Exercise 2.4: The Two-Dimensional Plane

Brief: Print out another photo. It can be any photo – even a problematic one – but choose one with many objects at the same approximate distance from the camera, like an interior. Study your image carefully. What catches your attention first? Where do your eyes go next? Are there things on the edges of the picture that distract you? Does your gaze remain inside the frame or is something pulling it outside of the frame? Divide the frame. Where does the main subject lie? On one of the four points of the golden section? In the centre? On one of the quadrants? Now take a marker pen and draw round and name every element that takes your attention. Mark dominant shapes and groups of objects. Note when the objects intersect or obscure each other. This could be distracting. Does an element appear to be a part of the image or is it a distraction? Mark the main tonal and colour areas.

For this exercise I have chosen a photo from activity 2.2. It’s a complicated scene of an engine yard that is part of the North York Moors Railway. It’s a landscape so there is not an individual subject. There a few reasons that I like the photo. The wide open but busy space is balanced by two areas of space, the sky and the foreground centre. The curve of the trees an buildings compliments the opposing curve of the skyline. The left and right hand side of the photo are framed by a building and industrial containers, and these keep the eye within the frame. It is a good example of composing a photograph so that a broad space can be managed and contained. There are bold colours and shapes that draw the eye around the photo. The two main negatives are, the yellow behind the man in the foreground, the lack of use of a tripod means that the photo is not as sharp and defined as it should be.

How my eye moves around the photo


Object descriptors


1 – Fence, 2 – Man, 3 – Containers, 4 – Shed, 5 – Yellow tubing, 6 – Train, 7 Ladder and platform, 8 – Tree line, 9 – Sky, 10 – Sheds and metal work, 11 – Man, 12 – Railway lines, 13 – Space

5 – The yellow is a distraction behind the man due to its bold colour.

6 – The train is obscured behind the ladder and platform, although the blue and yellow colour of the train draw my eye through to it.

9 – The sky comes out better on WordPress than in my original photo (wordpress compression is quite weird in how it alters colours and brightness), I can go back and re-develop the sky because I like what wordpress has done.

10 – The background buildings provide a context to this industrial landscape.

11 – The man is quite dark and hidden against the background, but I am still drawn to his appearance in the image, it also adds to the context of this being a working environment.

12 – The railway lines draw my eye into the photo.

13 – The foreground space provides some balance and rest in a complex and busy scene.

Colours and Tones

North York Moors Railway


2 Replies to “Exercise 2.4: The Two-Dimensional Plane”

  1. Good stuff Richard. It’s funny how folk see the same image differently. My eyes went to the chap on the left then the diesel in the background first and second, I think because of the yellow behind the man wasn’t too far away in the image (in distance and colour) from the front of the train. In that case the bold yellows worked for me. The white fence only came later and I saw it as a mild distraction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And this is why feedbacks from others is important. I think I will always view photos that I take differently than those that view. The investment we make in our own photography makes it difficult to view from an objective perspective. Your feedback is really helpful. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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