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What is a working definition of “abstract” nature photography? Nature so easily lends itself to subjects realistic and dream-like, but what about abstract? You may have heard it said “If it is recognizable as an object – it is not an abstract,” but let’s challenge that notion.
There are no clear rules to abstract photography. The object of the photo may or may not be recognizable. Abstract images may contain a small portion of an object or multiple objects. An abstract will often concentrate on a limited area of a subject that reveals a shape, pattern, form, color or texture. Movement can also create abstract images, such as rushing water or the wind blowing a flower. To capture an image in nature as an abstract, you don’t need any special equipment – just a camera, and the most importantly, your own imagination. What matters most is that your photograph reveals an eye-pleasing image, whether you can identify the actual subject or not.
In this article you are not going to find any magical camera settings to create abstracts, because you need to think “outside the box“. Discovering the right setting is often the key to a great abstract. Don’t be afraid to put your camera in manual mode, and experiment with different apertures and shutter speeds. Remember that your aperture will control your depth of field, and your shutter speed affects the sharpness or blurriness of the image. Likewise, normal rules of image composition do not always apply to abstract photography. The key is to become super-observant, looking for even the smallest of objects with which to create an abstract image.
Where we look to other forms of photography to tell a story or record an event, abstract photography is about capturing an emotion. There are five key elements you want to consider in creating abstract images: lines, shapes, textures, patterns and colors:
Lines are the base element of design, and their uses are the fundaments of any artistic image.
Shapes are found everywhere in nature, and can be used to create visual meaning in a photo. To capture an abstract image, choose a shape that is interesting and pleasing to the eye. It’s very important that the shape creates an emotional response from the viewer; this is called the “wow” factor.
Texture is created by the roughness of a surface and may seem to be completely random. Textures are often a product of lines. Light and shadow create depth (a macro lens can be useful to capture textures).
Patterns are similar to textures, but are much more structured. Patterns can sometimes be mathematically composed by Mother Nature, for example; snowflakes and spider webs.
Colors in abstracts are useful in catching your viewer’s attention. Look for complementary colors as they will hold your viewer’s attention longer.
Another method to experiment with uses camera motion to create abstract blurs. Motion blurs are perfect for those nature settings that lack creative inspiration. This method takes a lot of experimentation and you will throw away a lot more images than you keep, but the rewards are worth it when you finally capture that great image. Look for subjects with lines, bright colors and good contrast, like trees and flowers. Warning: this method can become addicting!
In conclusion, the next time you are out with your camera, be observant and look for visual details and interesting ways to express your emotional and artistic viewpoint with an abstract image found in nature. If you have any other ideas on how to make abstracts in nature, please share in the comments below.