I had the privilege to attend a weekend course with Prof Hennie Cronje on abstract photography in October 2013. And what an experience!
It was not easy doing abstract photography – being a Nature and Wildlife photographer. But one needs to expand and learn more about photography.
To me abstract photography is all about the interaction between the eye and the mind of your viewer. It is so interesting to see how one’s mind is capable of “creating a whole from a part”. It is an important to remember when you’re considering abstract photography. It increases the opportunities to be creative if you see a small section of a flower like the stem, your mind would automatically identify it and complete the rest of the picture. Eventually you will realize that it is a flower. Your brain fills in the gaps intuitively. As the abstract image becomes more complicated and not so clear, your brain is free to it own interpretation and that is the beauty of abstract photography. However, one must remember that not everybody like abstract photography but would rather look at the real thing. And by the way – that is me so bare with me in this post as it is not my speciality.
The course we arranged with Prof Hennie was all about in-camera abstract photography meaning the photographer needs to produce an abstract image while shooting a scene and not using post-processing procedures in for example Photoshop. My personal opinion is that Abstract photography is not the same as Altered Reality (to change an image in Photoshop/any photo development software so that reality is altered in such a way that the final image is not real anymore).
This was my first ever try to do abstract photography. As a beginner I tend to concentrate on Lines and Curves in order to give myself and my viewer something to base our meaning on and to add visual interest. Without these lines and curves, one’s eye would be all over the image. By using the shapes, it would pull your reader’s eye to whatever element catches it first. Additional approaches for beginners (for me a bit more difficulty but I am sure I’ll get there) is to use the following principles (a) shoot out of focus, (b) use extreme angles and (c) extreme light. It is still important to remember and not to ignore the basic key principles to good photography: subject, light and background. Within abstract photography for example, try different arrangements of the subject while keeping an eye on the background (dark is often better). One can also play with the light by trying different angles (front light, side light or back light) in order to see how the light might change the entire composition of your image. However, I am still talking about good quality of light (for example shooting in the golden hours of the day).
The beauty of these approaches are that it is not necessary to drive 800km+ to the Kgalagadi T. Park to get the images. You can use your own backyard to get these images. We used my work place (UFS) to do our practical session and that was here I got all the images below. Also you do not need all the expense equipment like a 600mm telephoto lens – you can use the entry level DSLR camera or even your point-and-shoot camera.
Enough of the theoretical stuff – lets get down to business. Hopefully you would be able to recognise some of the shapes I’ve mentioned earlier in this post on the images below. I am not going to discuss the finer detail of each image e.g. how the image was captured and I am not telling the readers what they are looking at. It is up to you to formulate you own opinion. Here are a few examples of the images of mine taken during our weekend course with Prof. Hennie:
Just remember – these are all images captured in-camera with no Photoshop techniques use to manipulate any of the images:
Red lines 1
Red lines 2
Tree bark BW
Tree trunk 2
Not really my style of photography, frustrating in the beginning because my eye was not trained to recognise opportunities but the more I’ve tried, the more I’ve enjoyed the exercise and the course. Thanks Prof Hennie for sharing your experience and knowledge with us.
Message to take home:
Abstract photography is a form of art by making use of your immediate environment that is full of colors, shapes, patterns and other details while capture and manipulate such images in-camera and without sophisticated computer software. Even if you are not into abstract photography, please don’t be afraid to go outside of your box. From my experience as a beginner – do not think you will get it right the first time. It is just like any other form of photography – (a) keep on the lookout for potential abstract subjects, (b)train your eye to look for interesting subjects and environments, (c) practice and keep on practising and lastly (d) keep on trying different techniques even though people usually tell you not to do it e.g. move/shake your camera while shooting. Abstract photography is a particular form of art where the photographer is gathering the necessary experience to view one’s environment differently by using techniques within your abilities to change it as you see fit. Share it with the world and your viewers.
Until next time – keep on manipulating your images in-camera while shooting for that abstract approach!!!