Abstracts: Creating Fun & Interesting Photographs Wherever You Are

If you look through Bryan's and my own favorite images, you won't see many abstract images. Typically speaking, our subjects are clearly defined and discernable (although our backgrounds may not be). When focusing on a specific subject (pun intended), the quality of your equipment and the sharpness your lenses deliver take center stage. Also, your subject and/or background must be visually compelling to grab the viewer's attention.
 
But what if you don't have the sharpest lenses? What if you have become uninspired by your immediate surroundings (a common problem I face)? In October, I posted the Top 6 Ways to Inspire Your Own Creativity, but I recently realized I missed a big one – Abstract photography.
 
My recent fascination with abstract photography began a couple of evenings ago when Amanda had fallen asleep on the couch, lit only by the faint glow of a TV left on in front of the room. Her arms and legs were humorously perched in awkward positions while our two dogs were cozily sharing the couch with her. It seemed like the perfect time for a personal snapshot that I never intended to share with the general public. But then happened...
 
Abstract Example #1

With my camera set to Live View (Silent Mode), Av priority at f/1.4 and ISO 800, It seems that I miscalculated just how slow the shutter would be even with -1 stop of exposure compensation dialed in (I wanted the scene to look as dark as it appeared to my eye). Soon after pressing the shutter, I raised the camera to look at the LCD preview only to notice the end of the exposure happening at that time. The resulting "accident" was oddly captivating to me.
 
That's what got me thinking about the benefits of abstract photography. Some of those benefits include:
 
  • You can easily create interesting abstract photos with inexpensive gear.
  • You can use very narrow apertures and significant motion blur to render subjects unrecognizable, yet still compelling.
  • The abstract images created can be used in many different ways.
The quality of gear used for creating abstract images is largely irrelevant as sharpness isn't a priority. According to dictionary.com, "abstract" can be defined as "expressing a quality or characteristic apart from any specific object or instance" or "difficult to understand; abstruse." In photographic terms, an abstract image is one in which the actual subjects are not clearly discerned, and the easiest way to accomplish that is to blur subjects through motion (my personal preference) or bokeh. When doing so, the incremental sharpness of one lens over another is practically meaningless.
 
And if our subjects are going to be blurred to oblivion, we can use rather uninspiring subjects found around the house to create interesting abstract images. At this point, I've photographed the flowers in my backyard about a dozen times over the past month. While they are still beautiful, they've stopped inspiring me to grab my camera for yet another shot of pretty flowers. But when focusing on abstract photography, the flowers become exciting again. Forgoing the tripod I usually use with macro subjects, I grabbed my 5D Mark III with the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM attached to capture the following images:
 
Abstract Example #2

Abstract Example #3

Abstract Example #4

And using motion blur and a macro lens, you can even create a relatively interesting image with something as mundane as a concrete patio (below).
 
Abstract Example #5

Of course, motion blur isn't the only way to render subjects unrecognizable. You can also use a wide aperture and unfocused subjects to create an interesting composition. The Christmas holiday seems to provide ample creative bokeh opportunities.
 
Out of Focus Christmas Lights

So what can you do with abstract images? Well, like any good image, a compelling abstract can liven up a blank space on your wall, but its usefulness does not end there. An abstract image can look great as a background for future portraits (either via post processing or via a Light Blaster) or they can be used for many generic stock image background needs and various typesetting projects.
 
At the end of the day, creating abstract images can be a fun and fulfilling way to spend time behind your camera.
 
Do you have abstract photos you'd like to share? Just add them to the site's Flickr group and tag them with "abstract".
Posted: 12/22/2015 9:57:07 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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