Seeing Abstractly

Picture making, whether it be drawing, painting or photography, is ultimately about filling your picture plane with something interesting and intriguing. We orchestrate several elements, shape, texture, color and tonality, until we arrive at a pleasing arrangement. In photography, our subject matter, whether it be a single object or multiple ones, is often the goal. Being careful as to the placement of our subject(s), as well as lighting and focus, are key for creating balance in our image.

In my latest shot, I decided to ignore particular subject matter, and look purely at the formal qualities of my surroundings. I looked for tonal variety, interesting shapes, and movement. In essence, I approached my photo session like an abstract painter. This isn’t to say the elements I used in my photographs can not be identified. You can clearly see that I used rock and water. However, by thinking only in terms of abstraction, I was able to take the emphasis off subject, and work primarily on decorating the image plane. Thanks for stopping by. Oh yes, I now have my painting website up. Please visit my painting site for some abstract inspiration.; ) click–> my art

Little Falls

Down To The Ground

As with most things in life, changing your perspective can make all the difference. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as the proverbial advice suggests, broadens our understanding of the world around us. In photography, changing perspective is a powerful tool we can rely on to strengthen our artistic muscles.

After years of shooting pictures and art making, I still sometimes find myself walking around expecting pictures to make their way into my lens at my convenient, eye level, legs straight, non-tripod mounted,  lazy way of shooting pictures. Many times, simply pointing and shooting will suffice. Often times, you have no choice in the matter. You have to shoot when something presents itself. What I am referring to are those moments when the subject matter is fantastic, but for some reason you can not capture it’s essence. Those spectacular round river rock are white flecked, the water is hitting them midway, and you know it’s a lovely sight, but your pictures are dull and uninspiring. Or, there’s is a wonderful repetition in the way some boulders are placed in a pond, but for some reason the pictures you take are boring. My advice? Get down low.

Shooting from a lower perspective adds overlap , an important visual cue, to more elements in your photograph that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It also gives your images drama by placing more objects in the foreground, strengthening the depth of the image. It also allows for more compositional possibilities, and for me this really gets my creative juices flowing. Suddenly, I tiny leaf becomes a focal point and a major compositional anchor. A tiny piece of root directs the eye towards the focal point. A leafy twig springs up in the foreground providing a strong sense of space in your photograph.

Here are some examples of how I positioned my camera real low, sometimes a few inches, to the ground in order to capture the essence of my environment. Thanks for reading and keep in touch!

SpookyTree

 

peeka BooWeb

 

Divide and Conquer

Often times you are presented with a subject that has no discerning background or with a landscape that has a clear division between two parts. Understanding the relationship your subject has with the  negative spaces and applying a clear use of dominance can mean the difference between your pictures looking okay and looking outstanding.

Figure Ground:

After adjusting the image with some curves in photoshop to completely whiten the background, I cropped in a little closer to provide interesting shapes  in the negative space. This also gave the rock dominance by allowing it to occupy more space than the background.

earth_and_sky_by_starbirdsky-d7w1ban

With two main sections in this image, I had to decide between the two which would dominate. Visually it made more sense to allow the dark water to rule. The flow of the composition moves from left to right smoother and it also places my bird in a pleasing space.

lookingbacksm_by_starbirdsky-d7w1b4s

It seems to me that shooting photography down a shoreline always presents opportunity for dominance choices. Should I let the land dominate, or the water? The answer isn’t always clear and many times, both options work. Here, I chose the land. This is a case when both would have worked with a little moving around on my part.

same_as_before_by_starbirdsky-d789bbr

Now, go forth and conquer your next photography quest! As always, feel free to comment, ask questions, or request a subject for a post.

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

(artSEEguy)