lines in the Dunes

I went back to sand dunes to reconnect with my artistic perception of life because of a break-thru experience I had at White Sands National Monument about 5 years ago. I discovered at that time that I loved lines. And sand dunes had clear cut lines like nowhere else.

Leading lines are one of my favorite compositions. Leading lines are lines that start at or near an edge and move toward the center or across the image. Artistically lines are a form. Visually, lines are perceived as edges of contrast, and our eyes naturally move along a line of contrast in order to organize and form a visual shape. Lines create a sense of movement, curved lines more than straight lines. Really curved lines even more so. Another form of leading lines are vanishing points. Vanishing points are essentially lines that lead you into the image and converge on a point within the image, leaving your vision at some element or color or space. Often vanishing points are used to draw attention to an element in an image. For me, I use them to draw the viewer into the image to leave them there. It is the way I see. Technically a leading line goes through an image, and a vanishing point line ends within the image.

It is technically bad form to have your lines (whether it’s a line or a creek or a line of trees etc) coming out of a corner. (One of those rules) However, I find that streams and creeks clearly leaving the image in a corner can have an appealing quality to them.

It has been said that the famous photographer Jay Maisel said there should be no triangles in corners of the image. Having worked with that idea over the last year, I find that avoiding triangles in the corners does promote more focus on other elements and away from the corners. However sometimes you just have to have a triangle in the corner.

One of the reasons I like the slot canyons is that they have many lines in the composition that are sometimes vanishing points and sometimes leading lines. Many times though they lead through an image or just convey a sense of movement.

Sometimes the lines in a composition are rather vague and may be less defined that in sand dunes or slot canyons. However my first visual organization of my or someone else’s image is to first see the lines, then the forms, then the color. All of us have different ways of organizing our visual perception. Early in my time with Alain and Natalie Briot, Alain asked me if I see form or color first. I immediately said, “form”, without really knowing what I meant from an artistic perspective. Over time I realized my blurted-out answer was true.

One of the main projects for my time at the Great Sand Dunes National Park was to see lines again. I needed to get back to some basic perception that allowed me to see with an artistic eye rather than a rational one. Lines got me there.

lines in the Dunes

4 thoughts on “lines in the Dunes”

  1. The photographic images are visually inspirational and your written “images” are intellectually inspirational. Thank you for both.

  2. Thank you Terry. Your explanation of “lines” has given me some insight as to why I enjoy seeing and lingering on your photos. Sometimes I have a sense of infinity, sometimes an optical illusion where I see two different images depending on how I gaze , and sometimes I’m “struck” by the beauty of a single object in your photo.

    Keep on writing and keep on sending.

    thank you again


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