12 October 2008

Along the line

Telegraph pole, No 3 Line
Along No. 3 Line.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor


Emma said...

Pete, this photo really speaks to me, for reasons I can't articulate. Maybe later... in the meantime, I am enjoying seeing your photography in this new format, and look forward to more.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Emma. I'm intrigued by the responses I've had to this photo — it really does seem to stand out for those who've seen it. To be honest, I too can't say what it is that attracted me to the photo in the first place. I suspect the simplicity is part of it, and that's a useful lesson for me. I can say it's not the only photo I have like this, nor is it likely to be the last. I trust it won't be the best, either (got to keep aspiring...)

Lesley said...

I've been wondering why this works, Pete, because so often dividing an image by a vertical line through the middle has the effect of splitting it into two unsatisfactory halves.

Is it because the post is standing right in front of us, in our face, so to speak, so that we see the background as a whole, just as we would if we were physically there looking past both sides simultaneously? Then, again, there's the depth of field: the background is sufficiently out-of-focus to provide a clearly visible context for the post without competing with it.

I wonder if the composition would have worked as well if the sheep had been on the left side instead of the right, if there had been one sheep on each side, or even several more scattered over the hill? I suspect not. It seems to matter that there should be only one, because more would be distracting. Given our tendency to read pictures from left to right, it also seems important to the composition that the eye, as it explores the rest of the image after absorbing the immediate impact of the post, must travel more than halfway along the ridgeline before coming to the sheep. I wonder if it would work as well in this orientation for anyone brought up in a writing system (Arabic, for example) that progresses from right to left. Would such a viewer perhaps feel it was better in reverse? I also think it matters that the sheep is facing inwards towards the middle, rather than outwards towards the right-hand frame. It creates a feeling of cohesion.

The asymmetry of the hill helps, too, rising obliquely from the left, carrying the eye past the post to the summit where the sheep stands, then falling away more steeply to the right.

This does, as you say, have simplicity, but there is also interest in details such as the textures of post and clouds. There are several elements that play a part, some occurring by luck (for example, only one sheep instead of a mob, and the place where it chose to dine), others due to photographic skill. It's not a photograph that immediately grabbed me in the way some of the others did. In fact, it was only after reading the comments above that I took the time to study it carefully, but the more I looked, the more I liked it. It gives me a feeling of being right there, in the field.