April 28, 2010

Abstractification through B&W Conversion (2)

The following image is a prime example of how b&w conversion emphasizes the nature of light in an image. This on is called
Morning Light:
Morning Light 19498

There is also some contrast-tweaking with curves because the gradient in the contra-light is very subtle.
Taking this image in you may find it pretty realistic looking, although all colors are missing. Seems to relate quite well to the impression I had when standing there: in the strong contra-light and the slight mist colors really looked very subdued to the eye. The only exception being the green of the undergrowth.

April 27, 2010

Abstractification through B&W Conversion (1)

Funny how the limitations of film in the early days made each photograph an abstract reproduction / object of abstract art: The color-palette of the original subject was replaced by a grey-scale and the use of colored filters to influence the reproduction/mapping of different colors to various shades of grey was commonplace.
Today most photos/videos are in color and a b&w conversion is a deliberate decision to take away the colors and thus abstractify the picture.
For me there are two major reason to use b&w: To emphasize form/gestalt over color and/or to increase the impact of light-gradation and thus emphasize the nature of light in an image.
I'll show you some examples in my next post.

Btw. Today most images are two-dimensional and not many people think of that as an abstraction from reality. But with the increasing use of 3D-techniques in the cinemas I’m pretty sure that in 50 years time 2-dimensionalty / taking away the depth of an image will count as abstraction too.

April 25, 2010

Structured Glass

This shot of a cactus was done through the structured glass of a green house:
Cactus 25425
See how the structured glass makes the cactus look like under water or like aspic-preserved.
(as always, clicking on the image leads you to the flickr-page of the image where larger sizes can be accessed through the "All Sizes" button)
The effect is largely dependent on the distance of the subject from the glass. That's because the glass is such a strong modifier (at least compared to rain) that you'd reduce your subject to mush when you place it too far from the window.

April 23, 2010

Abstractification through dof / oof

Funnily I just stumbled across an image with the title "post abstract expressionist impressionism" that shows pretty well, what dof/oof can do to abstractify your photos:
Bleed 25186
(c) arthurking83
You can follow the thread about this image here.
This shot is a nice example of mixing sharply depicted abstract graffiti and unsharp realistic scenes (the street) to produce a quite unique photo.

April 21, 2010

How to achieve Abstracticism

Let's make a little list about ways to abstractify photographs.

First up there are all the things you can do with post-processing. And I don't dare to list them all, because you can argue that in the end every tool apart form cropping/rotating is a step away from the most realistic representation of your subject. So instead I'll list the manipulations that I'd be using in my efforts to abstractify:
- B&W conversion
- Exposure compensation and curves
- Manipulating hue and saturation of colors
- Merging multiple exposures

And then there are the things you can do with your camera while taking the picture:
- Aperture: use large apertures to limit dof, reduce contrast, produce vignetting
- Focus: using mis-focus to deliberately produce oof results
- Exposure: over-/underexpose
- Shutter: use slow shutter speeds in connection with movement of subject (motion blur) and/or movement of the camera (shake, displace, rotate)
- Interaction of strong light with the lens resulting in flare/glare/ghosting, sunstars
- Lens effects: like from a fisheye, a lomo-camera*, from a lensbaby, or even from using no lens at all
There are also all kinds of capabilities of modern cameras like picture styles, multiple exposures, b&w conversions that can be done in-camera. But for the sake of simplicity I'd consider all this as post-processing as it does not influence the RAW image and normally can be far better controlled with software.

And finally there are all the options that lay outside the camera but influence the RAW image. Let's call them reality-modifiers:
- Filters and filter-like natural effects like haze/smoke/fog, rain/snow
- Reflection/refraction in "non-perfect" media like water, (curved) glass, metal, hot air
- extreme magnification or unusual/strange perspectives and framing can also yield quite some abstractification
All those reality-modifiers have in common that the effect can be seen with the naked eye (perhaps apart from extreme magnification).

I'd like to delve deeper into those abstractifiers in the upcoming posts and also post images to show the effect(s). And if you have other methods outside post-processing add those in a comment!

So, stay tuned...

*Here is a nice article about "How To Make Digital Photos Look Like Lomo Photography"

April 20, 2010

Any Comments?

I encourage you to comment on any of my posts or if you don't find an appropriate article please put your comment here!
I've chosen settings where anyone may place a comment here, even anonymous users. I also switched off "word verification" to make it easy for you to leave your comment. But that will only hold up when the comments stay civilized and on topic.
If you like to know what I advocate when commenting, here are the house-rules.

Abstractification through Rain

Picking up on my last post here's an image to show the effect of rain on a window-pane:
Rain 18384
I don't like this image very much because the "hidden" subject is not very interesting but it gives you a nice demonstration of what you can achieve.
One thing to observe here (and I urge you to go to the flickr-page of this image by clicking on it and view it at larger sizes up to 1024x680) is the dependency of the effect on the viewing size: The smaller the size the clearer the background subject stands out. This is an issue that will come up time and again, as other effects of abstractification like dof/oof also heavily depend on the viewing-distance.
How did I get that shot?
- 150mm, f/16
- focus on the window
- distance from window approx. 2m
- distance to house approx. 100m
Normally you'll find that the distance between the rain-streaked window and the subject behind it is beyond your control. So to achieve the desired effect the most important variable is the distance from the window as it determines the relative size of the rain-streaks on the subject: the closer you get to the window the more prominent the streaks become. Next up is to choose the right focal length to frame the image correctly. And the last variable to influence the outcome is the aperture to determine how out-of-focus the subject behind the window is.
Well yes, there is also the decision on where to focus, but I found focusing not on the window-pane reduces the effect quite dramatically until - when you focus on the distant subject - the remaining effect looks like a small imperfection. Not really noticeable and more of a nuisance than an artistic effect.
So there are a lot of variables that greatly influence the outcome. Certainly a technique where you have to experiment quite a bit to achieve satisfying results.

Finally here's a crop from that same image to show you a close-up of the effect:
Rain 18384 100% crop

Btw.: using structured glass can achieve similar effects but normally lacks the randomness of rain.

April 19, 2010

Inspiration from Paintings

As I had announced in my "Next up"-post here are some thoughts on the inspiration that paintings can supply.
Girl at the Window 4716
This is a monotype by my wife titled "Girl at the Window". And we're lucky with that as my wife seldom gives her images any title at all! She claims that titles influence the perception of an image by the beholder - and she doesn't like that. Well, in this case you can easily see half of a female face "behind" a window dotted with rain, or don't you?

How does this inspire me? A rain-streaked window can indeed be a very strong filter to "abstractify" an otherwise boring subject and reduce it to its main colors and forms. I'll show you an example of that shortly...

April 18, 2010

About Abstract Art

Have a go at some interesting Wikipedia articles if you like to read what types of abstract art there are, e.g.:
- Abstract Art
- Geometric Abstraction
- Lyrical Abstraction
- Abstract Expressionism
You see from this that there are many, many styles of abstracticism. But rest assured, I'm not going to delve into these specialties.
Interestingly a search for "abstract photography" revealed not a single article at Wikipedia but only some hits in articles about individual photographers, like Morgan Fisher.
Mental note to myself: Someone has to have a go at that article.

Here are some interesting quotes from those Wiki articles:
"Figurative art and total abstraction are almost mutually exclusive. But figurative and representational (or realistic) art often contains partial abstraction."
"Abstraction indicates a departure from reality in depiction of imagery in art. This departure from accurate representation can be only slight, or it can be partial, or it can be complete. Abstraction exists along a continuum. Even art that aims for verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least theoretically, since perfect representation is likely to be exceedingly elusive."
The latter reference to "perfect representation" is interesting in that many photogs try to achieve just that by acquiring the latest and greatest technology.

Some buzzwords used to describe various abstract styles:
"Direct drawing", "calligraphic use of line", "brushed, splattered, stained, squeegeed, poured, and splashed paint", "brush-strokes", "compositional drama", "dynamic compositional tension", "compositional randomness", "repetition", "sensibility." But really, apart from the use of the words "paint" (which could be substituted by "color") and "brush" those catch-phrases could easily be from an article about photography.

Next up

Just as a note to myself (and as an anchor to anyone wanting to suggests topics) here are some ideas for upcoming posts and other work:
- RotoMerge and Photomerge: On the (non-)use of tools
- Paintings: Adding my wife as another source of inspiration (Done, see here)
- Abstract: What is "abstract" all about (Done, see here)
- Keywords: Make a page to easily access posts by keywords/tags/labels (Done, see on the right under "Pages")

Photographs and Paintings

Just to kick off things a bit further I remembered an interesting thread at the Nikongear forum about Photographs and Paintings.
My thoughts on this were:
"Let's put photo-realistic paintings aside for a while.
I think paintings show ways of abstraction from / transformation of a photographic reproduction that are interesting to photographers. Abstraction can make the image/viewer focus more on the "grand scheme" like the colors, the light, the main geometric form etc. This is at least for me a source of inspiration.
Unfortunately for us photographers we only have limit means to achieve abstraction unless we use post-processing: dof/oof, motion blur, shake.
Ah well, come to think of it: there is also the use of filters or other "optically active"/reflective/refractive subjects in a scene like water/waves, glass, metal, smoke/fog, hot air, flare."

And here's another image that shows how you can "abstractify" a tree using its reflection on water:
Fractal Trees 23351
As always you can click through the image in this post to its flickr-page where there is more information about it and also larger versions.

Images speak louder than words

Before digging deeper into the mysteries of abstract and not so abstract photography with words I've gone to the task of collecting some of my images in a newly created RotoMerge flickr-set and also added some links at the bottom to artists that inspire my. There are some images from Philipp Keel's book "color" in his facebook, and for only 15€ it's a steal and can give you quite some inspiration.

So have a sneak peek at my RotoMerge set to get an idea, of which type of images I'm trying to create and talk about in my blog.

And to explain a bit about the name of my blog here's one image that shows the results of rotating the camera during a 1/8th second exposure:
Turnin' 12238

April 17, 2010

Let's get started!

Well now, here we go: 1st entry on my 1st blog.
Who am I and why did I start it?
I came back to serious (and not so serious) photography in 2006 when getting my first DSLR. "Serious" not meaning that I'm a pro but that I seriously tried to improve my skill and devote some time and effort into this hobby.

I've since joined Camera Labs as moderator and very much enjoyed this super-friendly forum. I will stay at this forum and post e.g. all my reviews (like of the latest Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII) there and answer the questions of posters etc.

But all my thoughts and ideas get distributed all over the forum so I decided to have a blog collecting some of the things I find interesting in photography. And one of those things is a more kind of "abstract" photography, where you paint with the light from your subject, smear the photons all over the sensor and use a variety of techniques to produce images where form and colors are not defined by ultra-sharp, highest-resolution reproduction of your subject. Or where the resulting images have an abstract quality despite being sharply defined.

This will certainly have to be explained in greater detail. And some images should be posted to make my point. But all in due time!

So stay tuned if you're interested in this topic and other tidbits about photography and feel free to comment either in English or German. Ah, and the secret behind my blog's name will also be revealed...

Btw.: I shoot mostly nature and like the work of Bjørn Rørslett. But more on that in a later post...