abstract

Creating an impression

Impression, trees 1

We seem to be spending a lot of time in the woods these days, and there are some spectacular woods and forests in this area.  This time it was Tinkersdale Woods at Hawarden, and I had a go at a technique I’ve been meaning to try for a while.  I’ve always been drawn towards what’s known as ‘impressionist’ photography.  There are a number of different techniques, but one of them is to use a slow shutter speed and move the camera while taking the shot.  Depending on how long your shutter speed is and how much you move the camera, you can end up with something that’s very abstract indeed or something that just shows a little of the effect.

The images above and immediately below used a shutter speed that was slow enough for me to move the camera up and down two or three times, and it’s produced a very abstract – but I think quite pleasing effect.  Don’t ask me for specific settings, because I haven’t a clue – I just keep changing them till it works!  I have tried this technique once before, but it does need some interesting colour and light for it to be effective and that just wasn’t there the last time I had a go.

Impression, trees 2

In the next image, I had a much shorter shutter speed and the effect is considerably more subtle and less painterly, but you do get a better appreciation for the scene.

Impression, trees 3

Much as I like these techniques, I have mixed feelings about them. Just as I’ve never really seen the point of photo-realistic paintings – why not just take a photo? – I wonder whether using photography to achieve the effect of a painting is a bit misguided.  I think a painting might offer more in terms of texture, and being a hand-created object, and so on.  But still, you know, I like doing this so I’m going to keep doing it, whatever.  There’s something about the way the colour and light gets smeared and blended that fascinates me, and I love the unpredictability of it.  I’ve always said I’m a painter manqué, and many of my favourite photographers actually started out as painters.  I don’t know if I’d have taken up photography if I’d turned out to have painting talent.  I think perhaps I would have anyway, because it’s different in many ways and just as satisfying in others.  But if I’d been able to paint well, would I be doing this kind of thing with photography?  I wonder.

Red lines

Bicycle lane, London

I’m used to seeing yellow ‘no parking’ lines everywhere on our streets, but these red lines are much more unusual.  I thought they looked great with the contrast of the wet tarmac, and the puddles of rain on them.

Drain, London

Double reds, London

Red lines, with yellow, London

But my absolute favourite is this one……..

Red lines, red lights, London

Serendipity is a wonderful thing

EruptionEruption

It was one of those days when I didn’t even want to take my camera along for the walk. The kind I’ve been talking about recently – grey, hazy, flatly-lit.  I took it anyway, thinking that I’m always saying to people that you can find good shots anywhere, any time of day, any weather – you only have to be open to looking.  I decided it was about time I took my own advice.

At first it just wasn’t working. I took a few shots, half-heartedly, not being happy with any of them.  I came to the estuary shore; everything looked flat, dull and uninviting.  In desperation I started out across the marshes, picking my way towards the large and permanent puddles, hoping I might find something there.  I had to cross over a drainage ditch and as I looked down, I noticed that someone had spilt some oil or petrol in it.  Something stirred, and I had a vision of what I could do with the colours and textures.

Many shots later, and after much Photoshopping, this is the result. They truly have been heavily Photoshopped*, which some little bit of me feels is cheating, but is it really?  Especially as I took the shots with the post-processing in mind.  I knew they’d need a lot of work to look the way I had visualised them at the time, but I also recognised the potential.  They’ve turned out better than I hoped; like clouds, I see pictures in them and have named them accordingly.  Perhaps you see something different…….

*In case you’re curious, processing included doubling or even tripling layers and using various blending modes, hue saturation of individual colours, small amounts of cloning, cropping, and rotating or flipping.

Oil spillDistant galaxies

RainbowSea serpent

HorizonSea Horizon

Mountain topsNight mountains

FlightFlight

SunsetSunset

LandscapeWinter Landscape

Oil spill 3

Uncertainty

Umbrella abstract

This photo of a couple with an umbrella was taken through a fountain – the abstract, painterly result was an unexpected, and welcome, surprise.

Uncertainty is the name of the game right now. We’ve had seven months of being uncertain whether or not Geoff would be made redundant, and now that he has there’s even more uncertainty.  Will he get a job?  Where will it be?  Will we have to move house?  Will it pay as much as he gets now?  How will we survive if it doesn’t?   Will I be able to supplement our income doing what I love to do?  Will I have to get a ‘normal’ job?  What happens if he doesn’t find a job? If we move will I find friends as good as the ones I have here?  Will I be lonely?  Will I miss this place?  And on and on.

It’s the middle of the night, and I’ve been lying awake pondering these and other questions. And then it struck me that uncertainty is what makes photography so rewarding and so much fun.  When I go out with my camera I have no idea what I’m going to find, or if I’ll come back with any decent shots, and that’s exciting.  I set out with an open mind, a large dose of curiosity, and the assumption that I’m going to have a good time finding out.  Sometimes I’m disappointed with what I shoot and delete most of it, but I’ve still gained a lot from the process, and I simply allow myself to feel the disappointment for a moment and then move on.

More often, I find something unexpected – a shot that turned out far better than I could have hoped, or something that looks completely different – and better – in the photograph than it did in reality.  I come back with treasures.  Going out on a photography session is an adventure – I don’t know what will happen and that’s exactly what I like.  Imagine if you knew beforehand what shots you’d take, what they’d be of, how they’d turn out.  Dull, isn’t it?

I want to approach the rest of my life like this. I want to treat it as an exciting adventure instead of a worrying unknown.  I want to approach it with curiosity and an open mind.  I want to discard the bad bits without regret and move on to what’s next.  I want to get excited over the unexpected.  I want to find treasures I didn’t anticipate.

“Faith means living with uncertainty – feeling your way through life, letting your heart guide you like a lantern in the dark.
Dan Millman

Reflecting on reflections

Reflection with orange lamp, London

This week, Kat Sloma is blogging on Reflections in glass

I’m a bit obsessive about photographing reflections, although when I started trawling through my archives it turned out I have far more photos of reflections in water, mirror, metal, or other substances, than I do in glass.

The word ‘reflection’ comes from the Latin ‘reflex’, which means to bend back – in the case of glass it’s the light rays that are bending back but this also gives it its other meaning of considered thought – ie, you turn back on your thoughts and give them more consideration.  I’m pretty keen on that kind of reflection as well and have eagerly engaged in lots of it – some might say to the point of over-indulgence but I don’t listen to them.  Studying philosophy just egged me on as far as this went and I was actually encouraged to write whole essays about this sort of thing –

Do you ever wonder if the guy in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?
— Calvin and Hobbes

Kind of makes you want to disappear up your own tutu, doesn’t it?

Staying true to my nature, I’ve been giving a bit of thought as to why many of us are so fascinated with photographing reflections. Speaking for myself – which is all I can do here – I’m drawn towards abstraction in art and reflections can turn something quite ordinary into a fascinating abstract.  They distort the subject, sometimes making it semi-transparent, and giving it a less substantial, dream-like look.  You often get a double-exposure effect as well, which adds to this. I like the sense of ambiguity and the little bit of effort that’s needed to figure out what’s going on.  You can’t usually take in a reflection picture in one casual glance – you have to really look at it.  If you look at the image at the end of this post, it can take a while before you realise that the leaves are painted onto the glass and the building is reflected in it.

I also don’t like straight lines much and find it fascinating to see buildings and other straight-edged objects take on wavy, curvy shapes.  I’ve always loved Gaudi‘s architecture because of its lack of hard edges and straight lines – a reflected building can turn into an instant Gaudi.

Someone else who likes distorting buildings is Cole Thompson.  In his project The Fountainhead, he photographs skyscrapers reflected in some kind of curved metal board (I can’t remember what it’s made of).  I think he’s had a mixed reaction to these, but I like them.

I’d love to know what it is that other folk like about reflections.  Nearly everyone is fascinated by them so if you have any thoughts on why, I’d welcome a comment below.

 

Buildings and leaves, reflected

London abstract

 

While in London last weekend, I took this shot of a reflection in the Gherkin – or Swiss Re building as it should be called.  I tried it in black and white as well; I don’t like it quite so much, but then I’ll nearly always go for colour first.