Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Conventional wisdom

click photo to enlarge
You may have read a couple of weeks ago, the claim by the University of York's Peter Thompson that, contrary to popular belief, horizontally striped clothes are better at disguising excess weight than those with vertical stripes. To reach his conclusion he took 200 pairs of photographs of women in vertically striped and horizontally banded clothes, and asked viewers to decide which looked slimmer. By a margin of 6%, those wearing horizontal stripes were judged to appear more slender. To underpin his findings Thompson pointed out that the more beneficial effect of horizontal lines in clothing was first noted by the German physiologist, Hermann von Hemholtz, nearly a century and a half ago in his "Handbook of Physiological Optics", published in 1867.

This snippet of recent news came to mind as I was processing my image of the reflection of a footbridge in the stretch of water known as the Sleaford Navigation. I had deliberately composed the shot with the strong band of the footbridge going diagonally across the frame. The conventional wisdom about composition is that horizontal lines are stable, calm, and give a sense of space, and diagonals are dynamic, and give a greater feeling of energy. However, looking at my shot I didn't think that the diagonal had that effect at all. Maybe it's a consequence of the strong vertical counteracting the diagonal. It could be the almost moire pattern of the wire mesh reflections. Or perhaps it's the effect of the ripples breaking up and softening the straight edges that negates those lively qualities. On the other hand, it could be that, as with verticals and horizontals in clothing, the accepted view is wrong and diagonals really don't impart the qualities claimed for them. What do you think?

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 98mm (196mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/50
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On