One of the many ways that nature photography serves as such wonderful creative outlet is the fact that photographic opportunities abound with each new outing into the woods and out to the field. More important than knowing where and when to look is learning how to see as an artist. Discovering the beauty of hidden abstracts, in both macro close-ups as well as isolated scenes, is an activity that I find myself constantly doing, whether I have my camera with me or not. I see visually attractive abstracts everywhere I look. Even when I’m out jogging or riding my bike. An interesting pattern of textures and shapes seems to always catch my eye. It could be a series of leaves against a chain link fence or how the rough bark of a palmetto tree is arranged in geometrical shapes.
Oftentimes these scenes catch my eye due to how they are presented in the unique light of that particular moment. Sometimes I’ll stop and move around the scene, playing with a unique angle of approach or two and see how the scene changes to something that has more photographic potential. I almost instinctively go through the photographer’s decision making process. Which lens would best isolate the scene ? How shallow of a depth of field would be necessary to emphasize the section of the scene that first caught my eye ? How could I “throw” just a big more light so as to provide some more contrast and depth ? What’s going on in the background ? Is there a better time of day when the light will be more appealing for this subject ? The mental process of selection and elimination becomes the trained muscle in the artistic mind of the experienced photographer. If it’s not used it’s lost.
What are some of the visual elements that make for a visually attractive abstract ? For me there should be interesting interplay of shape and form but nothing too complex. A contrast in textures also catches the eye – hard edges (which should serve as a point of focus) against a soft background. And then there’s color where once again contrast plays a key role. Opposites compliment, such as red and green, and help natural patterns to become more obvious.
What’s appealing about photographing natural abstracts is that oftentimes some very interesting images can be discovered and captured just by going on a short walk through backyard or garden. My suggestion is to take your time and try looking at your potential subject from alternate angle and in different light. Do a walk-through without your camera, mentally noting a potential subject here and there. Sometimes photographers try to “force” an image that ultimately doesn’t work simply because they have their cameras in hand. They put so much pressure on themselves to “get something” that they move themselves completely out of their own creative zone that’s necessary for subject to arrive.
An expensive set-up of DSLR camera, macro lens and detachable lights is not required. I’ve seen some amazing photographs of natural abstracts captured with nothing more than inexpensive digital point-n-shoot cameras. However the one requirement I do recommend is a camera where you can manually set your exposure. Managing depth of field and distance relationship between subject and background is essential. Oh, and one other requirement – just have fun. Play, experiment, move around, revisit. Soon enough you’ll be amazed and excited with all the possibilities for abstract nature photography that are just right outside your door.