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Wednesday, 21 November 2007


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Oh boy . . . this is a tough one. I have some questions.

The featured photograph seems like an inside joke. Photographers know about straight horizons, so are they the target audience here? Is that the "point" of the photograph? The sun impinging on the frame line almost seems like a bad version of the kitschy subject stepping out the frame, using Photoshop selections.

I struggle to give myself permission to deviate from the straight and narrow, but all too often the deviation becomes a feature of the photograph when that's not my intention. Plumb and square allows you to focus on your subject instead, no?

Enlighten me.

"Enlighten me."

C'mon, Carl. How about "Note that these prejudices I'm reporting on are just mine. That is, I make no claim that they ought to be Universal. Ctein can go on goring his rectilinear chicken, and anybody else who differs with me on this just differs with me, is all. Prejudices are personal."

Mike J.

I think there's a big hidden difference in viewing modes here. I like this picture, but to me, it's a picture, an abstract. I've lived a good part of my life in the outdoors and my landscape photos for me represent reality, and in reality water tends to level itself. I remember a photo in a post about perspective correction I made here and there was this ass in it that was leaning very unnaturally to me, due to wideangle distortion, so i corrected it and some people said they liked it better in the original way. Well, I've worked a lot with horses and cows and other cattle in real life and to me a leaning donkey is like a bugger in the middle of the picture. Animals who stand like that are in my experience very ill or about to fall. It might have a purpose, but if it isn't throwing me out of balance, I can't see it. I'm prejudiced that way, but I can see clearly it's my prejudice and it makes sense for me, so I don't see any need for anyone to apologize, the straight or the twisted.
To some people, a crooked tree means strong winds, not lens distortion, so we should accept there are lots of variations in perception.

Although I'm not a professional photographer, I don't find the tilting disturbing at all. It reminds me of the mise-en-scene in '20 German expressionist films (where the camera-tilt can represent the 'craziness' of a character for example. Anyway, I really like this pic. Cheerz!

The instant I see the photo it shouts at me!

Its not straight!

Although I agree about the personal prejudices thing, my personal preference in the case of the particular featured photo is that I really don't like the tilted horizon—*in this particular photo*. I do, however, like imperfections generally as long as they add character to the photo. Grain is a very obvious and long accepted way of adding character but as Mike says there can be other ways of adding imperfection that can also add character.
Someone else responding to another article mentioned www.onexposure.net. The acceptance criteria on this site lean very strongly towards the "perfect" and "conventional". There's no way your tilted horizon picture would make it on there. But there's lots of pictures that come up for critique there after being rejected that I really like precisely *because* of the imperfections, especially when they are "imperfections" of composition. These are often pictures that have strong compositions but also have other elements, not part of the main composition, that to me add interest while others say they distract.

Okay Mike, if I was an Image Doctor, I would diagnose you as having an "anti-rectilinear fetish" with a "solar affectation." ;)

But what do I know, my first impression was that the photographer either felt insecure, or he was bored with the subject matter, and felt that the picture needed something more.

Even saying this, I really like the photograph. It grows on me.

FWIW, one of the famous 20th century painters (I don't remember who, might have been Picasso, early in his career), used to enjoy hanging his paintings slightly crooked, insisting that when they were hung straight they were just decor, but when crooked, you were forced to look at the image.

As we used to say in construction: Everything is plumb until the last nail goes in. However, I don't like tripods, but consistently lean .5 - 1.5 degrees off center when I'm using a camera. I like to correct it in photoshop - at least to the point where it isn't distracting to the viewer. This reminds me of my first, and only, law of art: There are no straight telephone poles in nature.

I can go along with whatever a photographer puts in front of me and accept or reject it on my own preferences but the one I would not look twice at is a picture with a non horizontal horizon. To my mind anyone accepting such a picture is making an in-brain correction and viewing it as correct - if that makes sense ?

I agree with those who find rectilinear shots a bit unnatural, but at the same time, tilted horizons bug me to no end :) Except for the intentionally skewed shot, which can be as fun as anything else when done rarely. Actually, it's one of the things that bugs me about APS-C ... even with the relatively good VF in the 7D and even with a grid screen installed, I get a lot of off-kilter shots compared to when I shot film, and usually the first thing I do in ACR is apply the straighten tool. I can live with grain/noise, motion blur, slightly OOF subject, lens flare if the picture is otherwise worthwhile to me (though OOF haunts me more than the others :) ... but a crooked shot like Mikes BUGS me ! (We are funny in our predudices ! My 5-year old daughter won't let me stop reading a book anywhere except at the very end of the right hand page ... middle of a paragraph, middle of a sentence, doesn't matter, we have to pick up at the top left of a left hand page each day).

I always straighten my horizons when they are crooked, especially if the horizon is water. To me, a crooked horizon is unnatural and therefore distracting. That's my bias, but it might have something to do with the fact that I paddle a sea kayak on Lake Superior and other large bodies of water, and consciously or not, I use the horizon as a reference line. When I look at your photo I feel I should be getting ready to brace or roll.

Having said that, I don't believe that all photos must be level, especially when the camera is pointed up or down. Sometimes disequilibrium is the whole point of a photo.

I have to be honest, your picture does, ahem, bother me. When I see a picture with a tilted horizon as such, my first thought is "why did he/she do that?" The first answer that pops into my head is that the picture was completely uninteresting to the photographer. In an attempt to make a shot anyway, the photographer thought, "ah, screw it, I'll just tilt the camera. That'll make it interesting." This is just my first impulse of course. I get the same feeling from excessive wide angle shots too -you know, the "it's cool because I can see in every direction" shots It's like some high teenager saying "whoa man, it's all distorted... trippy..." But hey, we all have our fetishes... (apparently mine is using way to many quotations)

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