The golden ratio
The golden ratio is a picture compositing formula that was conceived during the Renaissance. Artists back then realised that a canvas, divided in two equally large halves by a conceptual line, is not as aesthetic to the human eye as the line being a little closer to one side. Even though there is an exact mathematical formula for that aesthetic, most artists imagine that line to cross their photographs and paintings intuitively without making any calculations.
Whether you draw the line marking the golden ratio horizontally or vertically in your mind doesn’t matter. What matters is that what exactly is in that area is something that is clearly distinctive. The simplest and most common way to include a golden ratio in your image is to shoot the horizon, but is can as well be formed by arranging things that aren’t connected to each other in any way, in a way so that they form a line the mind automatically sees, without it actually being there. Just like it occurs with the pointy tower in the exemplary photo.
Direction of lines
Why do some photographs seem calm, why do some seem full of agitation? Really often, those moods are caused by the direction lights and details in the image “point” – here’s why:
Horizontal lines have a calm effect on the eye, as humans instinctively look for a horizon, a “calm anchor”. That is why most photographs of the sea have a feeling of tranquility to them.
But that does not mean you have to include a sea in your photograph to create a calm horizontal line. Any horizontal line will create that effect, no matter if it’s an actually visible line, or just a line woven by your thoughts when looking at the picture.