A Quest for Curves: The Natural World

I’ll say this for Photo 101: it’s causing me to look more closely at my surroundings. When “The Natural World” assignment popped up on my phone’s WordPress app, I was waiting to pick up my son. Dutifully, I began searching for “curves” in the natural world nearest me: a large, open field adjacent to the church parking lot. I took the photo below partly because of the lovely colors (no filter, folks!) but mainly because of an abundance of curves in the landscape — the rounded shapes of the trees, the distant hills, and the clouds — set off by the horizontal line of the green field and the vertical tree trunks. Not long afterwards, the daylight faded.


If you’re participating in Photo 101, you might see the problem: when I read the “Natural World” assignment, I seized on a key phrase rather than the whole idea. That happens when I read on my phone: my grasp of the material is often incomplete. The words that jumped out at me were “lines” and, in particular, “curves.”  Here are the words in context (I added the italics):

Exploring the outdoors, with camera in hand, is an opportunity to look for natural lines that lead our eyes to different parts of a frame. Envision the bend of a stream, or the curve of a petal: how can you use these lines in your composition? If you see strong vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines, can you play with the orientation to create a more dynamic composition? Can you apply — or break — the Rule of Thirds?

Unfortunately, I didn’t read the assignment thoroughly until days later, at which point I had taken more pictures of the natural world — looking for curves and lines but not in terms of how they related to framing the picture. Never having looked for curves and lines in nature before, I had fun with this assignment (or my primitive grasp of the assignment). On a hike at the Arboretum, I spotted curves everywhere. Lines ran parallel to the curves, and lines cut diagonally or vertically across the curves. Soon, my 10-year-old was enthusiastically looking for curves with me — in waxy green rhododendron leaves, in strangely arched tree trunks, in the rounded ends of white oak leaves, in acorns and pebbles.

On your next walk, I recommend this fun exercise: see how many curves you can find in the natural world. Then, look for straight lines in nature. In my part of the United States, the curves dominate. Even straight pine needles, when grouped together on a branch, make a soft circle of green. The next time I take pictures of the natural world, I’ll try to go one step farther and use those lines and curves to — what was that again? “Create a more dynamic composition”? For now, enjoy the curves.IMG_3053

All photographs taken in November 2014 by Sandra Fleming with her iPhone 5s and copyrighted  © 2014. Next time I go looking for curves, I should take my Lumix: the Lumix has a view mode that divides the screen into nine squares, so I could look for curves or lines AND try to apply the Rule of Thirds.


19 thoughts on “A Quest for Curves: The Natural World

  1. I was thinking that the acorn photo was following the rule of 3rd also. Especially the leaf. I love the first, the acorn and the last. Although I agree with you that you should go out again and follow the directions, mainly because you seems to be having fun, but have you tried cropping the pictures, just to get an end with your means?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tried cropping with the grid on a couple of the pictures, but the resolution of the photos seemed to be compromised through the cropping — or, to my untrained eye, anyway. But I think part of the problem is that I keep rejecting what looks like “empty space” to me. It may take a while to retrain my eye.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What I’m enjoying about this is that it is stretching me. Every time I’m tempted to use a photo I already have I remind myself that’s not the point. And since there are no grades, or even much feedback we can get pretty much what we put in — didn’t read the assignment quite right? No worries–you get interesting shots anyway! Love that tree shot!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are beautiful photos. I am attracted to lines, but I often don’t realize how many lines are in my photos until people point them out to me. I need to pay a little more attention to the elements in the photos I take. This soulds like a great course and you seem to be doing very well. Thanks for bringing us along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dan: I am trying to learn to see subjects as a photographer would, but some of the advice is hard to apply, after years of centering a subject. I also rely on other people’s judgment about photos; my daughter has a better “eye” than I do, even though I ignore her advice on occasion. (I included a photo in this post that didn’t meet her approval — the last one: I wanted a landscape to balance out my landscape at the beginning.)


  4. I liked the curves and lines in your photos, especially the first one with the flaming tree color. Actually, I think that one does use the Rule of Thirds with the tree in the lower-right intersection and the distant hills across the lower horizontal line. Thinking of photography really does make you look at things differently and appreciate what’s all around you more.

    Also, I discovered that the iPhone Camera app does have a Grid setting, although it’s not the default. Go into Settings, and select Photos and Camera; it’s the 3rd item after Music and Videos within the 6th section after scrolling to 3rd page. Just turn on the Grid toggle switch under Camera after scrolling down to the 2nd page. Then you will see the Rule of Thirds grid in your Camera frame when taking photos.

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