Creating Colorful Abstracts

September 21, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

A couple years ago I began experimenting with creating abstract images, utilizing long exposure time with varied camera movements. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to create, and I can easily while away an hour or two working a scene. The results are unpredictable to a degree, but I've learned to gauge the type of result I'll end up with after much experimentation.

You don't have to use a high-end camera either - just one that can take long exposures and let you adjust aperture and shutter speed. You'll be able to stop and shoot any time you find a scene suited to the technique. All the images in this post are from a single exposure. If you'd like to try this out, here are 5 tips to start with.

  1. Look for varied section of either contrasting color or tone. This will help result in streaks of color or tonality, which helps create interest. Gardens, fall leaves with blue sky poking through, flower bouquets, fire pits, and multicolored lights are good starting points. Begin with simple vertical or horizontal movements to get a feel for how the colors/tones will render. Starting subject to create motion abstract.ReachGreat contrasting colors and tones combine for gobs of possible results.
  2. A shutter speed of 1/2 second is a good starting point. Depending on how much blur you'd like to create and how fast you move, you'll find the sweet spot within a few frames. Usually I shoot these with daylight or bright constant light, so I'll stop down anywhere from f/5 to f/16 to achieve the shutter speed I'm after. If the light isn't changing much, you can switch to manual mode once you find the right shutter/aperture combination. Abstract movement of trees and sky.Delicate CadenceShutter speed of 1/4 second with opposing diagonal movements.
  3. Practice your movements looking through the viewfinder. You'll notice what comes in and out of frame as you do so. I find that I typically wind up using more conservative movements than expected. If the movements are too grand, you'll often wind up with an image that results in just one or two misty colors rather than the streaks and shapes you're after.
  4. Experiment with twisting, jiggling, moving your body forward/back, or figure-eight movements. You can create some great effects this way that are often more dynamic than simple streaks. I also begin moving just before releasing the shutter if I'm going for complete blur. Abstract rendering of trees and sky in sunlight.Riotous VerveFall trees and sky with a mix of simultaneous twisting and small wiggling movements.
  5. Use a longer exposure of 1 second or more. Depending on the subject, you can pause momentarily at the start or in the middle of the exposure to render a ghostly image of the subject within the abstract blur. ExplosionExplosionFlowers shot with a brief initial pause and then small, quick random movements.

Like many styles and techniques, not everyone will enjoy this, but I most certainly do. For me, it is fun and even relaxing. I've included a few personal favorites below, and the abstract art section of my gallery site will only continue to expand.

Bleeding HeartsBleeding HeartsMovement with pauses in soft, even lighting of a vase of flowers shot from above. ConflagrationCloud-laden dusk sky over the ocean, rotated 180 degrees. Acquiescence to Ravenous LuminosityPositioning myself at the base of the tree, I rotated the camera quickly during the exposure. Heat RiseWhat could this be? A simple space heater on high. More monochrome that some other images, it uses the light-dark variations to create texture and form. PhoenixTwisting and panning just at sunset resulted in great shapes and colors that pop against each other. MascheraFire is one of my favorite subjects for this technique, and is the most unpredictable of all as the flames constantly change and can create the most fascinating images with movements or zoom.  

 


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