Beginner Photography: Abstract

Man, this project was a roller coaster. I decided to try out Tony and Chelsea’s abstract impressionist concept that they teach here:

Unfortunately I don’t live near a beach or any expanse of land, really, so I attempted it on a much smaller scale. I literally just walked around my tiny yard and through my neighborhood looking for anything I could shoot with a long exposure while moving my camera. And I was certain that I got nothing usable. They all looked either too recognizable to call abstract or just so bland. But that’s why we have post-processing, right? 

First, the shooting process. I shot manual so I could set a low ISO, a high f/stop and adjust my shutter speed to taste. I made sure that the shutter was open enough to gather light but not over expose the images too bad, but still gave me enough time to move the camera while it was open. Since I wasn’t shooting a vast landscape though, it was much harder to move the camera and keep even horizontals and not have them curve. So after a while I just went with that, moving the camera in different ways to find good shapes. It really just took a whole lot of shooting crappy images and trying repeatedly.

So once I brought my shots into Lightroom I picked out a few that I thought might have potential. I looked for interesting shapes and color. Once I found that, I adjusted my exposure and contrast and then just experimented with color. I used split toning to adjust the color of shadow and highlights. Since the project was abstract, there was no reason to worry about the colors looking realistic, they just needed to be pleasing! It wound up being a really fun experiment.


f/22, 1/2 sec, ISO 200


f/22, 1/2 sec, ISO 200


f/22, 1/2 sec, ISO 200


f/22, 0.8 sec, ISO 200


While there are recognizable shapes in each image, they are moved to the point of being surreal. The third shot is my favorite, the motion wound up looking like waves. The last shot of the fence turned out looking very sinister to me which I liked, so I leaned the colors towards red and black to add to the mood.

I think as a whole these were more successful than my first attempt at abstract last year.

What do you think? Are these visually appealing or do they just look accidental? I had a lot of fun with these in post, even though while I was shooting I felt like it was all a loss. I can’t wait to see what everyone else comes up with for the live show this week.

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13 Responses to Beginner Photography: Abstract

  1. Roderick March 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

    Thought provoking stuff, Siobhán.
    Thanks for sharing your workflow.
    I see a landscape and rolling waves in photos 1 and 2.
    You’re right the last one is disconcerting – I don’t know why.

  2. mm
    PhotoDestroyer March 28, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    I think the 3rd photo is my favorite – I love it! I could see this being a great piece worth hanging on your wall. The other ones were great, too! That last shot was a bit strange, it still came out looking pretty neat, though.

    • mm
      SiobhanKyle March 29, 2017 at 9:41 am #

      Thanks, Justin! That’s shot through a weird little window that is hanging in my window… which is as weird as it sounds.

  3. Troy Hall March 28, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    now you’ve got me thinking

    • mm
      SiobhanKyle March 29, 2017 at 9:42 am #

      Then my job is done 🙂

  4. Anushila Shaw March 28, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

    This is really cool! I’m going to try some of these techniques at a shoot tomorrow. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • mm
      SiobhanKyle March 29, 2017 at 9:41 am #

      Awesome, thanks Nush! I’d love to see what you end up with.

  5. Shari Graves March 29, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    I like these a lot. My favorite is the second and third images. Very nicely created flow and balance to them.

  6. Jim Setzer March 29, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    Nice work, Siobhan. I especially like the window(?) in the third image. That would make a beautiful large print.

  7. jamesbeard March 30, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Nice work Siobhan 🙂

    Funnily enough I shot a few frames yesterday to try and generate a submission for tonight’s topic and did something fairly similar by using longish exposure times and swirling my camera around in the garden! It certainly takes a lot of trial and error getting this technique to produce good results.

    Also I really empathise with your comment about not feeling like you had anything good, then finding a bunch of keepers once at the Lightroom stage. I’m sure that’s something we can all relate to …

  8. Matt s March 30, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

    Good work sha bone
    Love the wavey oil painting look

  9. Deepa March 31, 2017 at 1:33 am #

    Nice blog!

  10. Dion Gross April 2, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    I really do like the third one I would put that on my den wall and drink with Chelsey watching the live show. The forth I really like as well I nicknamed it Dream Teeth lol. Good work

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