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I’ve recently been struggling to shoot creative images and found myself in a rut battling to see things with fresh eyes. As I needed to come up with a topic for my next article (this one!), I decided to take this as an opportunity to experiment and come up with some new ways to shoot abstract images.
I decided to focus on abstract images since they seem to be speaking to me lately. The challenge became to create unique abstracts and have fun at the same time. Well, I happened to come across this video on how to make a kaleidoscope the web. I was looking for a craft to create with my son, and the idea sprang from there.
I decided to adapt this idea and create something I could use with my DSLR. I went to my local home renovation store purchased a mirror and had them cut it into three sections. My mirrors are 16cm wide by 31cm long. I chose this size so that my wide angle lens could fit inside the kaleidoscope opening. I didn’t want any of the outer edge included in my images.
Clear packing tape was used to attach the mirrors forming a triangle. I then taped three pieces of cardboard around the outside of the mirrors. This was done to protect my hands from the sharp edges of the glass.
You could certainly choose to attach more mirrors together if you want. The important thing to remember is that you always want to use an uneven number of mirrors so that the shape is more conducive to creating abstracts. The look of the image you shoot will change with the size and number the mirrors you use. Have fun and experiment.
After constructing my kaleidoscope, it was time to start experimenting. I immediately thought of trying to photograph some flowers. My idea was to place a bright bloom on a black background. I was curious about what types of images I could create.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature wouldn’t cooperate. We had a massive snowstorm, and I was stuck in my house with no chance to purchase some flowers. So it was time to experiment with other items. I found some square pieces of felt sitting around my house and decided to try using them. Here are the results.
As you can see, my kaleidoscope created some rather interesting designs and shapes. It was a lot of fun to see what types of designs could be created. I used several different items in front of the mirrors. I tried fabric, tinfoil, camera lenses and even Lego toys.
After experimenting with so many different materials, it was time to try it with people. My son was willing to have his photo taken. Here are the results. He spent a few minutes giggling at the images. It would be interesting to see what a larger kaleidoscope and mirrors might do to portraits like this.
I then experimented with photos of a good friend. These images were shot through the kaleidoscope from images projected on my computer screen. They were taken from different Facebook photos. It was a lot of fun, and he was certainly entertained by the results as much as I was. I truly appreciate him allowing me to post the results here on the web. Thanks, Ali.
One of the things I noticed as I shot was the very fuzzy and slightly darker reflections. That bothers me. Parts of the image that contained the original piece of fabric were much brighter and sharper than the reflections. I found the effect to be quite displeasing. So, I need to experiment more with the kaleidoscope to try and alleviate that.
Perhaps a light shining from above might change this effect, it is something I will consider for the future. As you can see from this experiment, I used a very rough and simple set up. It was put together quite quickly. In the future, it would be beneficial to try several different methods for positioning the kaleidoscope and my camera. You will note that I used both my DSLR and my cell phone for these shots. I used the Lightroom mobile App as it allowed me to use some pretty specific manual controls.
This whole activity was very insightful. It was well worth the afternoon I spent creating and shooting. It has sparked my curiosity. As a result, I created a list of questions that can be used to further the project and inspire more creative shooting.
There’s so much more that I can learn from this exercise. It feels like just the surface has been scratched. The use of mirrors for creating interesting abstracts is now on my list of projects. If you’ve experimented with different techniques, tell us about it. Share your experiments good or bad. There’s so much to learn. There’s also a lot of fun to be had during that experimentation. Perhaps as I perfect this technique, I will produce a further article that will contain my lessons learned. But for now, I hope my afternoon of tinkering will inspire you to try new ways of creating images.
There’s so much to learn. There’s also a lot of fun to be had during the experimentation phase. Perhaps as I perfect this technique, I will produce a further article that will contain my lessons learned. But for now, I hope my afternoon of tinkering will inspire you to try new ways of creating images.