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Thread: Why do horizons have to be straight?! (NTP Query)

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    Why do horizons have to be straight?! (NTP Query)

    I'm not usually a rule basher - I'm a little bit pedantic about most rules, but I just don't get this...

    There is no equivalent rule that I have heard of in design (ok maybe in calligraphy, but you can also have circular lines to write on) so I don't understand why having a straight horizon makes a better picture?

    - if you are in choppy waves and want to convey your 'queasy' would it make sense to take something for disorienting purposes?
    - If you are looking up squinting with your head at an angle and something resonates with you and you want to take a photo of that, why straighten it?

    I'm sure I could think of more situations that I would like clarification on

    In design, it's more like, if you want it skew, make sure it's obvious that it is skew, then someone knows that you did on purpose that you were just not doing it because you forgot or by accident.

    So can someone (try to) enlighten me as to why this is some to strive for from an aesthetic purpose?
    It may not make me change my opinion, but I am interested in possibly hearing something I may not have thought of or do not know?
    Ta

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    Account Closed levers55's Avatar
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    I don't know that horizons do have to be straight (level) for the very reasons you state. However if someone is intending to make a landscape photo and the horizon is slightly off level - unintentionally - it does make the viewer 'unhappy'

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    Going Cold Blooded outstar79's Avatar
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    Most people view landscape images more or less as they would in real life, and off kilter horizon is somewhat a distraction unless of course there's something in the picture that helps create a better dynamic if your horizon is tilted.



    Adam Brice

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    Sir Rattus79 - The Proclaimant
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    It's purely an asthetic quality, but if you check all the masters works, you will be hard pressed to find a crooked horison amongst them. Also, you will find very few dutch tilts too.
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    Ausphotography Regular agb's Avatar
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    I find its pretty hard to cope with water sliding off the page, or screen, if the horizon is not level in land or sea scapes involving water.On the other hand some off level shots look interesting, but more often then not I find these to not include a horizon, and are intentionally very skewed.
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    As you say, if it has a purpose, fine. If you are just tooto get it roght, niot fine. A sloping horizon LOOKS wrong, it does not make a pleasing picture. Most viewers will not like the images.
    Odille

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    You answered your own Q, actually. Nobody says they DO have to be straight. The point being made in such comments is when the poster quite apparently did not notice
    a leaning horizon when they actually meant to, or had the like intention.

    I will not comment as to whether there is any particularly aesthetic purpose, as it is covered in the above point.

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    Otherwise the waters leaks out of the photo!!!

    My take: A deliberate angle for artistic reasons is one thing, a slight visible lean is just ugly.
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    there are times when i have read the horizon isnt straight when in actual fact they are talking about mountains in the background which were not straight to begin with
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    I know what you mean milesy though that river at the bottom of the mountain is running off the page to the right..
    In images like these I drop a hint to level the image, not the horizon
    Last edited by Mary Anne; 18-02-2013 at 3:40pm. Reason: typo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quanita View Post
    - if you are in choppy waves and want to convey your 'queasy' would it make sense to take something for disorienting purposes?
    - If you are looking up squinting with your head at an angle and something resonates with you and you want to take a photo of that, why straighten it?
    I agree, but if you are tilting a shot for the above reasons, I would say that the viewer needs to get that, as soon as they look at the picture, and the tilt needs to convey the same thing to them as it does to you.

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    Meh , I'll enter into this one , I've been guilty of crooked horizons lately , By 0.35 deg's But I do agree that on Seascapes that include the horizon nearly in intirely , It needs to be straight , Architecture , Elements of design , I have taken plenty that are purposely tilted , Makes a more dynamic shot , If needed i'll get one to post , I used to be into that sort of photography and it works , Hang on I found a couple from the archives where the images were tilted purposely , I think it works , EG



    A.jpg



    AA.jpg


    I'd reckon if they were level they'd look ordinary , Just my opinion though
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    Going Cold Blooded outstar79's Avatar
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    Here's my take on the tilted horizon (which I very rarely do):


    The Poor Man's Harley by Adam Brice, on Flickr

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quanita View Post
    if you want it skew, make sure it's obvious that it is skew, then someone knows that you did on purpose that you were just not doing it because you forgot or by accident.
    this. when a horizon is 1 degree out or less, its just enough to annoy my eyes, but not enough to make me think that you did it by design.

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    Thanks so much everyone for your responses. I appreciate hearing all of them.
    Like I said I am (usually) all for rules, but in this case it kind of jarred when I read it in the NTP book and my ex was a fishing journalist and he would make me straighten horizons a lot as well as move identifying features of good spots from photos (I hade the photoshop skills) and in some cases I thought his shot would be better as they wer- particue.

    I have never understood why though, so am glad to hear varying ideas about it am particularly fond of the water leaking out of the photo response though!

    I think I will also pay a bit more attention now to if it makes a difference to me for eg if its a slight lean on a landscape.
    Thanks
    Q

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    Like others have said - there isn't a rule against it , but it's usually fairly clear when the horizon is not straight by intention vs omission.
    If it's not straight just from no realising it wasn't straight, then you lose nothing from correcting it and usually have a lot to gain! ps. I would find it extremely rare to have an intentionally crooked horizon on a landscape work (apart from distortion which I sometimes like for dead straight horizons which are featureless)
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    Now we just need to see some of your photos in the critique forums Quanita, so we can decide if your horizons are OK

    Seriously though, it would be great to see some of your work soon.
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    my 2.2c worth (includes GST)
    Personally, I haven't seen too many 'normal' landscape that look good on a lean - it is naturally unsettling to our mind for some reason.
    But it does work much better with objects like the images posted above by William & Adam - it adds a whole different dynamic.

    You are the master of your photos - if it suits your intent, go for it. If it makes the viewer feel queasy, you have achieved your goal
    You can really maximise the unsettling effect if you want to achieve a particular mood, but I think you have to be obviously deliberate for it to work, not just a slight lean.
    A couple of examples below where I'm trying to mess with people's heads a bit.

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    I hate it when a photo has conflicting levels. I had one recently where if I levelled the photo based on getting the vertical parts vertical, the background looked disconcertingly tilted, but if I straightened the horizon, the verticals looked all wrong, and no amount of lens distortion correction would fix it, in the end I discarded the photo in frustration and put it down to it being an error in my composition of the shot. The mountain range wasn't level, but with no other ground reference, the brain tried to make that the horizon, so the mind complained if it wasn't level, but that tilted all the buildings vertical lines, and the brain complained about that too.
    I think you answer your own question with the reference to the quote about making anything skewed look very deliberate. A couple of degrees people will put down to badly taking the shot and want it straight, whereas if you deliberately took a shot of someone at 45 degrees, you'd be making it pretty clear it was for artistic or emphasis reasons, and that would be much less likely to trouble the viewer, but it may still not be as aesthetic to people as a level composition of the same subject.
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    I have taken photos on a rolling ship and left the horizon askew to convey that feeling of rolling. I think that is one scenario where the horizon doesn't need to be level. Do you compose a photo to please your self or to please the viewers? If it pleases you to have a tilting horizon then do it, but somebody sure to pounce on you.

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