What makes a good abstract?

I thought the judging was a little disappointing from the perspective of learning about abstracts and the effects used to achieve them tonight. There were two effects that were frequently used: the zoom where the lens is zoomed when the shot is taken and the swipe either vertical or horizontal. The zoom effect causes an expansion effect that usually starts from the center of the image. This effect tends to dominate the image. Other elements in the image get blurred out. The danger is that you can loose more than you gain. The edges become radiating streaks and only the middle is left as recognizable. Some of the images tonight suffered because this zoom effect dominated the image. It is also difficult the predict what you will get so a lot of trail and error is needed before you get an image that works.

Colors survive better than fine detail with the zoom effect. One way to avoid losing too many elements is to use a slow shutter speed and only zoom for half of the exposure. That is the static half of the exposure will preserve the original image. Then the zoom part of the exposure will be super imposed on top. You can do the same thing with two separate images one zoom one static and combine them in photoshop with the option to vary the mixing of both i.e. opacity control. For instance, one of the monochrome images of a water wheel used something like this technique to preserve some of the original image.

The swipe effect has similar issues in that some detail is lost but colors survive better. The swipe effect only smears detail in one direction and appears to enhance detail in the orthogonal direction. Swiping sideways preserves the horizon and horizontal elements. Here a balance is needed too much swipe and the elements run into each other and become indistinct streaks. Too small a swipe and you don’t achieve an abstract effect just a movement artifact. The size of the elements will also determine the amount of swipe. Larger elements can tolerate larger swipes. One image of golden horizontal elements certainly achieved the abstract effect with a large side swipe. However most other features of the image were lost. There was no center of interest in the image. There was only a change of light to dark gold streaks going from one side the other. The story of this image seems to be missing. These swipe effects seem to work by focusing attention on various color combinations by removing distracting detailed elements.

By Bob Webber

This entry was posted in Contest.