Abstract Photo workshops forms a wide spectrum of potential imagery. ‘Pure’ abstract photography is occasionally tackled, as seen here by Jason Byrom whilst on a photography holiday in Essaouira. Jason used a macro lens to achieve this scale of image if you pardon the pun. As macro lenses offer such a limited Depth Of Field (DOF – the range of what is is sharp and in focus), his critical focus became the main technical hurdle to overcome. Working with a tripod in good light, he raised his ISO, facilitating a small aperture and maximum Depth of Field, achieving F45. Deciding where to focus was not easy and he plumped for a central area of the frame which is not always the most obvious place. It depends on the image and where our eye is most likely to initially settle. Raising the ISO up to 800 or so is a small trade off for the depth of field attained which is necessary for this image to work.
With the image on the right you can see how the limited DOF is apparent but also how Jason uses this to good effect. Initially he chooses a composition which splits the frame in two, at an interesting angle. Selecting contrasting fish colours also helps. His critical focus is on where the two fish meet and at f45 one can see there is enough in focus for the viewer to see the detail in the scales. Less Depth Of field (DOF) would have produced a less satisfying visual experience as we would not have seen enough texture. The fact the edges of the frame are ‘soft’ means that our attention is drawn to the centre, almost like falling into a ravine. In essence Jason gives us a true abstract image: one which transcends the sum of its parts.
The image to the left by Sharon Winfield is taken with a conventional focal length lens(18-200) during one of her abstract photography workshops. It’s a much less obvious kind of image in terms of what’s expected in a ‘pretty’ holiday location but the fascination for all things faded and for old junk tends to inspire creativity. Here a section of detail revealing patterns, shapes and texture is almost painterly, reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s work. We only have a limited understanding of scale initially, although some clues are evident with the left side piping, so we have to invest some time in discovering what the image is about. Abstract photography encourages viewers to spend time with an image which is something as photographers we should appreciate as part of our compositional planning.
More complex compositions, brilliantly simple classical compositions or abstract work can all help achieve this. By choosing a subject with a flat plane, i.e. with very limited Depth Of Field (DOF) abstract photography can offer us something of the pre-Renaissance perspective. To the right is a photo by Sandra Bainridge who has selected a compositional slice from her observations at a local souk. Here she has used a smaller aperture and hence a bigger DOF to create a flat effect in much the same way as Sharon’s image, but Sandra has had to engineer this with her camera controls as there is some distance between the first object and the ground, which may have produced out of focus areas if the camera had been left on auto mode. We are so visually trained to understand our world in the western perspective with depth and distant objects, that we have to work harder to absorb achieve abstract perspectives, akin to japanese art pre -renaissance.
A collection of disparate objects and icons provided the inspiration for the image left. Colour and pattern form the basis for this image, framed portrait style. Our own field of vision together with our visual training leads us to mostly view the world with landscape framing; TV’s, cinema, PC’s all encourage this, so by using a portrait frame for a non-portrait subject we are increasing the abstract properties of the image; it becomes less readily accessible and more strange. (the converse is also true – to subvert portrait photographic conventions use a landscape frame). What’s important in achieving the effect here, is to select the maximum DOF and work compositionally to include or discount the right amount of various objects within the field of view. Taking a compositional slice of life is very subjective and dependent both on the photographer and on the viewer as to what works or doesn’t feel right. My own creed is generally less is more when creating abstract work but this is by no means a revolutionary standpoint. Many photo workshop attendees already have this ethos or indeed soon acquire it to great effect. It’s always interesting however, when viewing different photographers, how varied compositional sense is.
A final image by Jason Byrom shows what can be achieved with the most ordinarily mundane objects. By selecting an interesting angle and composition and controlling the Depth Of Field he’s produced a visually interesting photograph of crates in the fishing port ( Essaouira).
This is a sample of images produced during the abstract photo workshops on a photography holiday in Essaouira.