Our eyes are designed to locate and follow lines, whether they are natural or artificial, leading us instinctively to explore the scene in an image. A lead-in line is a simple visual trick that takes advantage of this to draw and direct the viewer’s gaze into the frame.
The landscape is full of lines and shapes, such as meandering streams, roads, paths, walkways, jetties, slipways, crop lines, shadows, pavements, ropes, chains, hedges, causeways. There are also many lead-in lines that are not so obvious. These can be incomplete or implied, such as a row of smooth boulders acting like stepping stones into the landscape beyond, or the backwash of a wave dragging back over pebbles on the beach. Once you start looking you will start to identify all types of object that you can use in your composition.
Converging vertical lines are particularly photogenic, creating a ‘vanishing point’ and a compelling sense of depth. Low viewpoints can also work well with compositional lines, but it is important to experiment with different shooting heights and angles until you achieve the visual effect you desire.
For this assignment, I had to look within different landscapes for compelling lead-in lines that I could use to add strength and depth to my composition but I had to be careful – if they abruptly exited the frame they could lead the eye out of the shot instead. The task was to locate twelve different types of lead-in line within the local landscape and then use them to enhance my compositions.
- Choose a focal length and viewpoint that emphasise lines within the landscape. Try to get close with an ultra-wideangle lens to exaggerate and stretch the size of nearby lines and distort angles.
- Placing your lead-in lines so that they enter from one of the bottom corners of the frame can prove very effective.
- Ultra-wideangle lens.
- Lines don’t have to be perfectly straight to entice the viewer’s eye into shot. Look for vertical, diagonal, zigzagged, curved, or ‘S’ shaped lines in the landscape.
- Lead-in lines are typically at their most effective when they recede into the distance toward an actual point of interest such as building, tree, or person, or the sun setting on the horizon.