I was reviewing the video by Eileen Rafferty that inspired my first challenge this year and was inspired yet again with another challenge theme: B&W Abstracts. It might help to define “abstract” to give you a basis from which to work: abstract art does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. Since we’ll be creating a B&W image this week, color won’t be a factor, so the focus is on shape, form and texture.
Earlier this year, we had an Abstract Macro challenge, so I decided to add one more twist to the challenge this week: I want you to use a wide-angle lens (or camera phone without any zoom). Instead of creating an abstract by zooming in on a subject, I want you take a step back and view your surroundings in terms of shapes, forms and textures. When taking the photo above, I remember being fascinated by the lines in the sandstone and the way the light played off of them. The distortion of the ultra-wide-angle lens helped to push this image further out of the realm of reality. Can you tell that I was standing inside a cave when I took the photo? Probably. Is it the first thing you noticed? Maybe not. The fact that the photo sits somewhere between reality and abstract makes it all the more intriguing to me.
There are lots of opportunities in nature to create abstract images. Using a wide angle can force you to get creative looking for different perspectives. Don’t forget to get low, get close, look up, look under, etc. In the photo above, the perspective of looking up into the canopy of leafless trees creates an abstract pattern against the blank sky. This was not a random composition. Care was taken to position the two largest trunks in the bottom corners of the frame and there are distinct triangular shapes created by the darkest branches. The rules of composition still apply to abstract images!
Architecture also provides many opportunities to create abstract images. The image above has strong repeating patterns and again the framing was carefully thought out. Pay attention to light and shadows and how they are recorded by your camera. In the image below, there are a number of elements that make it a successful image: the contrast between the texture of the hard lines of the buildings and the soft clouds in the sky, the tension between the dark building on the left and the light building on the right, the unique perspective looking up from below, and the leading lines from each side of the frame.
Look for shapes – especially repeating ones. “Wide angle” doesn’t mean that you have to capture everything you see in front of you. Be selective with what you include in the frame. Don’t be afraid to move forward, backward, left or right to get exactly what you want to include in the frame and nothing more. In the image below, the repeating concentric circles create a mesmerizing pattern. I do wonder how the image might have changed if the photographer had moved to exclude the railings on either side. For all I know, the photographer might have tried that and liked this view better, but that’s what I mean when I suggest moving around to get exactly the framing you want.
Another way to create abstraction is with movement – either of the camera (Intentional Camera Movement) or of the subject. Since this is a B&W challenge, i.e. you can’t rely on color to carry the image, I suggest you look for a high contrast scene if you want to try this. In the photo below, I found some dead grass (light brown) in dark water and played with ICM until I got a result that I liked. The movement looks a bit like brush strokes to me and the contrast between the light grass and the dark water converted easily into B&W.
If you would like more information on abstract photography, I encourage you to check out a couple of our previous challenges here at The Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge:
This week’s challenge:
- Create an abstract B&W image using a wide-angle lens. You shouldn’t need any special equipment since just about every camera comes with a wide angle option. (Anything less than 50mm is considered wide angle.) A camera phone is inherently wide-angle, so that is a great option too. A wide angle lens tends to distort the edges of your image, and you can use that to your advantage.
- I encourage you to look at the world around you in terms of patterns, shapes and/or textures. If you focus on those things rather than a subject per se, you will by definition capture some level of abstraction. Above all, have fun with it!
- Your final image should be a B&W grayscale image. You can come to that image any way that you would like from capturing B&W in camera to converting in post-processing.
- Don’t ignore proper exposure, contrast and composition which are especially important in a B&W image.
The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:
- Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to our active community on our Facebook Group, Flickr Groupor 500PX group (or all three). Tag the photo: #10thanniversaryphotochallenge #2018photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
- The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
- Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2018 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.