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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Be Abstract

The flowers that bloom so profusely in the Spring give you a chance to create otherworldly images of color and shape. It's photography that's beyond the ordinary.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Abstract Flowers To capture this extreme close-up of an Iceland poppy, Laird handheld her Nikon F4 and 50mm lens, with extension tubes attached, moving in so closely that the lens almost touched the flowe
My exploration into the incredible beauty of abstract flower photography began at a photo workshop at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. It was a turning point in my life! Once I discovered the unlimited number of graphic designs I could create with the colors and patterns and flowing lines of a blossom—the way I could change the drama and mood by subtly changing how the light played in the petals and accented the shadows—I was hooked. Artistically, there are so many aspects that thrilled me and grabbed my spirit.

Beyond the technical aspects of mastering your equipment, this type of photography is about experimenting and exploring your creativity to make abstract art. Far beyond what macro photography alone can do, creating flower abstracts is about getting a unique perspective on an old subject that people often take for granted. It’s about adventure and making something surprising again, or going even further and making it altogether foreign, causing people to pause and wonder, “That’s beautiful; what is that?”

The Importance Of Documenting

Although I never stay there long, I always begin a photo session by photographing “documentary” images of the flower. I didn’t always do this when I started, and it caused me problems on a number of occasions. There’s nothing more frustrating than someone asking “What flower is that?” if I can’t identify its species.

Having several full-length shots of the flower also is a means for me to identify and organize the many abstractions I’ll capture later. Work before play, I always say. Even though the documentary aspect is more like work than play for me, it’s an important step to take before starting your adventure into the unknown. And those documentaries always can be used for submissions to certain publications that require such shots in the presentation.

Abstract Flowers
The dewdrops and early-morning light in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, Calif., gave an ethereal effect to this Calochortus. Laird used just her Nikon F4 and 50mm lens
Selective Focus
Once I’ve captured an identifiable photo, I begin to add teleconverters and other magnification to my lenses so I can get very close and start playing with selective focus.

Selective focus can be created with several tools, one of which is a 50mm lens with a fast aperture of, say, ƒ/1.2 or ƒ/1.4. The aperture should be set at the fastest ƒ-stop on your lens so that you’re shooting wide open. This allows you to have a shallow depth of field as you begin to explore the flower.

For creating abstracts, having as little depth of field as possible is ideal for creating that otherworldly feeling. I set my camera on aperture priority, turn off the autofocus and select the closest focusing distance on the lens. This allows my camera to be free to move through the flower as I choose the point of focus by moving the camera. I won’t change the focus with the focusing ring on the lens, but will leave it at the closest focusing distance that I’ve previously set.

Usually, I’m lying on the ground, moving in very close to the flower to find my images. As I handhold the camera, I move through the flower, capturing a new angle and image with every breath I take. This is what I call “body focusing” or, in other words, “focusing with my toes.” Looking for beautiful lines and color designs, I move over, under and around the flower to capture the art I’m seeking. Shooting as fast as I can, I move through the flower, with each movement of my body creating an entirely different image from the one before.


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