LAPC # 228: Diagonals

For this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #228, we’re exploring the power of diagonals.

When I first started taking photos, I didn’t know how to compose an image. I grabbed the camera and shot quickly, hoping to capture a moment, a place, a person, a memory. I never looked for diagonal lines (leading lines) when I was composing a shot–a fallen log, a set of stairs, a crooked street sign, the veins in a leaf, or someone’s arm raised to the sky. I didn’t realize they encourage us to linger longer over an image as our eyes follow the lines in the scene.

Here’s an example. This drawing by M.C. Escher, one of my favorite Dutch artists, uses many diagonal lines– tire and ski tracks, footprints, and grooves in the snow. A few tree branches also slant across the puddle.

So why would Escher use so many diagonal lines? The answer is simple. Our eyes love movement. The diagonals guide our eyes and invite us to look deeper at the scene. Escher wanted us to focus on the large puddle in the center. He wanted us to spend some time there, examining the reflections.

Diagonals can also add depth to a scene. Instead of a flat 2-dimensional plane, the viewer get a sense of what’s close and what’s further away.

Here’s an example. My subject was the ancient wall surrounding Florence. But I wanted to draw the viewer’s eyes down the winding road and toward the cloudy skies in the distance. I included a series of diagonals–the slanting road, the grassy area marked off with a chain link fence, and the wall itself. All these diagonals and the skies in the distance contribute to the sense of depth. I also wanted to encourage the viewer to “travel” visually around and through the scene. Does it work? I’d love to know.

Artists and architects often use diagonals to lead to a focal point.

Michelangelo surely designed this ceiling in the Medici Chapel with that idea in mind. The vaulted dome is divided into panels separated by decorative lines that lead our eyes around the circumference and invite us to linger on the center oculus.

On a recent trip to Greve in Chianti, we read about Montefioralle, a small walled town with beautiful views of the surrounding hills and vineyards. The leaves were already turning to gold and were strewn over the ground as we hiked up the 250 meter road. The travel experts were right. This tiny village has a mighty view.

I paused on one of the steep roads leading through the town to take this image. I was hoping that the viewer would be drawn into the scene and imagine walking down this garden path. The diagonal lines on either side of the path invited me to enter, as well as the vertical and diagonal stakes supporting the arbor. To my disappointment, the gate was locked!

Diagonals can also give us a sense of action. In this image shot over the summer, the flowers seem to be bursting into bloom. The vivid pink stems help to give us that impression.

We invite you to join us this week as we explore diagonals as a way to add visual interest and depth to your photos, as well as a sense of action. What diagonals can you find? A line of trees or stones, a series of lights or signs, tree branches or a row of hedges, or a row of cupcakes in a bakery window? Consider if the diagonals add a sense of depth, or action, or invite the viewer to explore the scene. We’re looking forward to seeing what you can find! Be sure to include a link to my post and the Lens-Artists tag so we can easily find your post in the Reader. If you’re new to the challenge and want to join us, click on this link.

Last week, we had wonderful tours of your country, town, village or any place that you call home. A special thanks to Tina for her terrific Home Sweet Home theme. Your posts have given us wonderful ideas about new places to explore all around the world.

Next week, it’s Ann-Christine’s turn to take the lead, so be sure to visit Leya next Saturday at noon for LAPC #229 as we continue our December challenges. Have a great week ahead with plenty good health, time with people you love, and inspiration.

180 replies »

  1. I’ve walked down that lane in Florence, Patti, and gazed up at that ceiling. Wonderful examples of diagonals and leading lines. I certainly wanted to follow you into that garden. Next time, maybe? Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fabulous, Brenda! I’m looking forward to seeing your diagonals. I hope you can join us. And yes….there is a lot of energy in the flower image. Fascinating how the stems/diagonals convey that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wonderful, Cee! I always love seeing your theme posts. And you’re a M.C. Escher fan, too. He’s really terrific. I’m happy to hear the explanation was clear. I was hoping it was. Great to get the confirmation. Thanks, Cee. Have a great weekend.


  2. This is a wonderful post. Besides the beautiful images, I love the way you describe the how and why of the theme. It is a great reminder for those of us who have been doing this a while and have forgotten to consciously compose images. And it is a great teaching tool for someone new to photography.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jude. I do like your post and your beautiful examples. Lovely. Your photos are a great advertisement for visiting Cornwall! Thanks for your kind words about my post. I had fun with this one. You were very busy with all the comments/posts for your LAPC theme two weeks ago. Good idea to get a week off!


    • You are so funny, Janet! I love that. It’s time for a glass of Chianti! I am so fortunate to be here amidst so much beauty. I’ll toast you tonight with a glass of wine! Thanks for the big smile.


  3. Beautiful post and a very interesting challenge Patti – an excellent reminder for all of us. Absolutely loved the image of Montefioralle – what an amazing find! And of course, hard to argue with Escher๐Ÿ˜Š, and agree completely with your composition drawing us into the image of the long wall. Terrific.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Tina. I just read your gorgeous post. Just stunning. And thanks for your thoughts on the photos. Montefioralle was terrific. The lunch we had there was the best or close to the best I’ve had in Italy. Just great flavors. Glad you like the long ancient wall, too. We took another walk up in the hills today. Just gorgeous up there. Have a good weekend and a sunny week ahead.


    • Hi, Andy. Yes, it was too bad the gate was locked, but I’m happy with the shot from the other side of the fence! Glad you enjoyed the post. Many thanks!! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€


    • Hi, Philo. I enjoyed your post, too! Great choices. I think you’re the first person to single out Michelangelo. I’m glad you liked it. So stunning. We saw it when the chapel was empty. What a great experience to be alone with such wonderful art/sculpture/architecture. Have a good week.


  4. Great tutorial on leading lines and the use of diagonals! It helped me look at my images in a new way as I searched my own gallery for examples. I found that I use them far more often than I thought I do. I love this challenge topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, John. It is interesting how many diagonals I can find in my. photos, too. Our eyes are really drawn to them. I’m delighted you like this topic. Now I’ve got to start thinking about my next one! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€. Have a good week, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Patti, this was fun read. The information is a fun application to our daily photography, and the understating of why it works. our words, so true that our eyes love movement and places to guide us. When photography became a hobby for me I was infatuated with trails, winding roads, and alley ways. They all create that sense of lingering longer, that you spoke of. The wall around Florence was a great example. And I am glad you said the gate was locked at the arbor area because I was wondering what might be back there.

    My favorite is of the Escher drawing. Wow. so much going there. Thank you for this challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Donna. I love that….the post was fun to read! Great. I was hoping for that. Yes, the question of why something works has been a perennial one for me. I really takes composing a shot to new levels. Glad you like the ancient wall in Florence. That spot really attracts me again and again. Looking forward to your post. Have a good week ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Amy. Thank you! I enjoyed this theme. It’s so interesting that our eyes “want” movement and love to follow leading lines. That place near the old walls is special. I walked there yesterday again! Take care and have a good week ahead.


    • Hi, Judy. This theme has been popular! I’m so happy about that. And thanks for the link to your post. I really enjoyed it. I’m still thinking about the woman’s hands with the beautiful diamond ring!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Tish. I’m delighted that I introduced you to Escher. If you do a Google search, you’ll see more of his amazing illustrations. I think diagonals can help lay out the story–when we look at a photo! I like that analogy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Anita. Thanks so much for your kind word about the images. I have had wonderful inspiration from our travels. I really enjoyed your images–especially the Bay of Fundi. Wow!


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