The Dutch Tilt or Dutch Angle that is. The technique of tilting the horizon in a photo has been absolutely beaten to death by sailing photographers. You see it everywhere. A lot more often than in other field’s of photography. Why? I think it breaks down to a couple of reasons. (excluding the accidental tilt that wasn’t noticed or fixed by the photographer) 1. Newer photographers to the field have seen it done by the masters of sailing photography and use the technique in a bid to emulate their idols. 2. The shape of Yachts doesn’t fit especially well into the aspect ratio of the camera’s we use. Yachts are long and thin. If you shoot a yacht from the side in landscape mode (Horizontal) then the boat itself becomes quite small in the frame with a lot of sail or water above and below. If you shoot in Portrait mode (Vertical) you get the whole boat, sails and all but the yacht itself occupies even less image real estate. But if we tilt the frame so the yacht goes from corner to opposite corner then we’re seeing more yacht. Problem solved.
Except it looks like shit. It just looks wrong. I read a recent article on line, and which I now can’t find, but which explained that the human brain fixes tilted horizons in real life so we don’t even notice them, but when a frame is put around the view so that the horizon comes to an end at the frame, the human brain can’t fix it for us and just lets us know something is wrong. (You can even see it in aerial shots where there is no horizon visible in the frame. You can just tell from the wave angle that the camera was tilted so the boat would fit the frame or because the photographer couldn't tell where the horizon was. Which is difficult because of the G forces.) I think this is why I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. My brain is telling me something is wrong with the photo. And that in fact leads nicely into where this technique comes from and why it was employed in the first place. To put the viewer on edge, to make them feel uncomfortable. StudioBinder.com "A Dutch angle is a classic cinematic technique to create unease inside the mind of the viewer". and "Directors often use a Dutch angle to signal to the viewer that something is wrong, disorienting, or unsettling". Where does that fit with photographing yachts?… I don’t think it does, or at least I can’t think of any instance where I want those looking at my photos to feel ill at ease..
I also think there is an element of laziness in the photographers who employ this overused technique. They know what they’re looking at is not an interesting shot so attempt to add interest by racking their camera on a Jaunty angle. Wikipedia backs me up on this… “In static photography, a “jaunty angle” can add a new variance to otherwise vertical or horizontal framing. Obtuse and acute angles can be added to dull pictures by means of tilting the camera prior to use. This effect can make a picture appear on a slope bringing to it a feeling of creativity and making the whole aesthetic more attractive.” tho I would argue the idea of it making the aesthetic more attractive. I must admit I have been guilty of this myself in the past. You’ve got to go back with something but nothing good is happening so you try and make an interesting composition by tilting the camera. Then I have to slap myself and tell myself to work harder, find a better angle, be patient and wait for a better composition to present itself, climb on something or lie on the ground, do anything other than tilt the camera. Feeling sea sick on a boat is acceptable, I don’t think you should feel sick looking at a photo of a boat.