects are laid out in the picture. Thus a low
viewpoint will include only very near objects on a large scale, and
these will hide anything farther away. If these subjects are taller
than the height of the camera, they will also obscure the sky line and
often exclude the sky altogether.
Conversely, a high viewpoint will not include any particularly near details, and provides an over-all view over medium distance objects, with the sky line formed by the limit of the field of vision. The higher the viewpoint, the farther this limit, and the less will appear of closer subjects.
The straight line of the horizon should generally be interrupted before it meets the edge of the picture. This is merely a matter of choosing a viewpoint that makes use of a suitable tree, or similar natural object.