Horizon Line

The discussion of horizon lines in underwater photography seems totally irrelevant, but there is a reason for me to include it.

The Collins English Dictionary defines the term 'horizon' as 'the apparent line that divides the Earth and the sky'. Underwater there are numerous examples of what I term 'implied horizons', and we should be aware that the presence of an implied horizon line in seascapes can also divide a picture in half, often to the detriment of the composition.

On land, there is a guideline that advises against placing the horizon in the middle of the frame for the same reason. The viewer may not always recognise the photographer's intentions, so where we place the implied horizon within the frame helps to define and emphasise the strength of the image.

But less obvious examples may be the top of a coral reef against a blue water background, or perhaps the line of a sunken wreck silhouetted against the blue. The old adage and general rule of thumb in land composition is 'avoid placing the horizon across the middle of the frame'. This technique only

fig. 7.19 Any chance I get to shoot reflections I'm there. I intended the undersurface to take on a greater significance than the reef. Consequently, I lowered the implied horizon line and composed the reflection in such a way as to conform to the rule of thirds. I played around with this idea for 15 minutes and managed to get a point of interest on the lower left thirds.

Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17 mm fisheye on the 17 mm end, f5.6 at 1/125th sec, ISO 200, natural light.

fig. 7.19 Any chance I get to shoot reflections I'm there. I intended the undersurface to take on a greater significance than the reef. Consequently, I lowered the implied horizon line and composed the reflection in such a way as to conform to the rule of thirds. I played around with this idea for 15 minutes and managed to get a point of interest on the lower left thirds.

Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17 mm fisheye on the 17 mm end, f5.6 at 1/125th sec, ISO 200, natural light.

serves to give equal emphasis to both foreground and background, which can result in a weak and static composition.

The principle of implied horizon lines is simple to understand once illustrated, but it is a subtlety of underwater composition that often goes unnoticed. The moral is to build this awareness into your repertoire and use it to emphasise the content of your pictures. Question: 'How will you remember to think of this underwater the next time you are shooting?'

A photographer who aspires to take more than a casual snapshot cannot hope to produce a standard of excellence without first understanding and seeking to master the art of composition. The rewards for this entire endeavour are certainly worthwhile!

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