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Author Topic: Abstraction in landscape photography  (Read 874705 times)
jule
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« Reply #40 on: June 18, 2006, 08:12:32 PM »
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Geez! Jule, this is deep stuff....'connecting with one's true nature'.....'the nature of infinity' ......'images without cognitive social referencing'. Not sure what to make of these images. Seems you are trying to express the ineffable.

I'll have to think seriously about my response  .
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yes Ray...arty farty stuff hey! I'm also a poet, ....an idealist,... interested in philosphy  , and although I love my day to day photography with a passion,  I immerse myself in a body of work examining all aspects; technical, visual, theoretical and philosophical.  ...  each to his own - and I just love doing my art and study.
Julie
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« Reply #41 on: June 18, 2006, 08:23:16 PM »
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Jule,
On reflection, the top triptych is the most appealing. I wouldn't mind having that on my wall   . It reminds me of some of the semi-abstract glassware I saw at Murano recently in Venice.
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Thank you for the wonderful complement. In my last exhibition my images looked particularly like glass sculptures. The works of Dale Chihuly [a href=\"http://www.chihuly.com]http://www.chihuly.com[/url] , a wonderful artist, influenced the inspiration I had for that previous body of work.
Julie
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jmdr
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« Reply #42 on: June 18, 2006, 09:22:08 PM »
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Julie, beautiful stuff.  I, like Ray, had to sit with it for a while before being able to reply appropriately.  I too found myself most interested in the triptych.  The play of colour and light is incredible.  I also really liked the 2nd dark vortex, the slash of white and the "blur" at the bottom- terrific.

I have never seen photographs like these before, and it's very exciting the scope of what is possible when people actively experiment with a camera as an expressive implement.

It was also great to read your artist's statement, I have long been unable to clearly articulate this well, (which is partly why I thought I'd try muddling through some of it here with you guys first...)

Thanks again for sharing this work, is there anywhere that we can see more (besides SE Auz?  )

Jonathan
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James Godman
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« Reply #43 on: June 19, 2006, 11:11:52 AM »
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This is a great discussion!  Jonathan, I also think that your more out of focus images are best, almost like being outside, but focused on some task other than looking at the surroundings, as if in one's peripheral vision.

For context, I do both photography and abstract paintings.  I have included a few here.[attachment=719:attachment][attachment=720:attachment]
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jmdr
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« Reply #44 on: June 19, 2006, 04:34:01 PM »
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For context, I do both photography and abstract paintings.
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James, I really like the tree image- the colour and mood is great.  It's hard to tell from this little reproduction, but it looks like a photograph that's been worked with post-capture, (?) how did you achieve this effect?  I like the isolation of the subject, and the blurring of the detail in the foreground and sky.

I'd be interested to know how how (or if) you feel being an abstract painter informs your work as a photographer.  Your current online portfolio had a much different feel than the two images attached to your post, and I noticed this intriguing line in your bio: "His early work was rather abstract and suffered from a lack of direction".  It sounds like you have been "cured" from the use of abstraction in your photography .

Jonathan

And thanks for the insight on my own photos, it's interesting to me the different ways that people express their reactions to the out-of-focus images.  Taking Alain's advice I went out this weekend to do the most important thing, take more photographs- here's one example that I am pleased with:

[a href=\"http://www.borealisimages.ca][/url]
« Last Edit: June 19, 2006, 04:34:51 PM by jmdr » Logged

James Godman
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« Reply #45 on: June 19, 2006, 07:00:03 PM »
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Hi Jonathan-

This picture you took reminds me of what Mondrian did which was to distill the landscape into its basic elements of line, color, and shape.  I really like it.

Being a painter absolutely informs my photography.  For me, painting is a very philosophical pursuit that is more process oriented than my photography.  The photography, even though my work is all over the place, is more subject oriented, but has lately been more influenced by my painting.  The photographs I have been doing lately are also inspired by other artists like Keith Carter, Mark Tucker, and Jack Spencer, whose out of focus, textured, and layered work I admire.  As to how I did it, the tree shot was captured on film and then I scanned and added some texture that was digitally captured.

Glad you read my bio!  When I wrote that, I was a little tired of reading other photographers bios;  nearly every one had a line like "he picked the camera up at age 12 and never looked back" or some such thing.  No offense to anyone whatsoever.

Jule-  I really like what you are doing as well.

Here's a few more...
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #46 on: June 19, 2006, 08:58:41 PM »
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Hi Jonathan,

I've been wanting to join this wonderful thread for quite a while, but I've been too busy to more than lurk. Like some of the other responders, I am not yet completely convinced by all of your soft-focus abstractions. But I think you are onto something, and should keep working on them. So far my favorites are the last one you posted, as well as the first and fifth from your June 14 post (#1 is a bit similar to the latest post; #5 is the one someone called "three suns".) Those one grab me in an elemental way, and I agree with James that there is something Mondrianish about them.

I have to add my thanks to Julie, too: those are fantastic images. I am tempted to go out and try photographing vortexes, too; but I won't.  

Alain (and Georgia O'Keefe) put it very well, speaking of "living in the world you have created." Unlike some others here, I have moved more into a kind of "abstraction" as I get older. I do still try to retain a direct link to reality, or at least "plausibility". After a number of years, I began to realize that most of my best images were fairly abstract, at least in avoiding obvious clues to scale, or often "what is it?" My work now is pretty much divided between landscapes (generally quite literal), and what I might call "found abstractions". Recent subject matter that has fascinated me has included drips of tar put down to fix cracks in a road surface (inherently pretty ugly!); patterns created by the tide on sandy beaches; and graffiti and weathered paint on a long-abandoned railroad car. You can see some of these on my website, which you will find at http://myrvaagnes.com/ .

Comments are welcome. As soon as I have a bit more time, I'll pick a few to poste here, with my own comments.

I must add that I agree with Ray that an image must have emotional content or it won't move me at all. I do feel that abstractions can (but won't necessarily) do this.

Again, thanks for a great thread.

Eric

Edit (1/26/09): Just updated my website URL, which changed over a year ago.
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jule
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« Reply #47 on: June 19, 2006, 10:50:44 PM »
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James, Thank you for posting your images. I really love your style of photography - (visited your site). I am particulary drawn to the image in the centre of the three you posted, the one of the ocean and sky. I think it is quite lovely. It continues to hold my attention. I really feel the expansiveness which is portrayed. I also love the image of the stairs. The textural element of the surface of the concrete in conjunction with the angular lines of the rails and steps is just wonderful. I think the graduation of light is superb. ....stairway to heaven..  

I'm not sure though whether I would classify them as abstract though - just my thoughts however - as there is clearly recognisable subject matter. Regardless of that, the way you have explored space I think is beautiful.

Julie
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James Godman
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« Reply #48 on: June 19, 2006, 11:43:42 PM »
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Hey Julie-

Thanks for your wonderful comments!  I agree these photographs are not abstract.  My paintings are though, which was the initial comparison.

Eric, I love your tar in the road shots!  Those are cool.

Jonathan, let's see some more!
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jmdr
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« Reply #49 on: June 20, 2006, 12:49:49 AM »
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James, thanks for the response.  I'll have to look at more of Mondrian's stuff in the next couple days, as well as some of the other artists you've mentioned.

As for seeing more of my images, please have a look at my website any time at www.borealisimages.ca.  The galleries are arranged chronologically, and the out-of-focus technique began for me in the summer of 2005 if you're interested in those, although I think you can certainly see a progression leading up to them.  I usually post new galleries 4 times a year, but I'm headed out to the west coast at the end of the week (camera in tow), and I'll definitely share an image or two if I end up with something that I'm happy with.

Thanks again to everyone who's joined in here lately, this has been terrific and I'd love to hear from more of you.

Jonathan
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Ray
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« Reply #50 on: June 20, 2006, 10:11:47 AM »
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although I love my day to day photography with a passion,  I immerse myself in a body of work examining all aspects; technical, visual, theoretical and philosophical.  ...  each to his own - and I just love doing my art and study.
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Julie,
That's an enviable position to be in. How do you manage to avoid the pressures of duties, responsibilities, common chores etc which can so easily interrupt such immersion in philosophical and poetical contemplations?

Let me know the date and venue of your next exhibition, won't you?
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Ray
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« Reply #51 on: June 20, 2006, 10:28:32 AM »
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Taking Alain's advice I went out this weekend to do the most important thing, take more photographs- here's one example that I am pleased with:
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Jonathan,
I'd like to ask you in what way you need a camera to make this picture. Is it just easier to process an OOF camera image than start with a 'new window' in Photoshop and use whatever brushes and tools are available to create whatever effect you wish?
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James Godman
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« Reply #52 on: June 20, 2006, 10:40:17 AM »
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Hey Ray-  

I won't answer for Jonathan, but I will give a somewhat philosophical exposition.  These type of images are not drawings, but lines and shapes and colors that are created by nature.  The photographer only has partial control over what is shown, and that's the point.  One might find it difficult to do better than nature.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #53 on: June 20, 2006, 10:58:15 AM »
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Jonathan,
I'd like to ask you in what way you need a camera to make this picture. Is it just easier to process an OOF camera image than start with a 'new window' in Photoshop and use whatever brushes and tools are available to create whatever effect you wish?
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Ray,
I think my mind works a little like Jonathan's. Sometimes when my wife and I are going out for dinner, she asks "what do you want to eat?" My usual answer is "I don't know until I see the menu." My photography is like that, too. If I started with a blank screen in Photoshop, I would have no idea how to begin. But looking at things with my camera along, I can often find things I like visually, even if I might distort them later in Photoshop.

I guess I just need the external inspiration. I don't know if Jonathan feels the same.

Eric
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jmdr
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« Reply #54 on: June 20, 2006, 01:24:53 PM »
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This is great! Thanks for asking Ray, I think I might be able to explain a little bit about what goes into the out-of-focus images that might shed some light onto how I got to this point.  First of all, I'm a photographer, not a painter- so I need to use a camera.  I tried my hand at painting, but was never entirely happy with what came out (usually a not-great rendition of a good photograph!).

When I first started experimenting with defocusing the entire image, the goal for me was to abstract, or "hide" the details of what I was photographing in order to concentrate the attention onto the larger forms and patterns of the landscape.  I had become frustrated with photographs that were not portraying well the impact that I felt when I reached for my camera, or that were ruined (or at least lessened) by "excessive" detail when what I was trying to capture was the overall feel of the scene.  

So I tried the out-of-focus thing, and kind of liked it.  After playing with it a bit, I had a similar thought as you, why not take all the pictures in focus, and blur them afterwards?  This way I'd have both versions, more control, and I could work on it in my office where the bugs aren't nearly so bad.  After all, that's how I shoot black & white these days.  

So with that in mind, I went out, took some side-by-side, in- and out-of-focus shots of scenes where I would have taken just a blurry shot, and sat down with photoshop for a while.  Here's one example:


1. sharply focused


2. same photo as above, blurred in photoshop


3. same scene, defocused in-camera

This scene is a good example where I felt that the details of the tree branches, and all the scraggly stuff in there, was getting in the way of what I was actually trying to take a picture of, i.e. the shape of the trees in front of the lake, the green of the near shore, and the blue of far shore.  Technically speaking as well, these small details, when so strongly backlit are often plagued by purple-fringing and chromatic abberations.

As you can see, there's a significant difference between what I could do with the blurring filters in PS versus what I could achieve with the optics of my camera lens (and yes, I did try my best in PS).

For me, what is lost in the PS version is the way that light is transformed by a camera lens.  There are a couple crucial elements that I found missing in the PS version;
1. the way that the bright highlights are rendered as disks of light (known as the "circle of confusion"- see Sean's website!)
2. the way that, although there is nothing in sharp focus, depth is still communicated by differences in the degree of blurriness.  The little sapling in the foreground (middle-right) is nearly completely obscured, and the trees are non-uniformly blurred (this is more apparent in a print).
To me, the the PS version looks "murky" and blurry, rather than out-of-focus. (I know  this is a pretty fine distinction, and one that I have muddled almost continually)

Other examples are more extreme.  I'd challenge you to take the in-focus version of the "three suns" image, and make it look like the out-of-focus version.  

To me, there is something special about the way that a lens distorts different types of light, and the ultimately, how that light is recorded by my camera.  There is also something essential, to me, in the point that James made; my blurry pictures are attempts, as are my non-blurry ones, to capture something that is there, that is present in front of me, on the landscape.  I am a photographer for the same reason that I am a biologist by trade: I love the forest.  But the reason that I am a photographer and not a painter is that I also love the camera, and the way that a camera specifically, allows me to portray the forest.

Another reason that I prefer to use my lens to abstract these images, rather than photoshop, also ties into this last point.  As has been discussed previously here, people expect a photograph to represent something "true" or "real", rather than something that was "invented" by the artist.  By not giving the viewer the "excuse" to be able to think "oh, it's been photoshopped" (which is a big turn-off for many people, maybe even more than a completely out-of-focus photograph), I can force people to believe that what I've captured in my camera was really there, and from there they can respond to it.  I hope too, that this might help people to understand that no photograph is a depiction of a scene in a completely unaltered state.

Whew, so there you go- that's why I use my camera.  (I also prefer to spend my time out there looking through my viewfinder, than at home staring at my monitor- bugs or no...)

Any comments on any of this would again, (of course) be most appreciated

Jonathan
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jmdr
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« Reply #55 on: June 20, 2006, 01:57:23 PM »
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I also meant to mention that Eric makes a good point, the scenes that I shoot defocused are not the same scenes that I shoot in-focus.  In order to find those compositions where, in my opinion, the out-of-focus technique adds something, I need to be looking through the viewfinder and working with the manual focus ring.  

As you can tell, I do not  uniformly defocus between shots- some are more, some are less in focus.  I can assure you that for each one, I have chosen the exact amount that I found most pleasing.  Often too, my composition will change depending on the degree of defocusing- elements of a scene interact differently when they're thrown out of focus.  And the best time to find that out is when I'm standing there with my camera, not back home in the evening.

Here's an example of what I mean; one of the things that I've enjoyed discovering is the way that criss-crossing elements (grass blades, tree branches, etc.) form "nodes" (for lack of a better term) where they overlap visually, even if they are not spatially adjacent.  This is another example of the way that the a lens interacts with a subject in a way that can not be duplicated by the computer.

Here's an two examples of what I mean:





And this is an example of what I referred to in my last post, where depth of field is still portrayed, even in the absence of an in-focus element.  Here, the aspen on the far left, and the one just right of centre were the closest to me, and retain some detail of the patterns on their trunks.  The trunks just to the left of centre were the farthest back (it was aspens all the way back, I couldn't see the sky through the stand), and have been reduced to solid vertical lines, in different shades of white.  I would not have composed the photo in the same way if I had been looking through a "sharp" viewfinder:



Again, most of these examples can be seen in the galleries on my website, along with many other, more sharply focused, images.  I'd invite anyone who's interested to have a look around there, and I welcome any comments or criticisms, either here, on the "discussion" section of my website, or privately if you prefer, by email.

Jonathan
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #56 on: June 20, 2006, 02:55:22 PM »
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Very good explanations and illustrations, Jonathan. I find myself getting more and more convinced by your approach.  

I think, of the images you have posted here, your very latest Aspens image works the best for me so far. The subtle differences between near and far and the balances between left, right, and middle areas make it very effective.

I hope I'll get to spend more time at your website soon -- too busy lately.  

Eric
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Jessica D
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« Reply #57 on: June 20, 2006, 03:07:48 PM »
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Hi Everyone,
I just started reading through this thread a couple days ago, and have really enjoyed reading everybody's responses.  I am a photographer myself, but probably not as developed in style, content and aim as what the rest of you seem to be.  Actually, the majority of my subject matter is people, predominently children and babies, although I have a deep love of nature and desire to capture those images as well.  Many of my newer pictures border on the abstract (although I almost fear to use that word in this forum!) in the sense that as many of you take extreme close ups of parts of nature, I enjoy the extreme close ups (and often play with depth of field) of a baby's ear, or children's feet as they run in the ocean.

A couple people have commented on the fact that the thumbnails don't quite do justice to a photograph, and how different these images look when you see them in a gallery or a large print.  Jonathan, I was just wondering if you have printed large versions of any of your blurry photographs, and if so, what you thought of them
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jmdr
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« Reply #58 on: June 20, 2006, 03:53:13 PM »
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I was just wondering if you have printed large versions of any of your blurry photographs, and if so, what you thought of them.
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Hi Jessica, thanks for joining in- "the more the merrier"  

To answer your question, yes I have printed off a number of the out-of-focus images, and find that they work very nicely- sometimes.  

One advantage is that I can print them as large as I want (no need to worry about the loss of detail!) which can make the print very striking.  The problem that I've run into is that for these, the exact colours and brightness are crucial to the images, and I sometimes have a hard time duplicating the subtleties in print (but I'm pretty picky).  

This is, I think, due largely to the difference between viewing the images in a medium that is projecting light (a monitor) versus one that is reflecting light (prints).  I think my ideal gallery show would be to have the walls hung with large, high resolution, perfectly calibrated (and framed), lcd screens- each one displaying a single image (or I could have a different show every night!).  If anyone knows of a gallery like that, let me know...  

Jonathan
« Last Edit: June 20, 2006, 04:09:19 PM by jmdr » Logged

wynpotter
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« Reply #59 on: June 20, 2006, 04:35:05 PM »
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A little late to the discussion but a reaction that I have is that for me, I enjoy the sharp focus abstraction because
 1, I don't have to strain to focus an out of focus image. It' like my mind is on af and keeps tracking.
2. Abstractions in painting are always in focus, distorted, skewed, etc, but alway in focus. Even the softest muted painting is always in focus. This allows me to dig deeper into the image that's presented before me.
For a test, take the OOF image apply WC filter, sometimes interesting result, sometimes nothing of any value.
A very interesting discussion and will allow the conventional to step out the box.
Wyndham
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