How to: Abstract Photography

How to: Abstract Photography

Behold, the majesty of the Grand Lighting Tower of the Linden Yard. Ok… so the yard is now a city dump and the lights haven’t been on since we stopped building nuclear reactors, but still, from the right angle, it’s pretty cool. There is a lot going on in this shot, and I had fun at every step:

The Composition

This is a classic pyramid composition, offset to the left to follow the Rule of Thirds. Pyramids are very common compositions in design and painting. they draw the eye in and focus it to a central point, giving depth to the image. One of the great things about photography is that you don’t have to convince the viewer that it is real. This would make a lousy painting because it is abstract to the point of being incoherent — it would be dismissed as abstract. As a photo, you know it has to be something, so you figure it out. Abstract images loose their sense of space because the geometric shapes and strong lines destroy the organic real-world cues. By finding objects with simple lines and shapes, you can compose and image in which they dominate the space.

The Technique

This was shot with my Nikon D200 and the Nikkor 70-300mm VR f/4.5-5.6. Settings: Focal length 70mm, ISO 100, Aperture F/16, Shutter 1/80 sec, no flash. I placed the camera against the tower and worked out the composition. I took several photos at different settings with different compositions.

One of the big mistakes many amateur photographers make is that they don’t look at the entire image. They center the subject and shoot. I really enjoyed how I was able to get the top left light to fill the corner. Digital photos are free: take as many as you can. Keep moving the camera around and see what you can make.

The Processing

I love Adobe Lightroom. I can change an image in so many directions quickly without damaging the file or having oodles of layers to manage. I increased: exposure, recovery, blacks, vibrance, contrast, clarity and… Cranked the tonal curve and increased the luminosity and saturation of some colors. Add in a little Lens Vignetting and it’s done!

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