DESERT TRAJECTORIES

Scrolling through photographs from last month’s trip to the southeastern corner of Arizona, I noticed that many of them feature strong diagonals. Normally I’m not looking for diagonal lines when taking pictures, but I’m often drawn to them. They lend a dynamic feeling to compositions and they keep the eyes moving.

Speaking of composition, there’s a tool in Lightroom I like to use called a crop overlay. It places lines in the shape of triangles – diagonals – over your image. When you crop or move your image around relative to the fine lines and place a focal point where the lines intersect, the composition often falls magically into place. Your eyes are led naturally around the image. I don’t always get it right but the tool is a big help.  You can see it in action here, on Rikk Flohr’s WordPress site devoted to cropping images.

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I love a window seat!  Here, snowy mountains and farm fields trace diagonals high above the line my flight followed (another diagonal) between Seattle and Phoenix:

Southeast of Tucson, along the sandy shores of the San Pedro River, there was evidence of the water’s power in the mangled grasses and leaves left high and dry after the last flood:

In the Chiricahua Mountains weathered wood melded with the rocky soil, creating a pale bas relief effect. These brances trace beautifully flowing diagonals.

On the Echo Canyon Trail at the Chiricahua National Monument, enormous boulders balance on one another in a daring elemental dance.  A twisted dead tree contributes more diagonals:

A crooked hole in two “Standing up Rocks” in the Chiricahua Mountains affords a dramatic view. The angled, weathered rocks speak of great geological disturbances, but the clouds describe restful horizontals:

Cracked mud, animal footprints, and caught leaves create an interesting pattern on the banks of the San Pedro River:

Fallen leaves, weathered wood, and a pink rock lay tangled on the ground at Ramsey Canyon:

The Dragoon Mountains tumble diagonally across the land, catching afternoon light and beckoning exploration:

Sunlight creeps along angled boulders at Texas Canyon in the Dragoon Mountains:

Desert flowers hold fast to a bit of soil lodged in a diagonal cut in the rock, and a weathered branch lends stability:

Seen from the right angle, even round cactus leaves can trace diagonals:

Slender weathered branches trace a relaxed trajectory among cactus spines, creating a contrasting mass of diagonals – a still, dry dance of graceful and spiky forms:

And the beautiful, open road that is Highway 186 carves enticing diagonals across a golden desert grassland:


33 comments

  1. I do see the diagonal lines, something I’m trying to improve in my own compositions. (Thanks for the Lightroom tip.)
    Arizona has a melancholy beauty, and unique color tones, I guess due to the more arid landscape. Your photographs are lovely.

  2. A lovely post Lynn and super photos. I particularly like your close-ups. I’m often so wound up in photographing the bigger picture I forget to look to my feet, the inner landscape and the rich picture opportunities, that you have so beautifully demonstrated, that are to be found there. You’ve gone from 35,000 feet to a few feet.. superb! 🙂

    • 🙂 I thought it was fun to have the view from the plane followed by the ground close up. I’ve always loved looking at things close up but recently have been inspired by a blogger, Linda Grashoff, to study the “ordinary” ground at my feet more closely. She’s just published a book of photos of rocks along a riverbed that are tinged with iridescence – http://scienceandartpress.com/
      Your comments are so kind – I appreciate the time and thought you take!

  3. Utterly lovely examples of diagonals. Now I have to go look at the Lightroom link you provided. I’ve never consciously looked for diagonals, but you certainly provided great incentive to do so!

  4. Another fine selection Lynn. I particularly like the first two (especially the first) and the cracked mud. I followed up the cropping link but didn’t find it particularly enlightening. Perhaps I’m missing a trick!

    • I don’t think you’re missing a trick, just have your own way, which is a good thing! With all the thought you obviously put into your work, I’m not surprised the link didn’t appeal that much – it’s pretty basic, I think.

  5. This looks like an amazing place, Lynn. I love your strong diagonal lines in these pictures. Interesting lesson about the cropping. Thanks for sharing your all-encompassingi photographic knowledge. 🙂

  6. Ah I do love how you lead us along here Lynn … giving us vistas from on high to through peep holes back upwards .. I want to squeeze through those boulders !! I wonder if you did 🙂 . Fantastic sharp shots .. the dried cracked mud has me longing to break open a chocolate egg .. if I had one 😀
    Super lovely post !

    • Only squeezed though the easy ones – not those high up ones! I enjoy your imaginative comments, as I always do. I will get to your blog (and a few critical other ones I’ve missed lately) soon.

  7. Great post as usual Lynn… I particularly enjoyed the transitions of scale… the third shot could almost be another overhead/aerial shot similar to the first!

  8. These are such a great series of shots ~ the first one is my favorite, as it looks like something only Mother Nature could create but very few people would ever see (agree window seat rules for that very shot). And then of all the interesting geometrics you have shown, the crooked hole in two “Standing up Rocks” had me staring at it for quite a while… Well done 🙂

    • The window seat…my eyes glued…I seem to be the only one, but out there on another continent, you may be doing the same thing…(unless you’re here now!)
      Thanks! Wherever you are now, I hope you are enjoying the day.

      • I used to have a series of cloud & storm shots from the window seat of my travels… Back in HK now, but so dreaming of the summer back in the Pacific NW 🙂

  9. The variation of scale in these shots is absolutely breathtaking, as though you have taken us on a sweeping roller-coaster ride with glorious highs and lows, sunshine, shade and so much life.


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