Creativity Challenge #1 - Diagonals

The first instalment of my 52-week Creativity Challenge - Diagonals

Diagonal lines provide a strong compositional element leading the eye into and creating a sense of dynamism to an image. They have been a compositional tool for painters for centuries - see Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, JMW Turner's Rain, Steam and Speed and Tom Roberts' Shearing the Rams as examples. Photographers too have used diagonal lines to enhance the composition of a variety of photographic genres:

  • portraits and street photography, e.g., Henri Cartier-Bresson used diagonals in many images - see this collection,
  • landscape photography, e.g. Fred Kruger's Wreck of the ship George Roper, Point Lonsdale in which he deliberately posed spectators on the beach in the bottom left of the frame, thereby enhancing the natural diagonal of the cliff on the right creating a visual, diagonal division of the frame, allowing the wreck to stand alone in the top left half, perfectly balanced by the spectators and cliff in the other half of the frame.


Barwon River mouth from the pedestrian bridge at Barwon Heads

When the alarm woke me at 5:00am, I was not anticipating much of a morning as there was 100% cloud cover but the light started to break through the cloud by 5:15 so I headed out to Barwon Heads just in case. I drive past this view several times a week and had this sort of image in my head for when the conditions were right. Within 15 minutes of arriving, the sky opened up enough to create this beautiful, pre-dawn cloud show. I also like the restaurant on the jetty and The Bluff in the background to anchor the horizon with a point of interest rather than just shooting the sky and reflection alone.

ISO 100, 24mm, 8 seconds at f/22, circular polariser + 3-stop ND + 4-stop graduated ND filters

ISO 100, 24mm, 8 seconds at f/22, circular polariser + 3-stop ND + 4-stop graduated ND filters

As the theme for the day was 'diagonals' I decided to use the diagonal shoreline to lead the eye to the central point of interest. This required a bit of trial and error framing the shot from different places on the bridge to enable the diagonal to run from the bottom right corner to the centre of the frame.


The secondary diagonals in the sky and water were serendipitous but required waiting for a few minutes for the clouds to move into the 'right' place so the golden glow of light enhanced the central point of interest: the restaurant, jetty and The Bluff. It pays to be patient!


I decided on a central placement for the point of interest because I wanted to include the diagonal shoreline but placing the point of interest on the top left 'rule of thirds' point would have cropped out the most interesting part of the image: the sky and reflection on the left side.

Check out this video in which I describe and demonstrate how I used diagonals to enhance this image.

Please feel free to comment below. Constructive criticism and informed discussion are always welcome.

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