On a beautiful Summer’s day I stopped at a rolling meadow to capture some of the landscape with my camera; less than twenty minutes later I got back in my car with a number of images, one of which is ‘Centripetus’.
In photographing landscapes, there is always a desire in me to capture something unusual that has not been seen the same way by all who were at the site. Whether it is the beauty of the sky, unusual features traversing the landscape or an alternate point of view, there should be something in a landscape image that makes the viewer want to look more than once.
With my eyes alertly searching for just the right kind of view that would make an interesting photograph, I squinted a bit as I walked past a tree and some small bushes growing next to it; looking through the bushes toward a horizon that showed a beautiful color palette across the sky, I sensed something more.
The more that I sensed consists of a view through these very bushes toward the reality that lies beyond them, not a clear view, but one filtered through a veritable web of perception. This view draws us in with the knowledge that there is more to be discovered beyond these bushes; we thirst to pass through the web and uncover what our eyes cannot yet see, while our entire being is tugged by the impetus to approach the center.
Take a moment to allow the eyes to slowly adjust and let themselves be drawn in; float with them and feel the force that resides within the green world in front of us.
This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/22 at 1/3 second shutter speed. A snappy zoom twist with a modicum of camera rotation was used to create a sense of webbed delight.
In this image, ‘Introspection’, a sense of deep blue thoughts is evoked from within a deposit of rocks, brought to the site most likely with the help of the slow, methodical, yet inexorable power of a glacier. These rocks have seen much change around them, while they themselves have changed only slowly; withstanding the test of time, they absorb the vibrations of the universe, as they pulse through them. These rocks are an ancient recording device, filled with information, which may have immense value, if only it can be extracted.
The wisdom of the rocks stands in stark juxtaposition to the assumptions that we, humans, make about them; we hurl rocks as an insult to those, who we consider of inferior intellect: you have ROCKS for BRAINS! If we take into consideration that every rock has been a receiver of universal data for many aeons, we should be astounded by the cornucopia of knowledge that resides within each pebble; the volumes of data that exist within a brain-sized boulder will indubitably contain all of Einstein’s theories, quantum mechanics and string theory. If we think what might be stored in the rocks that make up Stonehenge, it will be well beyond our comprehension!
When the vibrations from these glacial deposits operate in harmony with our mind, wondrous images appear, an epiphany of geological proportions; allow the rocks to speak to you and listen carefully to their incantations…
This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/22 at 0.5 second shutter speed. A reasonably quick twist of the zoom barrel brought out the flow from the rocks. The original image was cropped and rotated 90 degrees; color and contrast were enhanced in Photoshop, but no effects were added to alter the image from that captured in the camera.
‘Pyroplasm 3x’ is one of the images that sprang from the first series of abstract images that I created within my camera. Sitting around a campfire with a group of fellow photographers, I mused over photographing the fire in front of me; looking to capture more of the content that lies within the fire rather than a purely pictorial representation, I opened my senses to the nature of the fire and its very essence. As a purely physical phenomenon, fire is the oxygenation of gaseous materials; upon deeper examination fire shows itself to have a life-force, to which many firefighters surely relate, as they stare down the flames and try to understand the next move of the fire in font of them.
Allowing my senses to open themselves up further to the campfire, I not only watch the playful dance of flames and feel the heat projecting from the various parts of the fire, but also listen intently to the sounds emanating from the fire and smell the oils in the wood and the smoke. Going deeper, bringing myself to meditate while focused on the intensity of the center of the flames, I begin to feel the strength of the universal processes at work and begin to connect with the creative forces that are an innate part of fire’s destructive power. Through this connection, I capture this image of creation juxtaposed by destruction, a universal dance of life and death.
I expect that each may have a different reaction to this image at various emotional levels, ranging from the visceral to the intellectual. Enlarge the image and allow time for the senses to connect with it; please share what you feel in this capture, as I enjoy your thoughts and feedback.
This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/9 at 8 second shutter speed. A gentle zoom twist was employed to get the some of the sense of flow. A steady hand ensured that the continuity of the gaseous flow was preserved in the image. The original image was cropped and rotated 90 degrees; color and contrast were enhanced in Photoshop, but no effects were added to alter the image from that captured in the camera.
‘Exeunt Omnes’ is a view towards a doorway and past stables in an abandoned farm building near the former Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts. The environment is rich with detail that asks to be examined at leisure by the viewer.
The scene invokes thoughts of being in a forsaken, lonely place, where those who came before have all left a long time ago. Despite their departure, we still feel them in how their existence impacted the environs in a palpable manner: initials on the door, drawings in the concrete, broken glass. What occurred at this site? Was it a warm, welcoming place at one time?
Allow yourself to be drawn in to explore in detail what you see ahead. Follow those who came before toward the exit and the warm light that beckons. Heed their warnings as you pass.
This image is an HDR composite of 5 exposures. Photomatix Pro was used for the HDR processing. It is also available as a limited edition print (16″x21″), which underscores the dramatic tension within the scene through rich tones and exquisite detail.
‘Brush Abstraction 1’ beckoned me to explore its possibilities, as I walked past a seemingly innocuous pile of twigs that remained from cleaning up the apple orchard that I was photographing. As I examined the brush pile, I felt drawn into a possible point of entry into an alternate space; not the traditional wormhole as described in physics and science fiction, but a solid connection with a plane of consciousness that hummed with the universal energy which pervades the universe.
As the eyes are relaxed and allowed to explore the various aspects of this image, you may feel your mind and maybe your entire presence drawn into the layered depths of exploration that surround all of us at all times. Go adrift and open all your senses while carefully listening to what they tell you. You may feel yourself accelerating at times, then spinning or alternately floating along threads within the universe that guide your everyday movements unbeknownst to you. Enjoy the feeling and breathe in the experience. Be sure to detach yourself slowly from this journey, so that its effects connect and possibly enrich into your daily life.
After reading this blog entry, click on the image and spend a minute or so absorbing the visual content while focusing only on your breath, as in meditation. Take a moment to reflect upon where the image takes you, and please share your experience in a comment to this entry; I look forward to hearing about your journey!
This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/22 at 1/13 second shutter speed. A snap zoom twist was employed to get the radial blur.
‘Cryptomorphosis 1’ received its title from what it performs in front of the viewer: the hidden (cryptic) content is transformed (morphed) to reveal itself. An ethereal shape takes form in this image, as the energies flow through it, or, possibly, radiate from it.
Careful observation of nature in all its forms may lead us to uncover latent structure that resides beneath the first layer that we see. The outer sheath presents a first order approximation of the power that dwells within each aspect of the flora and fauna of our planet. As we know from Einstein’s equation that mass contains massive amounts of energy, we merely need to peel back the outer coverings to allow the living spirit within to appear before our eyes.
But this process is similar to what happens when we catch something with the corner of our eye, only to have it elude our senses when we turn to look straight at it: only at the most oblique angles and with all our senses attuned, will the cryptic form reveal itself to us.
Next time when you encounter Mother Nature in your daily travels, relax all your senses and let your intuition guide you where to turn your eyes to uncover what lies beneath the surface; you may surprise yourself and see an entirely new light!
This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/22 at 0.4 second shutter speed. A gradual zoom twist was employed to get the radial blur, while taking an angle that would smear the white tips of the variegated vine to the upper left of the image.
In ‘Orchard Tilt’, the viewer is invited to release their mind from the bonds put upon them by the prevailing realities of the dimension, in which they travel, and let it escape to pull them into an alternate dimension, where they are free to explore and discover all that lies just beyond.
In our dreams we may find ourselves flying, as we are given the opportunity to go beyond gravity’s grasp into the sky; this infers a desire for exploration to push beyond the boundaries, within which we live our daily lives. This very desire sets us apart and enables us to envision possibilities, strive for the heavens and achieve what was once described in fiction only.
Another aspect of ‘Orchard Tilt’ is that it provides a depiction of where the mind can go, when it moves beyond the limits of the body. This is much like the experience one may have during meditation.
This image was captured at 100 ISO, F/22 at 0.16 second shutter speed. A fairly rapid zoom twist was employed to get the radial blur.
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.
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.
It has been a couple of weeks, since I wrote the previous post in this series, 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 about 18 months at this time, and it has not felt stale to me yet. As this surprised me, 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:
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.
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.
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.
In subsequent posts, I will move away from technique, but rather focus on individual images. I will try to explain some of the sensory information that came together in the creation of each image and how I view the image afterwards. Many of the images are viewable in the Kryptomorphaics album on the Frank Jansen Photography Facebook page.
In last week’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 75-300m, but have not been as pleased with those results.
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.
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.
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.