Hill with tower in front of high snow-covered mountains
Lens-Artists,  Nepal,  Photographic techniques,  Travel galleries

Gallery: Nepal on the diagonal

God is in the mountains. Impassive, immovable, jagged giants, separating the celestial from the terrestrial with eternal diagonal certainty.

Russell Brand

The particular mountains in my opening shot are the Himalayas, viewed from the Peace Pagoda near Pokhara. The hill in the foreground is Sarangot, with its view tower from which we were to watch the sun rise a couple of days after this shot was taken. And behind is the distinctive peak of Machapuchare, known as the Fishtail Mountain. If God is in the mountains, surely he must be here?

As Patti reminds us in this week’s Lens Artists challenge, the presence of diagonals in an image creates a sense of movement. Our eyes naturally follow the line to see where it leads.

Often diagonals are used to create leading lines, taking the viewer on a journey through an image to a specific point you want to highlight. Maybe a building at the end of a road or door at the end of a path. There could be a tree at the point where a wall ends, or a person sitting on a fallen tree trunk.

Personally however I don’t think that diagonals and leading lines are synonymous. A curve can be a leading line, as can a vertical, interrupting the natural left to right reading of an image. But even if it ultimately leads nowhere, a diagonal line can make an image more dynamic than, say, a horizontal one. The latter is more restful, while a vertical line suggests stability. In contrast a diagonal is tense and full of energy.

For this gallery I started by hoping to find a few diagonals in my Nepal album. To my surprise I found so many I didn’t need to look anywhere else!

Wooded hill with snowy mountains beyond

Another Himalaya shot, this time taken from Manakamana. The diagonal line of the hill in the foreground is almost the opposite of a leading line, as it appears to cut off a corner of the image. By interrupting our view, it adds a sense of distance and places the mountain range in context. The line encourages our eyes to follow it out of the frame, but the mountains are so imposing they draw us back.

Line of people with cameras and phones at a viewpoint over a valley

I mentioned watching the sun rise over the Himalayas from Sarangkot. Spectacular though that sight was, I’m glad I turned away from it briefly to capture this shot of some of the many others there to see it. The diagonal line of people echoes that of the valley below, with the town of Pokhara strung out along the valley floor.

Coloured fabric flags in lines in front of white dome

Here are many parallel diagonal lines, prayer flags at Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu. I was trying to include some of the many pigeons flying around here in my shots, and fortuitously this one obliged by providing a diagonal at right angles to the flags, adding to the dynamism.

Looking up at people crossing a narrow footbridge

On our way back to Kathmandu from Dhulikhel we drove under this suspension bridge at Kailashnath Mahadev. It leads to a huge statue of Lord Shiva on the hillside above but I found the bridge and those on it just as interesting photographically.

Small plane at the end of a grassy area with distant mountains

In this shot, taken while boarding a flight to Kathmandu at Pokhara Airport, the diagonals definitely do qualify as leading lines, directing the eye to the small plane we were about to board.

Looking down at a city

Around an hour later, landing in Kathmandu, the main roads cut diagonal lines across my view of the city, creating interest in what would otherwise be a rather flat image.

Neon sign advertising cocktail bar

My remaining examples are all of smaller details, such as this sign on a bar in Thamel, Kathmandu. Sign-makers clearly understand the dynamism that a diagonal brings to their message.

Backlit red flower

Nature can do dramatic, dynamic diagonals too, as this shot shows. It’s another angle on the hibiscus in my November round-up.

Bright yellow pompom flowers

A diagonal ‘line’ doesn’t have to be literally a line, it can be suggested by a series of objects in your image. These marigolds growing on the hillside in Manakamana demonstrate a different way of introducing diagonals into a shot.

Nature meets man-made in this shot of a mynah bird on a house in Bandipur. The bird’s pose echoes the diagonal line of the carved roof beam. He looks as if he could fly up and out of the photo’s frame at any moment (and that’s exactly what he did, seconds after I pressed the shutter!)

Brown and black bird on a carved wooden beam

Brown lizard on a stone wall

Still in Bandipur, I spotted this small lizard at the Khadga Devi Temple. As with the shot of the mynah bird, the diagonal suggests movement out of the frame, while the long tail provides a leading line directing our vision towards his head.

Orange butterfly on a broken branch

The main diagonal in my final shot, of a butterfly in Bardia National Park, is another good example of a leading line. The broken branch directs our eye towards the butterfly, while the shorter diagonal of the trunk creates a frame for it.

I visited Nepal in October/November 2022


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