Repost – Abstract Photography – Ep. 3

Driving force behind a project

This is the third and last in a series of reposts on the techniques and processes that I use in creating abstract photographic images; these posts were originally published in February, 2016. Hope you enjoy them!

Gold and Green Composition
Gold and Green in Motion

Over the pass couple of days I have covered concepts and techniques, and I promised to do a bit of a deeper dive into what lies beneath the surface of the process of capturing these images.

In terms of photographic technique, the ideas are rather simple and mastered relatively quickly.  Most of my personal photography projects tend not to last very long, as quickly I start looking for novel ways to capture and present material; at such a time, I usually put the project aside for at least a year or so, waiting for it to feel fresh again when I go for the next image in a series.  This project has been different, in that I have been shooting in this genre for more than 4 years thus far, and it has not felt stale to me yet.  As this surprised me somewhat, I started looking into the how and why this project is different.

There are several elements that I uncovered, which make the Kryptomorphaics project different from prior efforts:

  • on-going discovery
  • emotional connectivity
  • re-examination
I am certain that there are other elements that I may uncover, as I push forward in this project, but these appear to be the drivers at this time.

Discovery – photography is a journey of discovery for just about all of us, who have picked up a camera and started shooting in earnest.  This project has afforded me continual discovery through opening up all senses and taking input from all of them in the process of capturing content that is not just visible to the eye.  This deeper sense of uncovering this cryptic that lies hidden within the world around us has opened my mind’s eye to further explore these scenes in new directions.  These include examination of the scene not only in its current juncture within the space-time continuum, but also past and future lines that may be occupied by the players on stage within the scene.  This has opened up some connections that I had hitherto not observed, some of which demonstrate how universal forces flow through the quotidian.

Berries in Motion
Berries in Motion

Emotional Connectivity – as I deepened my exploration, part of which included opening up all senses to the environment in which I found myself, I started noticing a sense of emotional connection to what I found within the scene.  In a manner, which can be likened to meditation, a more complete sense of the image, as it should be captured, is refined by opening up the senses to subtle emotional triggers.  It can be described as opening oneself up to a feeling washing over the entire being and letting that guide the decision making process for how to capture the image.  This feeling is more pronounced for certain images that others.

Re-Examination –  upon capturing an image, the next thing I do is a taking stock of how it felt to capture the image.  I take sensory stock of the image rather than examining it visually (I am not a big fan of chimping, but one could say that this is a sort of sensory chimping).  Without looking at the image, I will then make a decision to either shoot the scene with some adjustment, which can be slight or radical, or if it feels just right, I then walk away from it.

Mystery in Green
Mystery in Green

I find that the success of the process depends more on my ability to quiet all my senses and open myself up to my surroundings; this is where the simile with mediation extends, as I will use meditation techniques to improve my feel for the environment.  In this process, I do not over-analyze how I might be able to capture the feeling that lies before my lens; a couple of rough guesstimates guide my camera settings adjustments, as I let intuition be my guide.

This wraps up this 3-part series on abstract photography, but, fear not!  From time to time, I will feature an image from my Kryptomorphaics collection to discuss it in more detail.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this introduction and look forward to hearing what other topics might interest you.

Repost – Abstract Photography – Ep. 2

Playing with fire

This is the second in a series of three reposts of blog posts that I wrote during February, 2016, about process and techniques that I use in creating abstract images.

Looking into the fire on a summer night
Playing with Fire

In yesterday’s post, I touched on some of my motivations that have driven me to start experimenting with my photography: looking to differentiate my photography and provide a creative outlet.  In another post, I will explore these more deeply, as there are several other aspects that have led me to evolve a deeper connection to these images.

As a number of photographers have asked me how these images are created, this post will describe some of the techniques that I use.  This is by no means an exhaustive treatise on experimental photography, but rather is intended to lay bare some of my basic approaches to a style of photography that has allowed me to reveal some new imagery.  If I inspire some people to go out there and play with their cameras and lenses to produce some images that they had not thought about previously, my goal will have been met!

The Equipment – it is pretty basic, but not to be overlooked: a single lens reflex camera with a zoom lens.  There are no special requirements of the camera other than that it can be put into a manual mode; most any DSLR will be ideal for experimenting, as you get the opportunity to get a feel for the results on your camera’s LCD panel.  As for the lens: a zoom lens with a reasonable medium range of focal lengths works well.  Most often, I use a 24-105mm lens for most shots (on a full frame sensor camera).  I have tried out some different zoom lenses, such as a 17-40mm and 70-200m, but have not been as pleased with those results.

Explosion of fire
Pyrexplosive

The Process – in the age of achieving a specific image look in post-processing, we are going back to the days of doing everything in-camera.  And, no, we are not going to use some fancy setting of the camera or a high-end software component within the camera.  We are going to do the entire capture the old-fashioned way: manually.

First: set your camera to manual mode.  It is possible to create the image in another mode, but I have found it easier to work this in manual mode, as shutter speed is eliminated as a variable; in all honesty, I have not tried any captures with shutter priority mode, as I want to make sure that I know what my aperture is beforehand.

Second: take a test shot to get a feel for your composition.  The test shot should be taken at one end of the zoom range you are planning to use or the other; more about zoom range in a bit.  This shot is to get a feel for how you may want the dominant elements in your image to look, as in the example sequence here: Playing with Fire shows the test shot, which led to Pyrexplosive as the final product; note that the wood in the fire remained in the same location in the second shot.  As one gets more adept at visualizing the desired shot ahead of time, it may be possible to skip this step.

Flowing fire through the night
Pyroplasm 3

Third: decide on the effect that you want to portray in the image and how much you want to emphasize the effect.  In early attempts, it may be best to try a couple of different effects, in order to get a better feeling for how each looks.  I categorize the effects in the following manner:

  • Zooming from tight to wide – this creates a look as in the above image Pyrexplosive.  Smearing of light in a radially outward direction; note that light trumps dark, so that the light overlays any dark while going outward.
  • Zooming from wide to tight – this does the inverse of the above method and causes more light to be brought to the center of the image.  The radial smearing is similar with the key differentiator being the concentration of light.
  • Camera rotation around fixed axis – this can be achieve on a tripod (or with steady hand) and causes circular light patterns, such as in the image Portal in the previous blog post.
  • Camera movement – movement of the camera can be done in several ways.  Either treat your camera as a videocamera and write with the points of light that you see or use linear or non-linear motion to create patterns, banding, etc.  An example of the former can be seen in the image Connections in the previous post.
  • Combination – any of the above.  Your imagination is your only limitation in what you create here.  Pyroplasm 4 is an example of a zoom/rotation combination (mostly zoom with a little rotation).
With each of the above effects, one of the key decisions is how much and how long to expose and use effects.  The images in this blog post range in exposure times from 0.5 second (Playing with Fire) to 8 seconds (Pyroplasm 3), with varying degrees of movement.
Flowing fire through the night
Pyroplasm 4

Fourth: experiment, experiment, experiment!  I simply cannot overstate the importance of experimentation in your endeavors and pushing the envelope of experimentation as you become more comfortable with controlling the effects.  With enough trial and error, you learn to control the image and ultimately will achieve the images that you visualize.

Yes, there is more to this…  As with most of our photographic exploits, there is more than just great technical execution to create an image that speaks to you and, possibly, others.  My first forays into this area of photography were driven by an innate desire to experiment with my lens and camera and to see what would come out of it.  This helped me work on my technique, so that I have developed a feel for how fast and how much I want to zoom in or out or rotate or move the camera.

As I learned technique, I started exploring emotional content of the image and started pre-visualizing scenes or items in front of me, and how I could morph them into a completely different scene.  These explorations have led to my acquiring a sense of deeper content, which may be hidden when viewed from the surface, but is looking for a means of materialization through the morphing process.

In a sequel to this blog post, we will explore the process further and look at what is brought to the surface.  That post will be published some next Tuesday.

I hope you enjoyed this post and will be back for more.  Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Ancient Aliens

Not snakes on a plane

Sometimes when we look at the world around us, we notice patterns around us that make us wonder where they came from.  Entire television series have been dedicated to this topic, such as ‘Ancient Aliens’ on the History Channel.  Of course, for these shows it does help to have an interesting haircut that makes the viewer wonder what might be going on under that hair…

Beachscape-1_W4O8773-update
Alien Snake Tracks?

Well…I’m not going for the unusual hair style to increase interest in my images, but there are moments when my mind leaves the planet and comes up with some alternate explanations for what I see.  Such are these Alien Snake tracks; silicon-based life forms settled on the beach and made their getaway before we could track them down…

Not exactly Ancient Aliens, but rather modern, recent arrivals from an exo-planet in the Hydra system…

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II with an EF 24-105mm f/4L lens.  Exposure settings were f/10 at 1/125 second and 400 ISO.

Cryptomorphosis – a Vine Abstract Study

Storied vines

As my regular readers are aware, I’m fond of using a bit of in-camera manipulation to create abstract images, when I spot a scene that might have something hidden in it.  This series of images, that I have created over the years, is collectively titled: Kryptomorphaics.

This title comes from the concept of uncovering hidden imagery through transformation.


This set of four images comes from a study of variegated vines that grow in the garden at my mother’s house in the Netherlands.  I uncovered different hidden images within these vines by applying minor changes to the technique that I used to capture them.

Hope you enjoy them!

Technical Details

These images were all captured using my Canon 5D Mk II with an EF 24-105mm f/4L lens.  Additional detail on the process is described in series of posts starting with TTT – Abstract Photography – Ep. 1

Saturday Abstraction

Cavalcading yellow

On this somewhat dreary Saturday here in New England, I thought it might be nice to add a spot of bright color to the day.

Xanthogenesis_MG_8962-Edit
Xanthogenesis

This yellow flowers of a lovely wild brush caught my eye and gave me the idea that getting them to flow over the edge of a precipice would make them look even more stunning than  they already did.

A bit of experimentation with zoom blur and motion produced the image you see here, which gave me the sense that I was looking for.  Xanthogenesis was the name that came to me fairly quickly, as this is both a creation of yellow and the yellow can also be fancied as the force that creates.

Hope you enjoy this.

Kryptomorphaics #10 – Rose Particle

A rose is a rose full of energy

Rose-Particle-11x14_MG_8611
Rose Particle

Image Description

As the title ‘Rose Particle’ suggests, this image centers on the streams of energy emanating from the singularity presented by the dark pink rose.  The rose becomes at once the object of beauty, to which our eyes are drawn, and the center of energetic particles radiating outward from the forces contained within it.  As each object within the universe holds latent energy, so does the rose, as it demonstrates here.  The counter play between beauty and strength is as the yin and yang, the duality that resides within each of us.  This duality is held together through the cosmic vibrations, which can be ascertained in moments of great quietude of mind and body, such as achieved during meditation.

Whereas the rose has revealed its cryptic energies through this image, one may find that the image enables the centering of similar energies.  If the image is studied while directing focus on the process of breathing, as one does in meditation, the rose may become a guide.

Technical Details

This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/22 at 0.3 second shutter speed.  The bright white streams originate from the sun’s reflection on the shiny leaves that surround the rose.

Kryptomorphaics #9 – Transitions

The soul guides us…

 

IMG_8069
Transitions

Image Description

This image, ‘Transitions‘, is one of the more complex of my Kryptomorphaics compositions in that it incorporates both a modicum of zoom blur and a large amount of rotation.

The recognition of this composition came to me during a nighttime photo-walk with a group of fellow photographers.  While many were taking long exposure shots, I was on the prowl for something a little different: looking for what lies hidden under the surface and how I could bring this out.  When I came upon a pair of white columns with a couple of spotlights on them, I knew that I had found my subject.  Looking upon them, I noticed how they framed the traffic turning behind them, which helped me decide on the shot, as I set up my tripod.

What truly inspired me that night, was an event that occurred across the Atlantic Ocean in the Netherlands: the passing of the aunt, to whom I always felt a close connection.  She had been suffering through the ravages of lung cancer, and I knew that my visit with her about a month earlier was the last time that I would see her.  She and I always had a strong bond, and it was no different on this night.  As I felt a strong pull, I captured this photograph in one take, and knew something significant had happened; a message from her sister the next morning confirmed what I had sensed: her transition to another plane of existence.

On this long exposure, I was certainly guided by her spirit, and when I saw the result on a bigger screen that night, I knew that we had created something special.

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II and 17-40mm f/4L lens at 100 ISO, f/20 at a 30 second shutter speed.  The camera was rotated along its axis very slowly to get the smearing of the columns and create the window.  A slight bit of zoom blur during this rotation created the depth.