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Author Topic: Abstraction in landscape photography  (Read 867677 times)
peter-natureindetail
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« Reply #100 on: January 22, 2007, 05:54:31 AM »
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Thank you for sharing your images. I stand to be corrected, but I'm not certain that your images can be classified as abstract. They are too easily identifiable, and look like crops from larger images.

Julie
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Hello Julie,
Depends on what thinks about abstract, some of my photos could be called abstract others not, I agree. My photos are all uncropped, not from larger images. I use the zoom to focus in on a subject. Crops from larger images would result in loss of detail.
Regards,
Peter-natureindetail
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #101 on: January 22, 2007, 07:56:36 AM »
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Peter,

Regardless of how you cropped or framed your images, I have to agree with Julie that they are not what I think of as natural abstracts, but closeups. (if they were details of the wider landscape, then the term "intimate landscape" might be applicable.)

You are right that abstraction is largely in the eye of the beholder of course! But to me, an abstract makes me wonder, at least for a moment or two "what is that?". With the exception of the penultimate one, there is none of that mystery here.
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #102 on: February 12, 2007, 04:50:14 AM »
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Jonathan - first, thanks for starting this thread, which I have found both interesting and inspirational. And secondly, for those who are interested in botanical abstracts, I came across this page of images from the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research, in Vancouver.

http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/photo_abstracts/
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hankbenson
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« Reply #103 on: May 18, 2007, 02:53:09 PM »
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<p>"It would be interesting to see whether artists-turned-photographers are able to appreciate 'blurred' out of focus photographs as abstractions without the need to have clear focal points and sharpness, more readily than photographers-turned artists. "

<p>This subject interests me and I've done some work of this kind recently. In fact I joined the site specifically for this but don't know how to navigate here. Is this thread still alive? How do I join this forum? How do I post shots? All help appreciated.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2007, 02:55:18 PM by hankbenson » Logged
jmdr
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« Reply #104 on: September 23, 2007, 04:52:30 PM »
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Well, this thread has been quiet for a little while, but I'd like to thank the people who have posted links- I've really enjoyed seeing the range of work out there.

Myself, I've been experimenting, playing around some more, and I think that I'd like to revise my initial position of there being three types of abstraction in landscape photography- I've discovered a bunch more! And rather than give them away, I'll invite you to have a look at some of the images in the latest galleries on my website (www.borealisimages.ca), see what you like, and (hopefully) get inspired to try some things out yourself. I'd also love to hear some reactions if anything strikes you especially.

I've also recently read an article that I thought I'd pass along and highly recommend to those of you interested in this discussion. The article was in issue #70 of the excellent photography magazine "Lenswork". It was written by the editor, Brooks Jensen, as an introduction to a portfolio of abstract photos he had created and published in the same issue. In the article he compares the experience of looking at abstract photography to that of listening to music.

Any paraphrase of my own wouldn't work nearly as well, so you should instead read the article yourselves. You can download a pdf copy of it from the Lenswork website by clicking this link. The article is the "Editor's Comments" in the sample pages from Lenswork section of the download.

As a side note, the images that Brooks presents in his portfolio are a type of abstract photo that hasn't been mentioned in this thread: they're perfectly crisp, clear, representational photographs of random paint patterns on concrete walls. These images don't fit into any of the categories that have been mentioned in this forum so far, but they certainly (to my eye/mind) still qualify as abstract photographs... time to broaden the horizons once again I guess (what fun).
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larsrc
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« Reply #105 on: September 25, 2007, 09:06:34 AM »
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Just read through this whole thread, and it's quite interesting.  While I agree that the "just defocused" shots are not very interesting, I think there are things that can be done with sloppy focus that makes things abstract and still interesting.  Just after finishing reading the thread, something happened here that lead to another type of abstract photo.  See if you can guess what it is:)

That aside, my thoughts of why the "just unfocused" shots don't work while purely abstract paintings "work" (at least to the tune of selling very well) is that there's always something in the paintings to grab our attention, specifically sharp contrasts or fine detail.  Real unfocused-like blur is not easy to make in a painting.  The eyes cannot fix on anything in a truly blurred photo, they just slide off without anything to hold interest.  But kudos for trying something different.

-Lars
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Monochromophile
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« Reply #106 on: September 26, 2007, 12:57:29 PM »
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My attempt at landscape abstraction:
http://i.pbase.com/o6/61/186761/1/86253298...3.NHCreek2A.jpg

Original inage:
http://i.pbase.com/o6/61/186761/1/86253322...PJ.NHCreek2.jpg

(I hope I pested the pictures correstly.  If not,  see http://www.pbase.com/lenw/temp&page=4
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Monochromophile
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« Reply #107 on: September 26, 2007, 01:23:02 PM »
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In a sense Jule, that probably is still true. The camera really does never lie. Only people lie. But sometimes it might not be clear if the lie was deliberate, which requires a certain familiarity with the characteristics of the medium (the camera), or if the lie was inadvertent, as a result of the photographer not being familiar with the characteristics of the camera.

A typical example might be a picture advertisement for rental rooms in a hotel or guest house. To fit the whole room into the shot (or most of it) it's usually easier for the photographer to use a wide-angle lens. However, the effects of a wide-angle lens are to exaggerate the size of near objects and reduce the size of far objects resulting in an over all impression that the room is much bigger than it actually is.

In this example, I would say the photographer has probably lied but might shift the blame to the camera if confronted with the lie.
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If the picture is used as evedence in a criminal case, or illustrating a product in an ad, etc, "lying" with the camera is possible.  But no lie is implied if the picture is strictly used as artistic expression.  Painters don't lie when they abstract a scene., why can't photographers have the same right.
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russell a
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« Reply #108 on: September 26, 2007, 02:55:14 PM »
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There is an interesting issue as regards abstraction in photography.  It's related to abstract art in general.  It took years before the majority of even the "informed" public gave up on asking of abstract paintings ** "what is it?".  Photography still has that issue and it relates to the following.  

1)  we know that photography is nearly (99.999%) based in some objective reality - so the abstract pattern that we see may be the result of, variously, photomicrography, macro photography, unusual points of view, focus/flare, etc., but it is of some worldly something.  

2)  with painting, the "informed public" has been taught to associate abstraction with implied non-visual "content" - emotional states, moral positions, psychological intent.  While recent criticism (Donald Kuspit, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe) suggests that, to a great extent, such association is over-blown and ill-placed, such assumptions are firmly embedded in arts education and museum practice.

3)  so the problem arises that, whenever there are insufficient clues for the viewer of a photograph to determine "what is it?", the question is immediately forthcoming. Additionally, because the viewer knows that photographs are produced differently than are paintings, the viewer is not likely to reward the photographer with having imbued the image with the above mentioned non-visual content.  So, abstract photographs are taken less seriously than abstract paintings and are often treated as puzzles that, once solved, can be discarded.

4)  part of the issue is that of a fundamental misunderstanding of the model of communications as regards the arts.  Education and practice, as above, also reinforce the myth that art works are supposed to communicate from the artist to the viewer.  In fact, what takes place are two separate processes:  the relationship of artist to the work and the relationship from the work to the viewer.  Any correspondence between these two relationships is illusory and unnecessary.  One may easily see this at work in the extravagant reinterpretations of ancient, tribal, or any work from outside a given culture.  To the extent that a shared relationship seems to exist, it is based on cultural agreements that tend toward the trivial, the cliched, or the kitsch.  In short, what Chomsky once called "deep structure" is individual and not even (sorry Karl Jung) archetypal.

Now, much of what is termed abstraction in photography approaches what I would term "pure seeing" or perhaps "seeing for seeings sake".  There is nothing wrong with this, but the practitioner may well encounter the shoals cited above.

What to do about it?  Probably nothing.  Keep shooting.


**  technically the appropriate quarter-to-mid 20th Century terminology was "non-objective" but I will use the term abstraction here to refer to any work without a tangible reference to a worldly visual reality.
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larsrc
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« Reply #109 on: September 27, 2007, 01:11:23 AM »
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There is an interesting issue as regards abstraction in photography.  It's related to abstract art in general.  It took years before the majority of even the "informed" public gave up on asking of abstract paintings ** "what is it?".  Photography still has that issue and it relates to the following. 

1)  we know that photography is nearly (99.999%) based in some objective reality - so the abstract pattern that we see may be the result of, variously, photomicrography, macro photography, unusual points of view, focus/flare, etc., but it is of some worldly something

2)  with painting, the "informed public" has been taught to associate abstraction with implied non-visual "content" - emotional states, moral positions, psychological intent.  While recent criticism (Donald Kuspit, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe) suggests that, to a great extent, such association is over-blown and ill-placed, such assumptions are firmly embedded in arts education and museum practice.

I surely hope people will listen to these two, I'm so tired of looking at abstract paintings.  Try as I might, I just cannot find anything interesting in them.

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3)  so the problem arises that, whenever there are insufficient clues for the viewer of a photograph to determine "what is it?", the question is immediately forthcoming. Additionally, because the viewer knows that photographs are produced differently than are paintings, the viewer is not likely to reward the photographer will having imbued the image with the above mentioned non-visual content.  So, abstract photographs are taken less seriously than abstract paintings and are often treated as puzzles that, once solved, can be discarded.

4)  part of the issue is that of a fundamental misunderstanding of the model of communications as regards the arts.  Education and practice, as above, also reinforce the myth that art works are supposed to communicate from the artist to the viewer.  In fact, what takes place are two separate processes:  the relationship of artist to the work and the relationship from the work to the viewer.  Any correspondence between these two relationships is illusory and unnecessary. 

Here I don't agree.  While the actual processes that happen may be as you describe, we especially as landscape photographers are frequently trying to communicate what we experience "in the field" to the final viewer.  One of the hard parts to learn is how to this effectively using the medium at hand.  Of course, it does apply less to abstract photography, but it's not a myth in general.

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One may easily see this at work in the extravagant reinterpretations of ancient, tribal, or any work from outside a given culture.  To the extent that a shared relationship seems to exist, it is based on cultural agreements that tend toward the trivial, the cliched, or the kitsch.  In short, what Chomsky once called "deep structure" is individual and not even (sorry Karl Jung) archetypal.

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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #110 on: September 27, 2007, 08:03:37 AM »
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A different meaning of abstraction I suppose: but as you can very clearly see the subject, it is more a graphic but representational treatment IMO.
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Rob C
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« Reply #111 on: September 27, 2007, 09:28:30 AM »
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Russell a

What a beautifully written post.

For what it´s worth, and quite by chance, I have found myself working in this very aspect of photography lo these past few days.

I thought it would be interesting to use digital capture in a sort of abstract manner, so I put a very light coating of Vaseline on a small piece of glass which fits in a Cokin holder. With this hightly sophisticated adaptation in front of the lens, I moved very close to some flowers, closer even than the normal focussing range of the lens, and proceeded to manipulate the resulting blurred images in a variety of ways, even by such simple means as by changing the angle of rotation of the ´filter´ and immediately fell in love with the images in the camera.

After working on the files in the computer, I took them to a level of abstract beauty (in MY eyes) where I could hardly wait to print.

At the same time, I had managed to source some Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Bright White and thought that a combination of the new images and a new (to me) paper might inspire my mind to even greater heights.

Until I printed the first test strip.

Dismally poor would be a kind way of putting it, unlike prints of other subjects on a much cheaper paper available from the UK - Jessops Heavyweight Photo Matt 230gsm -  which gives me a great combination with the HP B9180 at the Jessops-recommended profile of HP Premium Paper. I did not use that profile with the Hahnemuehle material trying, instead, the HP Smooth Fine Art which has been recommended on this forum. It was horribly flat, showing absolutely nothing of the vibrancy and deep, deep colours of the screen (I understand the difference between transmitted and reflected light viewing). I then downloaded two different versions of Hahnemuehle profile from their site (one suggests using Rigid Rag as paper type - I tried that and also the alternative, the name of which, at the moment, escapes my memory) but the difference was a very slight increase in separation of the colours but still a pronounced flatness coupled with what seemed, at first glance, to be banding.

This led to an instant head realignment exercise. In for a penny, in for a pound - or three - per pop,  I decided, so I printed an A3+ on the Hahne-supplied profile and also another A3+ using the HP Smooth Fine Art profile.

The Hahne-profiled one still shows the ´banding´and the HP profiled one does not, being only slightly less contrasty than the Hahne, but still very flat.

On looking even more deeply into the soul of the Hahne-profiled shot, I began to think that I was not really seeing banding at all, more a sort of smallish wave pattern, entirely absent in the other print.

I ran an A5 test of the second Hahnemuehle-supplied profile, but as it showed the same fault as the first such profile, I went no further with it.

I have yet to try this Hahnemuehle paper on the same profile that works so well with Jessops paper, but my gut feeling is not positve!

But anyway, that´s just the background to the meat of this post, which is that abstract photography is, I believe, quite different to abstract painting for the very reasons mentioned in your post and also because where there is sufficient data to give an understanding of the reality/identity of the subject in the photograph, something in the mind wants - no, demands - that a small part at least of that subject be rendered fairly crisply as a token of confirmation of the viewer´s/photographer´s understanding of what it is that he is looking at so closely.

For my own shots from that session, I should have ensured that a tiny slot of glass was free of Vaseline smear. I don´t imagine this would have had any effect on the subsequent banding(?) issue, but if so, then it also raises the question of whether, where there is NO sharp feature in a picture,  the printer does not have a harder time behaving itself without offering any corrective input of its own...

Don´t ask me how this might happen - I have insufficient trust in the entire business as it is!

Rob C
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russell a
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« Reply #112 on: September 27, 2007, 12:29:24 PM »
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While the actual processes that happen may be as you describe, we especially as landscape photographers are frequently trying to communicate what we experience "in the field" to the final viewer.  One of the hard parts to learn is how to this effectively using the medium at hand.  Of course, it does apply less to abstract photography, but it's not a myth in general.
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The fact that someone is trying to communicate with the final viewer doesn't mean that it is going to occur.  If closely examined, two individuals** who "agree entirely" may find that they do this for very different reasons.  In many cases it doesn't matter, the two individuals are sufficiently happy to be in agreement and are not motivated to discover any deeply embedded divergence.  The appearance of communication should not be taken to prove that communication occurred, although it is our tendency to do so.

It would be interesting to be able to study this phenomena in the case of identical twins.



**  I use this term deliberately.  That's the point.
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hankbenson
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« Reply #113 on: October 18, 2007, 05:07:13 PM »
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[attachment=3605:attachment]<p>I see that the interactions in this thread proceed at a languorous pace. The subject matter is both fascinating to me and relevant to much of the photography I do.  Discussions here can get heady to the point where theory gets separated from the work in question and becomes the subject--something I try to avoid but we can only work case by case.

<p>I favor a broad definition of "abstraction". This  includes subjects that are not recognizable except as color, line and form. Also subjects in  which these aspects are emphasized as part of things that are recognizable: i.e., a blurred, camera- movement- produced image of a tree in which the color patterns of fall leaves are the subject. Out of focus pictures of buildings that work with light and with bold architectural forms rather than sharp detail are abstract for me. I don't spend much time thinking where the line between the abstract and the representational lies.

<p>What mainly interests me in photography and in art in general are the means by which human emotion is evoked--how this is done conceptually and by technical execution. I've never posted here so I'll introduce myself with these few paragraphs and a picture. I look forward to exchanging images and thoughts with you all.
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larsrc
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« Reply #114 on: October 19, 2007, 04:22:11 AM »
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The fact that someone is trying to communicate with the final viewer doesn't mean that it is going to occur.  If closely examined, two individuals** who "agree entirely" may find that they do this for very different reasons.  In many cases it doesn't matter, the two individuals are sufficiently happy to be in agreement and are not motivated to discover any deeply embedded divergence.  The appearance of communication should not be taken to prove that communication occurred, although it is our tendency to do so.

It would be interesting to be able to study this phenomena in the case of identical twins.
**  I use this term deliberately.  That's the point.
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The fact that communication might not occur does not mean that is is not, or should not, be attempted.  If I wrote a sentence on a piece of paper and put that in a frame on the wall, who would claim that no communication takes place (to viewers who can read that language)?  Why, then, are people so ready to claim that images do not communicate anything?  I was about to say that art should communicate something, but I can see the place for art that is left entirely open to the viewers interpretation.  I guess I'm just reacting to the prominence that kind of art has had recently.  I cannot say that art that attempts to communicate something and conveys something else is a failure.  Art that means nothing to the viewer is a failure as art and will by its very definition be ignored.  Art that doesn't communicate what the creator intended is a failure as communicative art, but not necessarily as invocative art.

-Lars
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Rob C
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« Reply #115 on: October 19, 2007, 12:36:57 PM »
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Generally, assuming freedom from commercial pressure, artistic truth might be seen to lie in the old adage: you can´t please everyone, so you might just as well please yourself.

That way, whatever you do, if it pleases you then it has succeeded.

Rob C
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jule
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« Reply #116 on: October 29, 2007, 12:24:37 AM »
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[attachment=3605:attachment]<p>I see that the interactions in this thread proceed at a languorous pace. The subject matter is both fascinating to me and relevant to much of the photography I do.  Discussions here can get heady to the point where theory gets separated from the work in question and becomes the subject--something I try to avoid but we can only work case by case.

<p>I favor a broad definition of "abstraction". This  includes subjects that are not recognizable except as color, line and form. Also subjects in  which these aspects are emphasized as part of things that are recognizable: i.e., a blurred, camera- movement- produced image of a tree in which the color patterns of fall leaves are the subject. Out of focus pictures of buildings that work with light and with bold architectural forms rather than sharp detail are abstract for me. I don't spend much time thinking where the line between the abstract and the representational lies.

<p>What mainly interests me in photography and in art in general are the means by which human emotion is evoked--how this is done conceptually and by technical execution. I've never posted here so I'll introduce myself with these few paragraphs and a picture. I look forward to exchanging images and thoughts with you all.
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hankbenson, Your image reminds me of some i took earlier in the year. I have been experimenting with abstraction - not very successfully - endeavoring to capture the mood of an environment rather than the visual particulars. Here are a couple of my photos which have had no post processing other than quick Raw conversion and resizing for this post. These initial images didn't exude the feeling I was hoping for - so consequently have been left untouched in my backup, until now when I saw yours which - reminded me of mine.  

I am very interested in abstraction in photography, but as yet am to create anything which I am happy with.

[attachment=3675:attachment]

[attachment=3676:attachment]

[attachment=3677:attachment]

[attachment=3678:attachment]

[attachment=3679:attachment]

Julie
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #117 on: October 29, 2007, 08:42:06 AM »
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Hank and Julie,

I find your woodsie abstractions quite intriguing. They remind me of situations when I have been in a forest with a fascinating mood, but the scene is too busy and/or the light is too contrasty to get anything usable. Your experiments suggest a possible way to try to, as Julie put it,
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capture the mood of an environment rather than the visual particulars.

One difficulty, as I see it, is that viewers have been conditioned to expect "sharp", and "blurred" suggests an error. I think grouping several such images, as Julie has done, helps to overcome this viewer predisposition by saying "this is intentional".

Thanks to you both, I will plan to try some of these myself.

Eric
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my website. New images each season.
hankbenson
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« Reply #118 on: October 29, 2007, 04:48:54 PM »
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hankbenson, Your image reminds me of some i took earlier in the year. I have been experimenting with abstraction - not very successfully - endeavoring to capture the mood of an environment rather than the visual particulars. Here are a couple of my photos which have had no post processing other than quick Raw conversion and resizing for this post. These initial images didn't exude the feeling I was hoping for - so consequently have been left untouched in my backup, until now when I saw yours which - reminded me of mine.   

I am very interested in abstraction in photography, but as yet am to create anything which I am happy with.

[attachment=3675:attachment]

[attachment=3676:attachment]

[attachment=3677:attachment]

[attachment=3678:attachment]

[attachment=3679:attachment]

Julie
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hankbenson
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« Reply #119 on: October 29, 2007, 04:50:51 PM »
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hankbenson, Your image reminds me of some i took earlier in the year. I have been experimenting with abstraction - not very successfully - endeavoring to capture the mood of an environment rather than the visual particulars. Here are a couple of my photos which have had no post processing other than quick Raw conversion and resizing for this post. These initial images didn't exude the feeling I was hoping for - so consequently have been left untouched in my backup, until now when I saw yours which - reminded me of mine.   

I am very interested in abstraction in photography, but as yet am to create anything which I am happy with.

[attachment=3675:attachment]

[attachment=3676:attachment]

[attachment=3677:attachment]

[attachment=3678:attachment]

[attachment=3679:attachment]

Julie
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