Horizontal or Vertical Landscape or Portrait

We view a seascape through the viewfinder either horizontally (landscape) or vertically (portrait), but which one do you choose? Often the subject or scene will suggest one or the other.

Consider the lines, shapes and orientation of the elements. The format will often jump out at you. If you cannot decide, then shoot both. Many professionals will suggest that, if you shoot for publication purposes, you should develop the habit of shooting both vertical and horizontal so the editor can choose one or the other. The guidelines say that emphasising vertical lines adds tension and excitement to a vertical format, whilst the horizontal format is much more restful to look at because it suggests calm and, in land photography, echoes the horizon — hence it tends to be preferred by landscape photographers.

fig. 7.2 This idea fits both formats and as my model swam into the Carnatic wreck I orientated my camera as she came closer. Which one do you prefer? Fig 7.1 provides more information about the wreck interior because it is wider. This figure provides more depth in view of the vertical orientation of the frame. You choose! Subal housing, Nikon D200, 10.5 mm fisheye lens, f5.6 at 1/45th sec, ISO 100, two Inon Z220 flashguns.

fig. 7.2 This idea fits both formats and as my model swam into the Carnatic wreck I orientated my camera as she came closer. Which one do you prefer? Fig 7.1 provides more information about the wreck interior because it is wider. This figure provides more depth in view of the vertical orientation of the frame. You choose! Subal housing, Nikon D200, 10.5 mm fisheye lens, f5.6 at 1/45th sec, ISO 100, two Inon Z220 flashguns.

fig. 7.3 An example of the vertical format graduation of the water colour is evident in this shot of Phantom Cave, Cebu, Philippines. Notice how the blue tone is bright at the top of the frame, graduating to midnight blue towards the bottom. I positioned two divers with lights within the eye sockets of the mask to create an extra dimension to this fun five minutes of mine. Nikon D300, f5.6 at 1/90th sec, ISO 400, natural light. Without a doubt there are more vertical than horizontal opportunities in the sea when shooting wide angle.

When shooting wide angle I believe there are more portrait opportunities in the sea than landscape. The reason for this is limited to the underwater world, and it is because of the colour of the water and the way in which blue water (or green) graduates in brightness from the top of the frame to the bottom. A vertical wide angle blue water shot can graduate from a very light tone of blue, through the blue spectrum to almost black. The feeling of depth that this creates is a powerful tool in creating wide angles with impact.

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