Tag Archives: Abstract art

Making an abstract image – opening your eyes

A personal path to making an abstract by Alison Bailey
Interplay By Alison Bailey.

Abstract image :: Interplay.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365project.org Interplay By Alison Bailey | External link - opens new tab/page
Dated: 15/01/2017
Click picture to see full size image.

I became serious about photography through doing a 365 project My 365Project | External link - opens new tab/page in 2011. I got my first DSLR camera for Christmas that year and have been happily obsessed ever since.

At the end of 2014 I had a eureka moment: abstract photography was for me. It’s ideal for depicting what moves me most in my world – the aesthetics of the characteristics of things. Abstract photography’s exciting, exasperating, exhausting and exhilarating. I love it. I hope you will too.

Making an abstract image

Abstraction is intensely personal and one of the most imprecise art forms. There are no recommended settings or specific lenses that will produce an ‘ideal result’. The accepted ‘rules’ of composition are often deliberately broken or disregarded. There’s no magic formula that will guarantee success. This article aims to provide you with thoughts, ideas and suggestions, along with information about how I work. These may help you to make an abstract image or gain experience to make many of them.

Groundwork

I began my journey by researching exactly what is meant by ‘abstract’. I didn’t find a universally accepted definition. The definition of abstract photography in the Photokonnexion glossary hits the spot for me. It is easy to understand and includes a list of the different aspects of abstraction. It makes a great reference guide for use in the field. I re-read it occasionally for revision.

When I think about an abstraction, what I see in front of me is not manifested in my mind’s eye. Well, not as a picture. I don’t ‘see’ – I experience. Things come to me as impressions with verbal descriptions. I have recently learned that when people say they ‘see’, it’s not shorthand for a thought process that’s like mine. They really do make pictures in their heads. I first thought we all imagine in the same way. It seems that is not true. ‘Seeing’ an abstract is an intensely personal thing. You have to do it your own way.

Studying, analysing and commenting other people’s work teaches you a lot. So, I researched the idea of the ‘abstract image’ on the internet. I viewed many abstracts, examining their composition. I had fun, gained insight into what abstracts can look like and developed ideas and personal preferences too.

The next step toward making an abstract image

I began habitually looking everywhere for shapes, structures, patterns, lines and textures. I looked for them whether I was taking photos or going about daily life.

Then it was time to put what I’d learned into practice.

If you’re unsure where to begin, here are some ideas to get you started. Three dimensional artworks can be inspirational. They are a good choice for the abstract image novice. Less representational work is particularly suitable. Find a piece you like and can legitimately photograph. The artist’s concept and execution of it will give you some useful pointers. However, your appreciation of the work is key to how you interpret it. Beyond works of art, here are some other sources…

  • Look at items in your house. The kitchen is a great source of inspiration.
  • Is there a type of photography you are especially enthusiastic about?
  • Architecture: plenty of lines, shapes and patterns, often textures too.
  • Street scenes (people and/or transport) have many abstract sides.
  • Wildlife and fast-action sports photography lend themselves to expressing movement through abstraction.
  • Macro photography shares an emphasis on detail so it too lends itself to abstract image work.

Keeping an open mind and expecting to find a promising subject is a good recipe for success. The more you look for subjects, the more you will see, sometimes in unlikely places. Whatever you choose, it is important it moves you in some way. A way that makes you care about it.

Rhythmic - I spotted this chair stack in an out-of-the-way corner of an historic cathedral.

Abstract Image :: “Rhythmic”
I spotted this chair stack in an out-of-the-way corner of an historic cathedral. Their lines caught my eye. I felt they had a rhythmic quality.
Breaking the pattern, a compositional device often used to focus the eye, wasn’t appropriate here. The rhythm – the whole point of the image – would have been lost.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project.org Abstract Image :: Rhythmic | External link - opens new tab/page
Dated: 10/07/2015.
Click picture to see full size image.

Studying the details

Once you find something meaningful to you, examine it closely from all angles. You are looking for a way to portray it.

This is a process that cannot be rushed or forced. It is important to be relaxed and receptive. Take a long, leisurely look, soaking up the details. Ask yourself:

  • What do I feel about this?
  • What visual aspects – lines, shape, texture, etc – make me feel that way?
  • How can I present, compose, those aspects to engage viewers and tell them what I saw?

Look carefully. Allow the answers to those questions, and any other ideas that might occur, time to form in your mind. For the best results, keep these answers and ideas in mind at all stages of making an image.

I study a subject via the camera’s viewfinder to remove distractions from the periphery of my vision. I often take photos at this stage too; the act of pressing the shutter button helps me think.

Layers upon layers :: Detail of a sculpture comprising seven pillars of piles of slates.

Abstract Image :: “Layers upon layers”
Detail of a sculpture comprising seven pillars of piles of slates. The profusion of layers and the arrangement of the slates are wonderful. I spent nearly an hour looking and studying them. The light – bright, midday sunshine – cast hard shadows that define and separate the slates and augment the idea of profusion. I composed to create opposing diagonals that prevent a jumbled confusion of lines by drawing the elements together.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Layers upon layers | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 20/11/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

Making the abstract image

Choice of lenses, use of light, camera settings and how close you can get to your subject are all factors to take into account when composing your abstract image.

It’s usually not possible for me to use a tripod or flash. I prefer natural or constant, artificial light, anyway. So I have to work round resulting restrictions. You should consider how best to make use of light, depth of field, angle, and point of focus. A good angle and an appropriate focal point can make or break the flow of a composition. That is especially true with a shallow depth of field.

I have discarded many shots owing to poor choice of focal point. I still struggle with it. However, an effective composition is important. So it is worth the effort to get the focal point right.

Once you are satisfied with your composition, take a photo, maybe several. It is good to experiment with other settings and angles, you might discover another approach to your subject that is more meaningful to you than your original idea.

Abstract image :: “Thorny subject”.

I had intended to compose for the spiral created by the arrangement of the leaves of this plant but realised I was more taken with its thorns. I angled to emphasise them whilst, again, looking for a cohesive composition. To emphasise the spikiness of the thorns stronger tonal contrasts were created in processing.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Thorny Subject | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 30/09/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

Assessing your work

After you download your photographs, consider and critique them. Take time to do this.

Don’t delete a shot straight away; experience might alter your opinion of it. If I am uncertain, I reassess a photo periodically, sometimes processing it, until I feel sure about it. I’m still mulling over a few taken a year or more ago.

Got a keeper? Then it’s time to add the finishing touches.

From photograph to abstract image

Thoughtful processing will take your photograph to another level. How this is achieved is very much a matter of personal taste.

I almost always process in black and white. Colour isn’t usually what my images are about. For me it will distract the viewer’s eye from the aesthetic aspects that I want to express, weakening the image’s impact. Other authors may take a different avenue. Final processing is very much a personal style.

I often choose to use high tonal contrasts to accentuate, even exaggerate, detail (see Thorny Subject above). My preferred method is to enhance clarity in the image processor’s ‘raw’ filter when developing the image for *.jpg. Then I adjust contrast, brightness and light levels in the main editor.

Whatever you do, the aim is to enhance your composition for maximum impact. You should work to help engage viewers with the aesthetics of your subject and give them the best chance of understanding the artistic intent of your image.

More after this…

The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page
There are few good books on abstract photography. So this historical view is welcome. It brings together the concepts and the art in abstract photography. Spanning the earliest images to modern processes with quality colour pictures too, the book includes up-to-date work from well known abstract photographers. The book gives readers an all-round view.
What readers said:
» Great buy! :: 5*
» A lovely book :: 5*
» Be educated and stimulated :: 5*
» …filled with deep and insightful articles and ideas to inspire. :: 5*
The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page

 

Completing the abstract image

Abstract image :: “Internal structure”
A macro image and a personal favourite. High contrast wasn’t appropriate here. I love the the way this whelk shell is constructed. The fragility of its exterior (suggested by the light tones) belies the strength of the internal structure, brought out by contrast created with natural, diffused light.
On reassessing, I felt the right-hand curve was drawing my eye down out of the frame, so I cropped the bottom of the image to draw the eye back to the pillar.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Internal structure | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 02/11/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

After a day or two, I reassess my image. I take time to let the initial pride of authorship fade. Then, if needed, I do whatever is necessary to improve it. Any processing you want is allowable. It could even mean scrapping the image and starting again. It’s frustrating but not daunting; mistakes are excellent teachers and I want to learn and improve.

If that sounds serious, it is. But, it’s seriously tremendous fun. Happy abstraction!

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Post contributed by :: Alison Bailey

Alison is a veteran participant in 365Project.org 365project.org | External link - opens new tab/page. She worked as an assistant librarian and a Civil Servant before becoming a traditional housewife and mother. She enjoys life with her retired husband – and her camera. Alison has at last realised that photography is the medium best suited to her artistic abilities. She is having serious fun striving to express, through her images, her love of, and fascination with, the world around her.

Artwork images – record or new art?

Artwork images are not as easy to photograph as they seem.

Artwork images are not as easy to photograph as they seem.
Image of paper art by Peter Gentenaar
More from this artist on: http://www.gentenaar-torley.nl/  Artwork images: Link to Peter Gentenaar | External link - opens new tab/page

Artwork images are sometimes questionable as art

Most photographers look at work by an artist they like and feel compelled to take a picture. Of course it serves to remind them of the art they saw. That is reasonable. The keen photographer thinks differently. They like to see the artwork. They also like to produce photographic art of their own. But more often than not the picture they take is actually a record shot.

It is often said by judges in photographic competition that a sculpture photograph is a record shot. I have said it myself when judging. A pure record is not a piece of art by the photographer. Just exactly what do we mean by that?

Artwork images: Record verses interpretation

An example of a record shot is the photo at the top of this article. This work is by the wonderful paper artist Peter Gentenaar. His work is stimulating and interesting to the eye. Photos of his work bring out the splendour of his art. That is the point. They are less about the photographers interpretation of the art. Instead, they are about repeating the work in its fullness to show the work itself. It is a record. As such, it will show off the skill of the original artist.

Record shots are a legitimate photographic form. But they are often a record of the exhibit - not new photographic artwork images in their own right.

Record shots are a legitimate photographic form. But they are a record of the exhibit – not new photographic artwork in their own right.

[Seen on www.starr-art.com/ on 30/05/2015
Sol LeWittWall Piece,
1988 Painted wood,
76 x 5 x 5 inches
Published by Edition Schellmann,
Munich and New York.]



Reproduction of artworks in a record style is a proper photographic form. For remembrance, or sales purposes, it is fine. For those seeking to make their own art there is something more needed than simply snapping someone else’s work.

That something extra is a new re-interpretation of the work. The photographer has to invest something of their own into the picture. They have to make more of the original artwork than is presented solely by the work itself. There are a number of ways to do this.

A new interpretation may not be a complete image of the work. It may include the full work, or only be a part of it. The environment of the image, how it is presented, or its framing are all important. Overall there will be something in the new artwork images that the photog makes their own.

 

How can you make new artwork images from an art piece?

Abstract from a piece of art

In this abstract of another piece by Peter Gentenaar the photographer has not shown the whole piece of work. They have taken a piece of the work that shows the wonderful lines and curves, but as a whole it creates a taste for seeing more.
See: Peter Gentenaar–Paper Magician Artwork images:  | External link - opens new tab/page.

• Abstract artwork images: One way to get something new out of a piece of art is to create an abstract of some sort. Abstract photos can be deeply satisfying to create and provide an interesting image for the viewer to consider. Most of the time abstracts are about making an image of a part of the artwork. An example is shown on the left. There can be a lot more to creating abstract photos than simply framing a bit of the total. The power of abstract is to create the essence of the total.

Abstracts require an eye for what works when the whole is not seen. For more on abstracts see our Abstracts Resources Page.

• Creating an new environment: The environment where sculptures are displayed is often important to the sculpture. Sometimes images are still record shots even if they are not on a simple white background. This link is an example of a Henry Moore sculpture record shot (Author unknown).. The author has displayed the sculpture just as it is with little enhancement. In fact it is almost devoid of its environment. The sky serves only as a backdrop.

The same could be said of this picture of an elephant sculpture (below). The artist has created a superb piece which mimics the body of an elephant defying gravity. The first shot is a pure record shot. But, the second is a superb interpretation of the sculpture in it entirety with an audience, depersonalised by movement blur. Very clever. Both images are taken by the sculptor himself, Daniel Firman. A simple but excellent reinterpretation. Such re-inventions are in themselves artistic. As such they are creating artwork images in their own right.

Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture

Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture by Daniel Firman.
Images by Daniel Firman.

Published in: Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture.
(Seen on WordlessTech Artwork Images: Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture by Daniel Firman | External link - opens new tab/page 29/05/2015).


Another Henry Moore Sculpture is shown below. This image makes as much of the environment as the sculpture. The artist has created a great panoramic picture using a letter-box crop. The length of the principle subject (the sculpture) is complemented by the almost central position. But, it is highlighted by the mundane, but important line of sheep. The latter gives the eye an excellent weighted contrast to the sculpture in the background. Clever compositional devices like this often create great great artwork images. There is no way this is a record shot.
Artwork images: The compositional devices in this image make it an interesting example.

The compositional devices in this image make it an interesting example of artwork images – definitely not a record shot.
(Seen on: Backstrap Weaving Artwork Images: Henry Moore sculpture on Backstrap Images blog. | External link - opens new tab/page.
(Click the image to see full size).

• Adding something: Another way to make something new of a piece of art is to put something new into, or onto, the piece. I leave the artwork images to your imagination here.

I have often heard judges say about record shots, of say a sculpture, “this needs your hat on it”. Alternatively they might say something like, “a cat just here would make the image something different”. What the judge is saying is, the author has created a shot that does not have anything from the photographer in the image. Whereas, with a little thought, or a little prop, or even a person – the picture could be transformed. Instead of the simple (and boring) representation, the author could have added that little extra that makes the image into a reinterpretation – something different. It would be something created uniquely by the photographer.

Works by you are artwork images

The uniqueness of a photograph is something that makes photography interesting. But, make the main subject a simple representation of somebody else’s work, then the uniqueness is lost. A simple record is created. But with simple compositional thoughts, re-frameing, or the addition of some new aspect, you create a new synthesis. One that is unique to you. One that is a real contribution to the body of artwork images. That is what makes photography so special.

The main point to take from this is simple. Think, plan and consider the composition when taking pictures of other peoples art. A subtle treatment of the art piece can transform it into an image only you could make.

Artwork images – further thinking

Which of these are record shots of Henry Moore Sculptures and which are artwork images by the author…
Henry Moore sculpture on Google Images Artwork images - further thinking | External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Abstract photography – three abstract insights

When Science Meets Art - Fabian Oefner. (About abstracts in art)

• When Science Meets Art – Fabian Oefner •
Abstract art is all around us. Some projects get deep into special ideas. Others are more about the abstracts we all miss right in front of our eyes.
{Image taken from a video below}

Art is not straight forward

Abstract photography is often about how an artist views things rather than what is shown. Abstracts bring out the artists unique view of the world. The photog isolates the special characteristics of the subject.

The nature of abstracts is…

The photographers vision of the world is often about emotion. We are able to see into a subject because we become attached to it, understand it. We try to feel its impact on ourselves and to find a way to translate that into a picture. Often such “seeing” comes from a personal study of composition and aesthetics. It helps to understand the elements of art too. These are not requirements for making abstracts. They are a base for abstract seeing. They help artists analyse and know “abstract”. However, they contribute little to creating one.

The real issue is the way that an individual artist approaches making an abstract.

Abstract art comes to those who observe more than the “whole” of something. The minute detail through to the overall view of a subject is important. Abstract artists are aware of form and shape, texture and colour and a myriad of other detail. This awareness is different in everyone. Certain details catch the eyes of some people and not others. Some forms or patterns stimulate some and not others. This uniqueness is the key to “seeing” abstracts.

By ignoring some details or components of a scene or subject, and by building up others, it’s possible to construct the ‘abstract’. This is a new entity emphasising these details and elements.

Success in making abstract photos grows with experience of, and a personal view of, the subject matter. That might be made up of a deep study of the material and behaviour of the subject. It might also be a deep response to cultural and artistic baggage in the artists character. It could be both and more.

The mystery of creating abstracts?

The emotions that commit artists to a creative act are not easy to analyse. The act of creating abstracts is difficult too. By knowing a little of our own background, interests and experience we can see how to approach their creation.

Our own creativity can develop from learning about it in others. One route to knowing an abstract artist is via their enthusiasm and commitment. In the videos below you see into the artists themselves. They may help your view of the process of making abstracts.

The first artist is Fabian Oefner. His interest is in abstracts through science. He shows a number of his projects. He explains how they came about and what was involved.

Fabian Oefner: Psychedelic science  External link - opens new tab/page

Lester Hayes was an early maker of abstract photos. He knew very little to start. He talks about becoming involved and why he saw abstracts. Clearly there is a deep emotional commitment for him in making abstracts.

Abstract Photographer Lester Hayes Uploaded by Anthony Mournian  External link - opens new tab/page

Next, we visit the world of Sergio Muscat. His abstracts have an organic quality. He shows his wonder of nature. He explains where he gets his vision with quotes and written comments between pictures. I became wonderfully connected to his thinking while watching.
Sergio Muscat  External link - opens new tab/page
In the quote below he shows that photos reflect reality. But they interpret the world. His insight into abstracts is about the same plastic reality on which photography is based.

Unlike other media, a photograph is always based on a real, material origin. Rather than looking at this as a disadvantage, we should understand that this same fact makes photography the ultimate surreal medium – simply because photography, although based on reality, is very far from the truth.
Sergio Muscat – Abstract Photography – YouTube

Photos never truly show what the eye sees. This is a deep part of the ideas in abstracts.

Seeing is not knowing

We may come to know the nature of the ‘abstract’. Yet, abstracts are a fragile gossamer. Each has its own essence. Catch it and you may destroy it.

Knowing a little of the artist helps. With that we may know a little of their approach to abstracts. That way we may learn to bring it out in our own work.

Further reading on abstracts

In other articles I have looked at the nature of abstracts. For more interest, follow up on these…

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.