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Nature Abstract in Photography, Painting with your Camera

Updated on April 22, 2012

The theme for this month’s photo challenge is “nature abstract”.

When I read that announcement in the forum of a photo magazine that I usually buy, I was puzzled. How does one create a nature abstract photo? It’s good that they referred us to a magazine issue that talks about abstract photography.  So my adventure with abstract photography began.

walking in the park
walking in the park

What is Abstract Photography?

According to the magazine, “abstract photography takes objects out of the equation and reduces the world around us into lines, patterns and colors. It is a form of art that recalls the impressionist style of painters”.  

Wikipedia also mentioned that “abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.

Hmm, so all I had to do to create abstract photography was, to look for lines, patterns and colors in my subject for photography?  That sounds simple enough (or so I thought). 

My next question was, “how do I make an abstraction of those lines, patterns and colors”?

How to Make Abstract Photography

The magazine article said that we can use techniques like: zooming in or out, using a slow shutter speed, using some motion blur, or panning the camera.  It’s supposed to be similar to using a paint brush except that the paint brush is your camera.

“Wonderful” I said to myself, “painting with camera” – that was an entirely new concept to me. However, the idea was a challenge I could not ignore.   I love challenges.

To prepare for the challenge, I also searched for abstract photos in the net just to get some idea of how the photos looked like.

Painting with my Camera

The photo challenge however specified that we can only use nature as our subject. We were not allowed to use objects like beads or ribbons or paper or anything artificial.

So off to nature hunting I went, looking for lines, patterns, colors. When I found those, I would start “painting with my camera”.  My first attempts were really awkward and produced “blaaahh” results.

I must have been a sight when I was doing these “painting” motions because my daughter asked me “Mama, what are you doing?” I guessed she was used to seeing me sometimes even holding my breath just so there is no movement as I take a picture. Now, there I was, practically dancing around with my camera. 

Abstracting Nature

I never realized that making abstraction of nature through photography is hard. I had dozens of false starts but when I got the hang of it, I started enjoying myself.

You can never predict what kind of image will come out once you start using your camera as a paintbrush. You also can never do an exact repeat of the image no matter how hard you try. However, the images that you can produce are truly like paintings done with broad brush strokes. Take a look at the first photo above and these next two photos. What do they remind you of? Do the titles fit or do they remind you of something else?

Nature Abstract

silk
silk
cascade
cascade

Post Processing Abstraction

etude in red
etude in red
etude in blue
etude in blue

Abstracting with Filters

As I explored more about abstract photography, I learned that you can actually create abstracts by using ‘filters’ then ‘distort’ during post processing. This way, you do not anymore have to dance and paint with your camera. You just need to play around with your photo in Photoshop or other such photo processing software. This is what I did with these two photos to the right. However, I do not find this challenging at all. It is enjoyable though. I had fun twisting these photos around. What do you think?

Happy Ending (or Beginning)

Happily, the two photos I submitted as entries to the “Nature Abstract” contest both won. Imagine that! These are both created the natural way, by “painting with my camera”. Here they are.

thorny issue
thorny issue
bouquet
bouquet

Abstract Art

I never appreciated abstract art much before. I actually had a hard time understanding them. I used to think that they are just blobs of colors or lines splashed across the canvas. However, after my adventure with abstract photography, I have learned to appreciate them. Now when I look at abstract art, I try to imagine what was the original object or objects that were abstracted. Then I try to make sense of the new image created. Sometimes the artist gives a clue of the subject through the title. However, most of the time, an entirely new image is created by the abstraction.

Now I’m beginning to fall in love with Abstract Photography. The possibilities are endless and the images you can create are unique and sometimes out of this world.

But I think I’ll stick to “painting with my camera”. It is more challenging and full of surprises. Let people think I'm crazy when I do my camera dance! I'm having fun!

Check out also Steve 3.0's hub on abstract photography here.

My Other Photography Hubs

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    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      You can definitely do some interesting effects with photography. Congratulations on your wins.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Talitz,

      Thanks for coming back! Oh, that's great! I am looking forward to reading/seeing it one of these days!

      God bless!

    • talitz2550 profile image

      talitz2550 5 years ago from Thailand

      Yes, and I'm in the process of writing the sequel to my "How to Paint in Minutes".. it will come out soon. :)

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Talitz,

      It's great to see you!

      Wow! thank you so much for your inspiring comment! I am overwhelmed! This is truly a great new year start for me especially with friends like you who appreciate my efforts.

      I hope to read your hubs soon!

      God bless!

    • talitz2550 profile image

      talitz2550 5 years ago from Thailand

      Whoooo!!! You just blew my mind away!!! before anything else...BIG BIG CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU DESERVE THOSE WINS! I am amazed because you combined both things that I love most, nature and abstract!!! Keep it up Baby :D and Happy new year!.. I resolved to restart my hubbing. :)

    • jill of alltrades profile image
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      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Teresa,

      Yehey, now I have a fellow photography lover!

      Thank you very much for your heartwarming comment!

      God bless!

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 6 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      I love photography. Your photos take it to a different level. They are great. Really enjoyable article. Teresa

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Steve,

      Great to see you again!

      Your comment makes me happy especially as it comes from an artist like you!

      Thank you very much.

      I will link back too.

      God bless!

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks very much!

      You are right about abstract art being harder to achieve. I did not realize that until I started doing it.

      Thanks again for your visit and wonderful comment!

      God bless!

    • Steve 3.0 profile image

      Steve 3.0 6 years ago from Cornwall UK

      Great abstract photos, love the colours. will put a link in my abstracts hub.

    • Susan Miles profile image

      Susan Miles 6 years ago

      This is a great article. I find it to be very informative. Abstract art is harder to achieve than it looks. Liking your abstract art photography, beautiful.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Doug,

      Thank you very much!

    • profile image

      Doug Dunigan 6 years ago

      Nice abstracts

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks very much kababayan! We will let you know when we have our book ready.

      Yes, Anglnwu is a very talented poet. She can dish out a poem in no time. In fact she now has a website with poems. I told her she can use my photos anytime.

      Thanks again! I will tell my mom she has a fan! She will surely be elated!

      See you around.

      God bless!

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 6 years ago from Palm Springs

      Hello Jill:

      I'm very excited for you. If AngInwu is anywhere close to being the poet that your mom is, then your collaboration with her should be a raging success.

      Good Luck, and please give my regards to your mom and tell her I'm a big fan of hers, as I am of you.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hello again Kababayan,

      Thank you for coming back.

      You write beautifully. I love the way you express yourself.

      Thank you very much for appreciating my photos. I have a photo blog, a multiply site and some photos in RedGage but they are not true galleries. Having my own gallery sounds exciting. Thank you for the suggestion. I will tell my mom about it.

      By the way, I have collaborated with another hubber here, Anglnwu. I gave her photos and she wrote poems. We are looking for a publisher right now but we might come up with an ebook if we can't find a publisher.

      Thanks again kababayan! See you around!

      God bless!

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 6 years ago from Palm Springs

      Hello Kababayan:

      What is poetry but prose that follows its own rhythmic beat...Rhyme that may or may not have reason. By the way your photos are absolutely mesmerizing. You should, if you have not already done so, establish your own gallery that shows the photos contextually, and have your mom express her thoughts about the photos, poetically.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hello A.Villarasa,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Maybe I have a poetic streak somewhere although I could not find it yet. I just content myself with writing prose and expressing art through my photos.

      Your name sounds Filipino. Are you?

      Hope to see you again!

      God bless!

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 6 years ago from Palm Springs

      Hello Jill:

      I became your instant fan after reading your mom's poem. As they say, like mother, like daughter.. so I'm sure you have a poetic streak coursing through your veins as well. Thanks also for sharing the fantastic photos of Miss Angtuaco. I do appreciate what it takes to produce such beautiful work of art.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hi agvulpes,

      It's great to see you here!

      Thank you very much for your wonderful comment! Yes, you should try abstract photography. It's exhilarating! You don't know what kind of gem you will come up with.

      Hope to see you again!

      God bless!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 7 years ago from Australia

      As a long time photographer of mother natures wonders, I have never considered the 'abstract' aspect. Although some of my early photo attempts turned out 'abstract' by pure accident lol

      I love your 'dancing' and I will certainly give it a go!

      Congratulations on your award your photos are great :-)

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hi AutumnLockwood,

      Thank you very much for your heartwarming comment! It's even more special because it's coming from a photographer like you.

      Again, thanks very much!

      See you around.

      God bless!

    • AutumnLockwood profile image

      AutumnLockwood 7 years ago from Northern California

      What fantastic images! And congratulations on your two photos that won- they really are cool!

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hi dark eyed gazelle,

      Thank you very much. Your words warm my heart!

      Hope to see you again!

      God bless!

    • dark eyed gazelle profile image

      dark eyed gazelle 7 years ago from Michigan

      this is very cool, and what pretty images! lovely...

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hello digitalexplorer,

      Thank you very much!

      It's great to see you again!

    • digitalexplorer profile image

      digitalexplorer 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Stunning!

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hello nikki1,

      Thank you very much for visiting and leaving a heartwarming comment!

    • nikki1 profile image

      nikki1 7 years ago

      I love your abstract art, brilliant.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Cynthia,

      What an inspiring thing to say! Thank you very much! You make me very happy!

    • Cynthia_Jones profile image

      Cynthia_Jones 7 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      WOW!!!! You are so creative. Keep up with the great work. Well done. :o) Thank you so very much for sharing your wonderful and creative talents with us.

      *S* Cynthia

    • Cynthia_Jones profile image

      Cynthia_Jones 7 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      WOW!!!! You are so creative. Keep up with the great work. Well done. :o) Thank you so very much for sharing your wonderful and creative talents with us.

      *S* Cynthia

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Peggy,

      Thank you very much for the visit. Your comment is very inspiring.

      Yes, do give "painting with a camera" a try. It's fun, fun, fun! Then please share your work. I'd love to see them.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It is no wonder that your two entries won awards. They are absolutely beautiful. Will have to give this dancing with a camera a try. I am drawn to nature and the outdoors, so it would be a natural extension. Thanks for this informative and well illustrated hub.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hello robertsloan,

      I'm really happy that you decided to drop by. Coming from a true artist like you, your comment is very encouraging and heartwarming.

      Thank you very much!

    • robertsloan2 profile image

      robertsloan2 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      These are intriguing. All seven of your abstract photos are appealing in color and shape. All of them share a good composition and lively motion. One of the things I'm exploring in pastel painting is building a representational artwork on a sound abstract base -- developing the composition as a bright abstract before going for more natural colors and realistic objects. The results have been surprisingly good.

      What you do with your camera dance is lovely. It takes thought and planning as well as perfect execution and has the advantage of spontaneity -- it can never be repeated. Wonderful original works. Thank you for explaining your process so well.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Christian,

      Thank you very much for your heartwarming comment. You inspire me to do even better.

      I'm sorry I was not able to acknowledge your comment right away. I have been away for a week and just got back today.

      Hello Nolimits Nana,

      Your comment is inspiring too! Thank you very much. Yes, I intend to stick to the dancing!

      Sorry for this late reply. As I mentioned above, I was away for a while and just got back today.

    • profile image

      Nolimits Nana 8 years ago

      Wonderful hub - you are inspiring. Love the photos, especially the dance ones. The photoshop are interesting, but I think they don't have the same impact as the others. Stick to the dancing!

    • christianesk profile image

      christianesk 8 years ago from The Global Hamlet

      I like what Shalini said here - unless you have the ability in the first place, you just ain't gonna get pics like yours. Well done, Jill! Yes, I think your photo titles are fitting. Of the images, I especially dig the etudes in blue and red. Great hub!

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Brenda, I'm happy that you enjoyed the hub.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 8 years ago

      really enjoyed the hub......

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi RCold,

      Thank you very very much for your heartwarming comment!

      Hello James,

      Coming from an artist like you, your comment really makes me happy.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      very interesting creativity. thanks for sharing your art.

    • profile image

      RCold 8 years ago

      I really, really love this Hub! This is very unique and very well-written. Great work!

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hello coffeesnub my friend,

      Your words never fail to inspire me. I'm very happy if you are also inspired again to write something because of my pictures. Yes, please write it down and share with us. Your hubs are always so uplifting.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you very much for dropping by and for your kind words. Rather than calling what you focus on as "nature imitating art" isn't it better to just call it "art in nature"?

      I find that there is so much art in nature - just look at the sensuous curves of the petals in a rose or as you said the lichens and driftwood. There is symmetry and pattern, angles and twists. There is just so much art there, I sometimes regret that I do not have enough time to capture all of these with my camera.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi anglnwu,

      Thank you very much for your beautiful words. Yes, I agree, we can really paint pictures with paint brushes or with camera or with words or even with music.

      You are right, the experience of creating something is exhilarating!

    • profile image

      coffeesnob 8 years ago

      Jill, Absolutely breathtaking! The pictures are excellent. I love "Thorny Issue" I could write about that one - it just jumped into my thought process and poured out some emotions in my heart. Thanks for this hub and way to go on the contest!

    • paul_gibsons profile image

      paul_gibsons 8 years ago from Gibsons, BC, Canada

      very nice pictures... I just dont have the patience for that, so I do it the easy way and concentrate on what I call "nature immitating art", and it is surprising what you see and get when you start developing an eye for that.. especially with drift wood but also lichen and more substantial plant growth..

      well done and congrats.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 8 years ago

      I agree--the pictures are stunning--well-deserved win. Congrats! Your analogy of painting with the camera reminds me of another art form--painting with words--my rice bowl and a truly rewarding venture.

      Imagine the exhilaration of knowing that you can create something. Thanks for sharing.

    • jill of alltrades profile image
      Author

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Shalini,

      You are the first one to visit and comment. Thank you very much.

      Your comment warms my heart!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Jill - those pictures are so amazing - whether it's painting with a camera or Photoshop, I do believe that unless you're artistic, you'll never get pictures like these. Stunning!