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.

The Ancient Elements – Fire

Fires of creation

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge has the wonderful theme of Elemental, which immediately made me think of an image that I shot a number of years ago.

This photo not only attempted to capture fire, but also the forces of creation that lie within that fire. This image is titled Pyroplasm 3x.

Pyroplasm 3x

Additionally, this image was my first foray into photographing with a twist, literally, as it was my first attempt at using zoom blur. Mastering this technique allowed me to unlock otherwise hidden forms in a series that I titled Kryptomorphaics.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Fry (or Fried)

Fry or Fried! Both!

The WordPress Daily Prompt is often a source of inspiration and sometimes amusement, which is the case in today’s prompt of Fry.  Of course, the lovable character from Futurama comes to mind immediately, but from there my brain split its paths in two directions:

  • What we use to fry
  • What tastes good fried

The latter options response could very well be: everything!  We all know that things taste better fried 🙂

Visually, two images jumped to the foreground for me:

woods-energy_14e4073-edit
Wood’s Energy

and

Old-and-New_14E9069
Time for a Fair!

Hope you enjoyed this little diversion and have a wonderful day!

Warped Wednesday – pt. 8

Playing with fire

After a rather busy travel week, Warped Wednesday is back! This time, I like to spend a little time playing with fire.

Of course, the first caveat is to never play with fire, don’t try this at home, etc.  Playing with photographing fire is a lot of fun and can produce lots of different results, such as these…

This sequence was done sitting around a campfire and progresses from basic shooting to radical zoom blur and controlled zoom blur.  Experimentation was my guide in these shots and enabled me to find a completely new path in photography.

Have you ever experimented with photographing fire?

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Round Up 39

A blazing set of entries!

While the chill may be continuing off an on in New England, I was not surprised that this past week’s Tuesday Photo Challenge Theme of Fire lit up the responses!!  Our weather may be all over the place, but the level of creativity in your entries into this challenge has been steady and very high!  Thanks to all for participating and making this so much fun for me.

I strongly encourage all of you to check out each of the posts, as you’ll be both entertained and educated, while enjoying the lovely creative thoughts that are in the responses!

Here’s another little bit of fire to warm your hearts…

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Chestnuts Roasting

I captured this rather wintry scene with classic tones (actually, they were roasting marshmallows 🙂 ) during our visit to Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston, Massachusetts this past December.

The following were this week’s participants in the challenge with links to their posts:

  • Candace was first this week with her post in Netdancer’s Musings and Photography; she brought us a very happy occasion that has to do with making wishes.
  • ladyleemanila was not far behind, as she shared a wonderful variety of images inspired by fire in her post (it even included toes…).
  • Charles’ post in his blog charlesewaugh provided us with a truly gorgeous capture of fire!
  • Mini On Tour is a wonderful blog about the travels and travails of a Mini Mayfair; the TPC post with a wonderful photo of a fireplace left me longing for some port!
  •  Leaking Ink is just an amazing blog with great photography and interesting information; this week’s entry touches on Pongal, a Tamil harvest festival.
  • Progressing Into Solitude‘s entry is all about fire and lost control; the images are wonderful!
  • Miriam’s post in The Showers of Blessing puts us in front of the fireplace ready to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a relaxing evening!
  • Stella second entry in the challenge with a post in her blog Giggles & Tales brings us both great architecture and a beautiful capture of the essence of fire.
  • Susan’s blog Musin’ with Susan has lots of great photography, and her entry into this week’s challenge stands out!
  • Judith’s post in her blog, Nature Knows Best, captures some rather imaginative aspects of fire… you should check it out!
  • Emily’s post in her blog, Zombie Flamingoes, brings back memories of cozy fires from the past in a creative set of images.
  • In her post in The New 3Rs: Retire, Recharge, Reconnect Marie brings us an fantastic view of a great window of a cathedral that is highlighted by one of our favorite fires, the Sun!
  • Miriam’s entry in her excellent blog, Out an’ About, brings us a Fiery Ambience in all manner of images ranging from sunset to steam trains!
  • …and Debbie created another wonderful post in ForgivingConnects about her burning desire; you’ll like it!
  • …also, Khürt’s post in Island in the Net has a stunning image that is very appropriate for the theme!

Thanks to each of you for your participating in this week’s challenge.  I’ve enjoyed each and every one of your posts and appreciate the time you have taken in putting them together.  Now to decide on the next challenge!

Afterthought: looking at the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge of Ambience, I think this image fits rather nicely (as do many of yours!!)

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Fire

Do you have a burning desire?

Welcome to Week 39 of the Tuesday Photo Challenge.  First of all, a great, big thank you to all of you wonderful participants who made week 39 the biggest and best week yet!  Clearly, the theme of Cold grabbed each of you in one way or another and tickled some creative instinct to produce such wonderful entries!

Of course, the logical progression in themes after all this cold work would be to opt for hot, but that might just be a little too straightforward for this creative crowd!  So, this week’s challenge is Fire!  Keeping in mind that this doesn’t have to be physical fire, but could be allegorical or cleverly imagined in any of many ways, go out and create something novel.

To kick off your creative processes on this one, here’s something a bit abstract that may just bring forth the fires of creation in a galaxy far away…

Pyroplasm-3x_14E4083
Pyroplasm 3x

This image came from my being somewhat bored around a campfire and wanting to do something a little different in my photography.  I messed around a bit with timing and zoom blur to create this shot and kicked off my first abstract image, which led to many more over the years.

The full rules of this challenge are in TPC Guidelines, but here’s the tl;dr:

  • Write a post with an image for this week’s topic
  • Please tag your post with fpj-photo-challenge (if you’re not sure about how tags work, please check out this WordPress article about tagging posts)
  • Create a pingback link to this post, so that I can create a post showing all of the submissions over the week (note: pingbacks may not appear immediately, as my site is set up to require approval for linking to it; helps against previous bad experiences with spamming)
  • Have fun creating something new (or sharing something old)!!

This challenge shouild keep you warm, and very much fired up!  If you decide to play with fire, please be careful; take it from a former firefighter, fire is risky!  Oh yes, please have fun!

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 1D MkIII using an EF 24-105 f/4L lens.  Exposure settings were at f/16 and 1/3 second with 100 ISO.  A twist of the barrel with a steady hand produced the streaking effect.

Wood’s Energy

Flames licking the wood.

Today’s WordPress Daily Post asks us to focus on Flames.  Of course, fire has been a key contributor to the advancement of civilizations across the ages.  Starting from its early use for protection and heat, usage evolved over time to smelting and creating new substances, such as bronze and iron for tools.

Control of fire is pretty much taken for granted these days, as we turn on our stove and fire shows up for cooking.  Heat is generated in a controlled environment when we need it to feel comfortable or want some warm water.  Our ancestors had to acquire and perfect skills to create and control the flames that sustained them.

woods-energy_14e4073-edit
Wood’s Energy

Here we see the flames in their more primal state, licking the gathered wood and heating it until combustible gases are released.  Looking into a fire of this form, we can almost feel a connection to our ancient precursors and imagine them sitting around a fire in much the same way, talking about the details of today’s hunt and the work they put in gathering all the food.

Wishing you a wonderful day!