University Avenue on Fire: a photograph using the photo impressionistic technique “in the round.”

University Avenue, with it’s boulevard of apple trees slices through Toronto’s Hospital District. It is a ribbon of colour bound by bleak institutional architecture. But miracles happen here every day. That’s what I love about this picture. The way the colour explodes out of the darkness like hope rising from despair.

My obligations as a lawyer have kept my camera in its bag for far too long. But an adjournment allowed an unexpected shooting opportunity.  Walking up University Avenue between Sick Children’s and Toronto General Hospitals I found these trees breaking out of the shadows.

It was unclear to me how I should capture the scene. Traffic was busy and the sidewalk was a stream of scrubs, suits and patients. After a couple of tests I decided to use a photo impressionistic approach by photographing the trees “in the round.”

a photo impressionistic image of apple trees in fall colours photographed in the round.
Apple trees on University Avenue’s boulevard photographed in the round © stephen d’agostino -all rights reserved

I love the way in the round technique deconstructs a complex scene into its essential elements in an impressionistic way.

This picture is composed of about 20 images photographed “in the round” technique; meaning I walked around the tree to the extent possible taking pictures from different positions. The images were merged using an opacity blend which deconstructs the scene reducing it to its essential elements.

This picture was well recieved on Flickr where it received over 40,000 views on the first day thanks to its selection for Explore. That makes 21 Explore images for me in the past 2 years.

Prints can be purchased from Daylighted at https://www.daylighted.com/picture/7586/university-avenue-on-fire-toronto

My 21st image on Flick's Explore
My 21st image on Flick’s Explore

 

Featured Artist at Sofitel Redwood City | Daylighted

I am proud to say that Daylighted has chosen to feature my  photo impressionistic work at its space in the Sofitel Redwood City as part of a great group exhibition and has selected me as June’s featured artist.

Here is the link https://www.daylighted.com/explore/18/sofitel-redwood-city/216

Stephen D'Agostino's photo impressionism is featured at Solitel Redwood City.
Stephen D’Agostino’s photo impressionism is featured at Solitel Redwood City.

By using new technology, Daylighted transforms places such as hotels and restaurants into digital art galleries and offers them an opportunity to easily display and sell an exclusive collection of art from worldwide and local artists.

I like the idea of bringing digital art to a wider audience using display technology. It is an extension of what we know and see on our many devices and as a result is not unexpected. It also has the advantage of size. In the case of my images, I think size does matter. More importantly I like the idea of exposure to an audience that is engaged in the experience of place and life rather than the internet; make no mistake,  art is meant to be experienced not consumed.

Thanks to the Daylighted team for championing photo impressionism.

For more see: Art displaying at Sofitel Redwood City | Daylighted

A Photo Impressionistic Approach to the Cactus Garden at the Phoenician

Sometimes you just know how a picture is going to turn out; sometimes the joy is in the surprise. This image is a perfect example.

I saw this scene while walking through the cactus garden at the Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale . What caught my attention was the repetition in the receding saguaro and the strong vertical elements. Creating depth in an impressionistic images has been a challenge for me.

photo impressionistic photograph of cactus
The cactus garden at the Phoenician. © Stephen D’Agostino

To create the photo impressionistic effect I used the high-speed montage approach I am developing. I shot a burst at 60 fps while panning,  The images were then brought  together in Photoshop using an opacity blend. I could have created the same effect using a dark neutral density filter and a slow shutter speed but composition would have been an issue for me. The high-speed montage approach is more suited for  photo impressionism on the fly.

The result was better than I had hoped. The vertical elements created a texture I had not seen in the viewfinder adding to the scene’s depth.

Flickr selected this image for its Explore page yesterday; about 9,500 views in 24 hours. Thanks to the curator at Flickr who championed this image.

Time Stacked Waves

I am just back from a 2 week recharge in St Lucia and used the break to experiment with wave time stacks. If you follow The Photo Impressionism Project  you will be familiar with Matt Molloy’s fabulous cloud time stacks. Basically the technique relies on a time lapse series that is then brought together using  Photoshop’s lighten mode opacity blend to create a sense of movement.

Waves breaking on the beach at Body Holiday in St Lucia. A 10 image time stack. © Stephen D'Agostino
Waves breaking on the beach at Body Holiday in St Lucia. A 10 image time stack. © Stephen D’Agostino

I have adapted Molly’s technique to faster moving subjects using high speed shutter bursts. In this case 10 images of a breaking wave shot at 60 fps using Nikon’s N1 V3. The image then has to be colour balanced using the usual tools. I tend to rely on the white\black point method and NIK’s contrast filter.

I really like the feeling of the curl here and the pallet knife textures produced by the time stack. If I had just used an opacity blend the image would have been pleasing but much softer.

If I can brag, Flickr featured this image on Explore this morning; 2,700 views in the past 8 hours. You can see the Flickr version here https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-impressionism/15997036038/.

2014 by the numbers

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fall Colours In The Round: A Gallery

Trees have always been an important subject in art. For me they bring to mind the power of an Emily Carr or the drama of Ansel Adams. They are grounded. They reach for the sky.  A natural subject for impressionist photography.

dsc4949
This photograph of a tree in fall colours is from a series shot right in front of the Legislative Building Queen’s Park, Toronto. It is composed of about 50 images merged together using an opacity blend. This photograph appeared on Flickr’s Explore page on October 23, 2014.  https://flic.kr/p/oQiuYg © Stephen D’Agostino

When I started experimenting with in the round photography I first turned to trees. Visually trees are roughly symmetrical which lends themselves to the technique because fundamentally in the round photography relies on pixel averaging.  When similarly placed  pixels are roughly the same it is more likely that a strong image will emerge after the opacity blend.  As a result the  trunk is a natural anchor for the image. The leaves feather towards the sky. The background details wash away leaving the subject alone in the frame.

dsc9578
A flaming red maple tree in front of  Ontario Veteran’s War Memorial on the grounds of the Legislative Building Queen’s Park, Toronto.  This photograph is composed of 40 images taken around the tree then brought together using an opacity blend. © Stephen D’Agostino

The genesis of this series was an unexpected opportunity. Early on a gloomy Saturday I set up  on the South apex of Queen’s Park Cres to photograph the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.  As the light improved I noticed the trees behind me, along the street edge, had started to turn colour  and with the road closed for the marathon it was possible to photograph around the trees.

dsc5062
A Maple tree just starting to turn photographed in the round. This photograph is composed of about 50 images brought together with an opacity blend. It appeared on Flickr’s Explore page on October 27, 2014. © Stephen D’Agostino

What I love about these photographs is the way the technique captures the form and colour of the trees while just hinting at the detail.  Trees have always been an important subject in art. For me they bring to mind the power of an Emily Carr or the drama of Ansel Adams. They are grounded. They reach for the sky.  A natural subject for impressionist photography and one I keep coming back to.

The other thing I love about this technique is the way the foregrounds seem to twist, circle or band. The result is always unexpected. I can pre-visualize the tree itself but the foreground is always a surprise.

dsc5112
A maple tree in front of Queens Park, Toronto photographed in the round. This image is composed of about 40 images photographed around the tree then brought together using an opacity blend. It appeared on Flickr’s Explore page on October 25, 2014 and generated 22,000 views that day. © Stephen D’Agostino

These in the round impressionistic photographs have been well received on Flickr.  Four of them appeared on Flickr’s Explore page. One generated 22,000 views in a single day.  That is a stark contrast to the way my photo impressionism was received a couple of years ago when I often receive comments asking if I had a neurodegenerative disease or hadn’t learned to use auto focus.

dsc9599
This image is my favourite in this series. A maple tree photographed in the round, Queen’s Park, Toronto. This photograph is composed of about 40 images brought together using an opacity blend. © Stephen D’Agostino

 

For more information on the technique see my post What I Have Learned: In The Round Images.

To view the gallery just click on one of the images.

 

Featured on Explore: Soho Soft Focus

I am coming to understand this about photo impressionism: there is no one size fits all technique. You have to open your imagination and pre visualize the effect before pushing the shutter. You have to experiment. You have to push your boundaries.

Just Bokeh: a soft focus approach to West Broadway at night.
Just Bokeh: a soft focus approach to the lights on West Broadway at night. Photo impressionistic take on busy Mercer St. Soho New York. © Stephen D’Agostino

Photo impressionism has many faces. The soft focus approach is popular but I have never really given it a chance preferring to concentrate on multiple exposure and slow shutter images. A recent trip to New York changed that for me.

The first technical challenge was understanding how to override the Nikon 1 V3’s powerful automated tools. The solution: use a DX lens and manual focus mode for better aperture and focus control. The buttery rich bokeh is a function of a large aperture setting.

My personal favourite: a photo impressionistic view of West Broadway at night.
My personal favourite from this sequence: a view of West Broadway at night. Photo impressionistic take on busy Mercer St. Soho New York. © Stephen D’Agostino

To a great extent I think this approach works because of the bokeh. At night the images become dream like.  Colours that formerly defined background elements move to the forefront. Often they seem to dance. Look at the view of the World Trade Center below.

Photo impressionistic view of the World Trade Centre featured on Flickr's Explore 18/10/14
View of the World Trade Centre from Soho. Featured on Flickr’s Explore 18/10/14. Photo impressionistic take on busy Mercer St. Soho New York. © Stephen D’Agostino

The built form of  the World Trade Center seems to melt into a pillar of light. For me it has become a lighthouse of hope, and strength overlooking the street below. I was excited to learn this morning that the curators of Flickr’s Explore page had added it to today’s list.

I am coming to understand this about photo impressionism: there is no one size fits all technique. You have to open your imagination and pre visualize the effect before pushing the shutter.  You have to experiment. You have to push your boundaries. I love it!

A note about Flickr. I have and do use a number of photo sharing services to test reaction to my images. I keep coming back to Flickr because it seems to attract a broader aesthetic in its range of users. All of my images chosen for Explore are collected at https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-impressionism/sets/72157638979727914/ My photo stream can be seen at flickr.com/photos/photo-impressionism/.

Photo impressionistic take on busy Mercer St. Soho New York. © Stephen D'Agostino
Photo impressionistic take on busy Mercer St. Soho New York. © Stephen D’Agostino

My Dragon Boats Featured on Eugephemisms

Eugephemisms is a blog about fitness,  life and less visited places. It has a special focus on dragon boat racing,  A recent post featured 10 of my photo impressionistic dragon boat images and I think it is worth a look.

dsf1090

Here is an extract:

Why do you shoot impressionistic images of dragon boats?
Stephen: Because photographs just capture a split second they often miss the moment we experienced. I think that is particularly true with dragon boat racing. Dragon boat racers exude grace/power/energy and I think I capture that better using photo impressionistic techniques.

How do you create your images?
Stephen: I use 3 techniques which effectively compress a moment in time into a single image. I started using in camera multiple exposures which is an old school technique. Recently I have been merging high speed bursts of 20 or more images. These techniques really emphasize movement and power. As well I love the graceful results you see in long exposures; often in the range of 0.6 to 1.5 seconds.

You can find the full post  at http://wp.me/p3HpUb-y8

I have a gallery of impressionistic dragon boat images at http://www.dagostino.ca/galleries/dragon-boat-gallery/

Featured on Flickr Explore – Photo Impressionistic Dragon Boat Racers

My exploration of photo impressionism started with dragon boats and I keep coming back. Is it the power, the visual rhythms, habit?  I just don’t know. But the resulting images never fail to please.

The photograph below is composed of about 30 images brought together using an opacity blend and  recently appeared on Flickr’s Explore page. It was taken at Toronto’s International Dragon Boat Festival on Toronto Island.

For more of my dragon boat images on Flickr see https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-impressionism/sets/72157622514064785/

photo impressionistic image of dragon boat racers
Dragon Boat Racers

After 60 days: Impressions of the Nikon 1 V3

My Perspective

This is a fabulous time to be a photographer. There have never been better tools to realize your vision. There have never been better opportunities to share it with the world. In keeping with that my early impression of the N 1 V3 is that it is a significant advancement and has become my go to – everyday camera and an important tool in my photo impressionism projects.

if its true that the best camera is the one in your hand, it may be time to think about switching hands.

almost alien, a jelly fish pulses through the tank at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto
Photographed with  the Nikon N 1 V3. A  jelly fish pulses through the tank at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. At 2500 ISO there was some noise. But nothing that couldn’t be fixed post production. © Stephen D’Agostino

To put my viewpoint in perspective I have been a Nikon DSLR guy since the beginning (with a short Fujifilm S Pro dalliance). Starting with a F2 film camera I liked the ability to make manual decisions but grew to love the freedom autofocus and auto-exposure provided when time was of the essence. Big bright lenses were a staple in my bag which of course rivaled a small child in weight. I bought a D4 loved it and then developed sciatica and the photographic world ended. I couldn’t carry my kit.

dsc0895
Photographed with the Nikon N 1 V3. Another Jellyfish at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. At 4500 ISO there was some noise. But nothing that couldn’t be fixed post production. © Stephen D’Agostino

Travelling Mirrorless

The small mirrorless camera is not a new idea. The micro 2/3rds format has been with us for a while and Fujifilm, an early adopter, has produced some great mirrorless cameras. My introduction was the N1 J2 which proved to be a great travel camera (see my thoughts here).  What I longed for was a  Nikon camera to leverage my lens investment, a viewfinder to help composition on sunny days and good balance between size and holdability.  The N1 V3 doesn’t disappoint.

Right out of the box I knew I had something special. The camera is just big enough to fit in my hand. It feels well constructed. Add the grip and it feels sturdy. The controls are where a Nikon user would expect them; including the thumb wheel control dials. I added a long wrist strap from gordyscamerastraps.com.

photo Impressionistic image of a dragon boat
Photographed with  the Nikon N 1 V3. A fast shutter and viewfinder allowed this series of images to be stacked one on the other to create this impressionistic effect of a dragon boat,

I find I always have the grip attached. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. 1st it adds a secondary control dial which I seem to use a lot.  More important, the grip does just that; it gives the camera a solid feel in my hand.

The camera, two N1 lenses, batteries and the usual stuff fits nicely into Think Tanks smallest Turnstyle Sling Bag with room to spare for a phone and wallet. Portability – check.

photo impressionistic image of a dragon boat.
Photographed with  the Nikon N 1 V3. 20 images shot at 30 fps and then brought together with an opacity blend, I couldn’t have achieved this with the Nikon D4.

The viewfinder is an attachment. It goes on and comes off easy enough and provides a nice bright point of view. You can set it for  both grid lines and an artificial horizon which is a big help to me in image placement and composition. What I really like is that it adjusts image brightness in real time; meaning dark scenes are easier to compose because they appear as brighter previews based on your exposure settings.

The back mounted LCD screen is nice and bright. I like the way the LCD  articulates which allows for better composition when the subject requires an awkward point of view without feeling delicate.

 A series of images of dragon boaters brought together using an opacity blend to create a photo impressionistic effect. © Stephen D'Agostino
Photographed with  the Nikon N 1 V3. Shot at 30 fps, a series of images of dragon boaters brought together using an opacity blend and Matt Molloy’s time stacking technique to create a photo impressionistic effect. © Stephen D’Agostino

The kit 10 – 30 mm pancake lens has a really low profile and auto lens cap feature. No complaints about quality but I miss the barrel mounted “on/off” button of the other N1 lens I own. I now have to remember which lens is on the camera and what has to be done to start shooting. Not a great quality when you are in a hurry. I also miss having a filter thread. I use a variable neutral density filter a lot. As a result my 30-110 mm N 1 lens seems to be a permanent fixture.

My impression of image quality is quite good. I only see grain at the top end of the ISO range.  Nothing that can’t be addressed post production. At 160 ISO there is great colour fidelity and faithful tonal reproduction. In other words rich and true.

My Special Considerations

Photo Impressionism is my passion. For the N1 V3 to work for me  it has to give me the options I relied on the D4 for.   For the most part it does.

Photo impressionistic image of a dragon boat.
Photographed with  the Nikon N 1 V3. Shot at 30 fps, another series of images of dragon boaters brought together using an opacity blend and Matt Molloy’s time stacking technique to create a photo impressionistic effect. © Stephen D’Agostino

From a sensor size point of view  the N1 V3 has about 2 million pixels over the D4. That is important for me because I often work with “the picture in the picture”.

The camera is really fast. Blindingly fast actually. After moving to Lexar’s fastest micro sd card the camera will sustain long bursts of raw images at 30 fps without choking. Slower cards give you slower performance. This new speed allows me to time stack moving subjects in a way I can’t with the D4’s 11 fps. Based on my early experiments I think these long fast bursts are going to become an important tool for me.

A Purple Allium photographed in the round as an example of photo impressionism. © Stephen D'Agostino
Photographed with  the Nikon N 1 V3. A Purple Allium photographed in the round. On a bright day this image could not have been captured without the N1 V3’s viewfinder to place the image. © Stephen D’Agostino

At the other end of the shutter range I found that setting a low ISO (160 is the lowest) stopping down with a variable neutral density filter and shooting in shutter priority provides a good slow shutter result. For my slow shutter work I would have prefered a lower ISO. On the other hand 12,800 ISO creates some great “natural light” opportunities at night.

I was surprised to discover there is no multiple exposure mode.  I have relied on in camera multiple exposures since my earliest impressionistic  images so this was a setback. My understanding is that in camera multiple exposure is software driven so I am hoping a future release will solve this obvious failing.

A couple of complaints

No camera is perfect.  This one is no exception. Here is my list of issues I would love to see Nikon address.

multiple exposure mode – I’m not sure why a camera as feature rich as this does not support up to 10 frames in camera multiple exposure. Given the popularity of photo impressionism I would have thought that would be a given.

battery port – you have to remove the grip to change batteries. WTF!

A photo impressionistic take on the cupcake. A Prairie Girl cupcake photographed in the round as an example of photo impressionism. © Stephen D'Agostino
A Prairie Girl cupcake photographed in the round. Using the viewfinder to place the subject for this series of shots was crucial to the technique. © Stephen D’Agostino

viewfinder – I was disappointed to read that Nikon recommends you take the viewfinder off when travelling to avoid damage. In bright conditions that really slows down spontaneous shooting. As well, the viewfinder is just the mirrored LCD view. That means the viewfinder can go blank when the camera is processing or shooting can be interrupted when previews are posted. That matters when you are tracking a fast moving dragon boat. I would have preferred an always on live view option.

micro sd – I am looking at my collection of fast cf, sd and xqd cards. I really don’t want the complexity of carrying around yet another media type. Besides, a micro sd is hard to keep track of out of the camera on big shooting days.

colour space – Being able to choose your colour space is awesome. But the choice is limited to Adobe RGB and sRGB. The sensor is good enough to support Pro Photo, Nikon should too.

Conclusion

A photo impressionistic take on the cupcake. A Kelly XO Bakery cupcake photographed in the round as an example of photo impressionism. © Stephen D'Agostino
Photographed with the Nikon N 1 V3. A Kelly XO Bakery cupcake photographed in the round by taking a series of images all around it  and then merging them together using an opacity blend,. The viewfinder really helps subject placement which is crucial to this technique. © Stephen D’Agostino

At the risk of being labelled a Nikon Fan boy I have to say I love this camera. The N 1 V3 more than makes up for its few failings with speed and portability. Nikon users will immediately find the controls intuitive. It has the tool set I need for my passion absent in camera multiple exposure mode.

From my point of view; if its true that the best camera is the one in your hand, it may be time to think about switching hands.

Selected for Flickr’s Explore Page: jellyfish

I spent Canada Day exploring Ripley’s Aquarium and a new camera; Nikon’s mirrorless N1 V3.

Ripley’s Aquarium is a visual buffet; well laid out exhibits and exotic subjects. It has a wonderful collection of sharks and stingrays. But for me the Jellyfish Room was the highlight.  Where else can you spend a few moments with these ghostly aliens.  The image below is from that visit.

Although this shot is not typical for my genre I really love it.  I think  it captures the delicateness and  movement  of the jellyfish while maintaining the alien quality I experienced.  So you can imagine my excitement this morning to find that  Flickr Explore had chosen it for today’s page. This is my 5th image chosen for Explore  in the past 12 months.

Thanks to the curator who championed my picture.

almost alien, a jelly fish pulses through the tank at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto
almost alien, a jelly fish pulses through the tank at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto

For those who keep track of these things,  being selected for Explore resulted in just over 10,000 views in one day.

I have been daylighted

A photo impressionistic take on the cupcake. A Kelly XO Bakery cupcake photographed in the round as an example of photo impressionism. © Stephen D'Agostino
Cupcakes and fine art prints. They are all subject to the new paradigm; the internet © Stephen D’Agostino

The impact of the web on retail marketing has been dramatic; really a brand new paradigm. The business of fine art photography is no different.  It is in that context that I have struggled  with whether to try to monetize my digital work or if instead I should be satisfied with the  exposure I get on the web.

underwater photograph of a stingray.
My most stolen image notwithstanding © Stephen D’Agostino

My experience is that sales come from personal contact and that almost no one buys photographic art on the internet. Most see it as a free buffet to copy without payment or attribution. Of course that is annoying and illegal but the reality is it is also the price of exposure.

On the other hand. There is a market for fine art prints. It is a universal truth that when a photograph really speaks to you, you want to engage with a physical copy. As fine art photographer Vincent Versace often repeats, “its all about the print.”

A Purple Allium photographed in the round as an example of photo impressionism. © Stephen D'Agostino
A Purple Allium photographed in the round. © Stephen D’Agostino

logoSIt is in that context that I was recently approached by Daylighted to exhibit on their new platform. A digital display/app system tied to exposure in hotels and other prominent locations.

I like the idea of bringing digital art to the wall using display technology. It is an extension of what we know and see on our many devices and as a result is not unexpected. It also has the advantage of size. In the case of my images, I think size does matter. More importantly I like the idea of exposure to an audience that is engaged in the experience of place and life rather than the internet.; make no mistake,  art is meant to be experienced not consumed.

You can see my Daylighted portfolio at https://manage.day-lighted.com/explore/artist/sjdagostino#/sjdagostino

Daylighted’s full portfolio featureing some incredibly creative artisits such as Hal Eastman, and Matt Malloy, can be seen at https://manage.day-lighted.com/explore/all#/all

Multiple Exposure Photo Impressionism Technique

I often forget how important it is to look back at your portfolio to see where you have been.  I was reminded of that while rounding out my website with a new multiple exposure gallery.  Photography is so focussed on the moment that it is easy to miss the lessons of time.

Caribana - Toronto © Stephen D'Agostino
Caribana – Toronto © Stephen D’Agostino

What have I learned?

Gallery of light - Paris © Stephen D'Agostino
Gallery of light – Paris © Stephen D’Agostino

The first observation is how easy it is to get into a rut. Lately I seem to be focussed on in the round images. The result of that effort has been some great images but  I have lost some of the spontaneity I liked in my earlier work. This is going to be a long term struggle; spontaneity vs pre-visualization.

Second, I seem to have a better understanding of the genre now. Impressionism requires a fine balance between the representational and the abstract to successfully create movement. The mind needs a familiar shape to draw the eye. The eye needs movement to maintain its interest. I am wondering if there is a new rule of composition here?  “Successful images draw you from the recognizable to the abstract?”

Art market - Toronto © Stephen D'Agostino
Art market – Toronto © Stephen D’Agostino

Third, multiple exposure seems to deconstruct subjects into blocks or alternatively, does the opposite creating a pointillist effect. The images I like best are driven by colour. Big bold blocks of colour. It doesn’t matter if the subject is soft such as “The Gallery of Light” or more structured like “Art Market”, colour competes with form for your eye’s attention.

The dragon boaters - Toronto © Stephen D'Agostino
The dragon boaters – Toronto © Stephen D’Agostino

Last, I am reminded of the paradigm of photo impressionism. In traditional photography the subject is framed by the camera. In multiple exposure photography the image is created by the movement of the frame.

Featured on Flickr’s Explore – Apple Trees In The Round – updated

I have been using Flickr for a couple of years to test photo impressionistic ideas. From my experience the Flickr community is more engaged than the other photographic communities I have tried. That is important to me when I am trying something new.

So you can imagine my excitement this morning when I discovered Flickr’s Explore editors had selected my latest in the round experiment for their feature page. The exposure from that means dozens of new followers, many interesting points of view and a bit more acceptance for photo impressionism as a genre.

Thanks to the curator who championed my image.

20140528-_DSC3790-2.jpg

 

Update

For what it is worth, looking back at the views on this image and the others I have had featured on Explore, you can expect about 8,500 views over 3 days on average if you are lucky enough to be selected. For all of my photo impressionism images fetured on Explore  see https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-impressionism/sets/72157638979727914/

 

Iphone to Lightroom

It isn’t often that you read a blog post that changes your approach to things that matter.  Adam Portilla’s post describing how to auto import your iPhone photostream into Lightroom is one of those exceptions. Its easy to follow and it works for me.

Check out his technique on  Google+. It has made a big difference to my approach to photo impressionism on the iphone because my images can be archived my way.

What I Have Learned: “In The Round Images”

It is interesting to look back at your portfolio and experience the journey. I recently had that experience while publishing  a gallery of my favourite in the round images.

Photo impressionism has been a big part of my photographic vision for a long time now. However, exposure to Pep Ventosa’s “in the round” work in 2012 turned my photo impressionism paradigm on its head. Up to that point I had been working with images moving in the frame using slow shutter or multiple exposure techniques. It had never occurred to me that the frame might move too. Moving the frame around the subject is the essence of in the round photography.

One of my favourite photo impressionistic images. A beach umbrella in St. Lucia photographed using the in the round montage technique. © Stephen D'Agostino.
One of my favourite photo impressionistic images. A beach umbrella in St. Lucia photographed using the in the round montage technique. © Stephen D’Agostino.

In the Round  Technique

The beach umbrella above is composed of about 30 images methodically taken around it. My camera is handheld with the relative location of the point of interest maintained in the viewfinder. The images are then brought together using an opacity blend. In my workflow I start in Lightroom.  I open all the images at once, as layers, and then start the process of opacity blending.

The video above gives a sense of the process I used to create the beach umbrella. What I find interesting is how details fall away leaving blocks of colour and a generalized impression of the subject.

The fountain, Washington Square New York © Stephen D'Agostino
The fountain, Washington Square New York photographed “in the round” . I like the way this image captures  the energy  of  of a busy afternoon at Washington Square. © Stephen D’Agostino

Two important decisions play a big part in the creation of a successful in the round image.

The first is the subject; the basic shape has to be interesting enough to withstand being deconstructed. Opacity blending creates what is really an average of the shape from many points of view. I think of the process as “image averaging.”

The second decision is how you treat opacity blending. By that I mean the opacity mode and/or the amount of opacity of the various layers. In the Washington Square image I wanted to compress the activity around the fountain to capture the excitement of place. The beach umbrella was more of an exercise in shape and colour.

A tree in Fall colours photographed "in the round" © Stephen D'Agostino
A tree in Fall colours photographed “in the round” . Lakeshore Boulevard, Toronto © Stephen D’Agostino

It was Pep Ventosa’s trees that originally caught my imagination. Having worked with trees as a subject I think I understand why. For me trees symbolize the strength and vitality of the natural world.  Image averaging seems to emphasize those qualities.  Tree trunks seem to reach higher. The branches and crown are fuller and rounder.

The resulting textures are interesting too. By layering  the leaves the viewer is left with the impression of a pointillist painting in a landscape reduced to basic shapes and colours.

A planter of flowers photographed "in the round" © Stephen D'Agostino
A planter of flowers photographed “in the round” © Stephen D’Agostino

In The Round – Photo Impressionism Tools

This is a technique that is not camera dependant. I have had good luck using a DSLR, mirrorless camera and an iphone. The key is being able to hold a relative point in the viewfinder; grid lines really help.

Post production is the key. I open the images as layers in Photoshop and then start to blend the opacity. If you are blending manually start by reducing opacity by 50% of the preceding image until you get to about 5%; experiment from there. The process is very processor intensive and file sizes are huge so be prepared to wait.

I also use a couple of plugins to automate the process where appropriate:

  • Layer Stack Opacity Blending: a script that evenly blends opacity in a way that mimics in camera multiple exposure. Thanks to Digital Outback Photo for maintaining the script. I often use this script to test an image idea before manually setting the opacity.
  • Dr Brown’s Stack-A-Matic: a good alternative to opening images as layers in Photoshop. Dr Browns site is worth exploring. There is a wealth of information on photoshop technique. Or check out Dr. Russell Brown Services on Adobe Exchange.

 

Black & White: Looking Through A New Lens

There is something compelling about black & white photography; its nostalgic link to photography’s roots, the emphasis on composition, or perhaps a vision more focussed without the distraction of colour.

In many ways black & white photography is the anthesis of my photo impressionistic passions. Its like you are looking through a new lens. Perhaps that explains the dichotomy in my portfolio. I spend a lot of time exploring Impressionism and then when I need a break I reach for my infrared converted cameras and shoot black & white.

dsf3037

I finally had a chance yesterday to post a collection of 20 of my favourite black & white images. You can find the Gallery here.

Looking at the collection it seems to me that I am attracted to the rich textures infrared produces. The image below, taken from the south rim of the Grand Canon bings reminds me of the visual richness of early morning looking down into the valley.  Above that the infrared of a frozen great lakes steamer nicely captures the cold of that winter moment.

dsc2202

While photo impressionism is still my main focus I am looking forward to shooting black & white at every opportunity.

Resources

Infrared Camera Conversions:

I recently had my old Fujifilm S5 Pro converted by Life Pixel. They did a great job.

Black & White Conversion Technique

My approach to to black & white conversion has been greatly influenced by Vincent Versace. His book is a bible on the subject. Vincent Versace’s black & white conversions book

Related Posts:

A GREAT BLACK AND WHITE READ: VINCENT VERSACE’S OZ TO KANSAS

a shout out to Elto.com

There are so many distractions from actually taking photographs it is amazing that we ever have time to create. Learning the nuances of new equipment and what has really changed  in the constant flow of software updates can be a career in itself.  My mission has been to simplify my life to make more time for things that matter; starting with this website.

I have exhibited on the web since  2001.  Originally using Microsoft’s web development tools and then Adobe Dreamweaver  I was able to produce a good basic exhibition platform. The cost however has been time spent constantly learning and development time; time better spent with a camera in my hand or  discovering better post production technique.

For me the obvious answer is to  embrace someone else’s  code  and use an existing  content management system (ie a blog.) I chose WordPress because it is widely supported, and is powerful enough to do everything I need in a photography website.

I discovered two things in my transition to WordPress. The first, that Yahoo, my host since the beginning only provided partial support for the WordPress tools on my shopping list. In other words the choice of a host matters. I eventually chose DreamHost. Second,  there is an online web  development company  (Elto.com) that specializes in WordPress  at a price that makes it silly to invest your own time to learn how to do it yourself.

Elto breaks the steps down into understandable tweaks for pricing and project management purposes. In my case they customized an existing WordPress theme  to give me more control over menuing, migrated my site to a new host including the DNS transfer and finally set up the 301 and 404 page redirects to account for the new page locations; all for under $300.  I can report that it was absolutely painless and the results here are proof it works.

So here is a shout out and thanks to my project manager Luke Pickett and everyone at Elto.

Travelling Mirrorless

I have been following David duChemin for about a year now. Always fresh and thoughtful punctuated by great images.

His recent post “Mirrorless to Africa” caused me to reflect on my recent experience with Nikon’s N1 J2 . I think David is being very brave.

To put these thoughts into context you have to understand I love my dslr; a Nikon D4. It gives me everything I need without compromise. My N1 on the other hand is all about compromise.

20131229-_DSC0923A-Edit.jpg

The positives are compelling. The size and weight is perfect for travel. The lenses are sharp. The 18.5 1.8 rivals my usual 50 mm. The 30-110 fills in for my mid range dslr zoom producing good sharpness in good light. The underwater housing is svelt and well thought out (except for the inexplicable smoky back partially obscuring the LCD). The vibration reduction doesn’t get in the way and seems to more than make up for the inevitable camera waving that occurs when composing on the LCD.

Which brings me to my short hate list. I have come to hate the LCD. In bright light the subject disappears leaving you to guess what your composition actually looks like. That’s a problem for me when I am composing “in the round” montages such as the image above as I am completely dependant on the grid lines. And there is the awkward waving stance that comes with LCD composition.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the freedom. I just miss my trusted friend. Which brings me back to David duChemin. Africa is a long way away from his dslr if his experience ends up being like mine.

Postscript: Since publishing this blog David has posted a good review of his experience at: http://davidduchemin.com/2014/01/the-mirrorless-post/ 

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” –Charlie Brown

The Christmas holidays means something different to all of us.

For me it a time to reenergize and reflect; and what a year it has been. Photographically I launched the Photoimpressionism Project, had three images chosen for Flickr’s Explore Page and made big strides in mastering my impressionistic technique. This blog has achieved a consistent ranking in Google’s top 3 using the search term “photo impressionism”. My professional life has enjoyed significant milestones as well; lots of media attention thanks to Mayor Ford, as well as the usual victories for my clients.

_DSC2784-Edit.jpg

This is also the year I began to understand what a great time this is to be a photographer. Digital photography now gives us the tools to fulfill our vision without boundaries. Whether it is the immediacy of iphoneography, the raw power of a pro camera like Nikon’s D4, or capturing the invisible with infrared we have a tool set capable of imaging anything. And thanks to the internet like minded photographers can share their ideas and their victories with just a few clicks.

Looking forward to next year I have 3 personal goals:

– step up my photoimpressionistic technique. There is still much to learn;
– refocus my efforts on producing physical prints; and
– continue evangelizing photoimpressionism as a genre through my work and the work of others.

Best wishes for the holidays, and happy shooting.

Stephen D’Agostino

It’s in the detail

“In the round” has been a focus of my recent photo impressionist work. I have experimented with outdoor subjects such as trees, fountains, even carousels. Subjects that have a symmetrical shape seem to work best because the technique deconstructs the subject  by averaging the pixels in the underlying photographs and isolates it in the context of a textured background that hints at the subject’s context. The images tend to be painterly; sometimes surreal; always interesting. I’m hooked, but on a rainy day, what to do but try some still life.

The sunflower image above is composed of about 40 photographs. I spent considerable time reordering the base images ( Photoshop layers) in order to produce the impressionistic effect. I like the feel here. The detail in the flowers produces a lot of visual interest. The vase also generalized well. But the stems seem too thin and a bit out of balance for my liking.

When I come to print this one. I think I might try cropping it in portrait format to better balance the flowers, vase and stems.

sunflowerdsc2390etal_detail-1.jpg

That’s when it struck me. The strength of this image may be in its parts rather than the whole.

Finding the picture in the picture (sometimes called image harvesting) isn’t new. Think about it. When you look through the viewfinder you are selectively cropping the image. Why not do the same thing post production? Provided the original shot has enough pixels to allow for it, selective cropping gives you another opportunity to produce your vision.

Once you have selected the cropped image, consider going back and rebalancing the post production adjustments to strengthen the image. Think of using a zone approach where the textured whites draw your eye and the blacks give it rest.

sunflowerdsc2390etal_detail3.jpg

I really like Detail 2. Visually it takes me back to my first multiple exposure impressionistic images. However, because the images were shot in the round, the underlying pattern is much more interesting. And it has been well received. The image was featured on Flickr’s explore page. At the time of writing  Sunflowers In The Round: Detail 2 had about 7,000 views on Flickr.

Instagram


Technology Leads Art: Smartphones and the Rise of Photo Impressionism

red rocket
Red Rocket – a long exposure photo impressionistic iphone image by stephen d’agostino

Or “What’s in my camera bag phone”

I have been thinking about technology and how it shapes art since writing  about an exhibition of early photographs and impressionist paintings at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art. The exhibition argues that some impressionist painters were influenced by photography. The influence of technology on photography is not a new idea. “What’s in my camera bag” is a staple subject for photographers. But it is more relevant in the age of iphoneography and the rise of impressionistic photographs.

Look up.
Look up – a photo impressionistic iphone image by stephen d’agostino

A Brief Chronology:

1860-1900 – Start with the impressionist painters . While they may have been influenced by contemporary photography, the more important factor was the invention of the paint tube. Before the paint tube painters were essentially studio bound. Painting en plein air required tremendous effort and significant resources. Of course it could be done. But the effort stifled experimentation and creativity.

Tube paint  gave painters the technical ability to paint when and where the  moment moved them and more importantly the ability to experiment with little risk. The resulting genre produced images that were immediate, fresh and impressionistic.

1885-1915 – Move to photography at about the same time. In its infancy photography also required a huge effort to be portable. Yes it could be done. Glass plates and chemistry could be carted to an appropriate vista. But the rise of the first photo impressionists, the Pictorialists, coincided with the arrival of practical gelatin process films and the introduction of the first Kodak in 1889. Portability allowed for experimentation without a huge investment but the final print often relied on darkroom manipulation and skill.

Rain
Rain – a slow exposure photo impressionistic iphone image by stephen d’agostino

2001 – Then we have the  modern photo impressionists such as Freeman Patterson. His book Photo Impressionism And the Subjective Image, published in  2001 inspired a generation of film shooters to experiment with the genre. But in 2001 experimentation was handicapped by the delay inherent in film. Images had to be processed meaning that the artist couldn’t know whether they had captured their vision for hours or days. The final image required printing.

There was also a fair amount of technique involved. Multiple exposures required a mathematical calculation to predetermine exposure. Long shutter photography relied on filters to neutralize colour shift. Darkroom wizardry was often used but wasn’t required. As a result, a successful image relied more on planning than spontaneity or just a lucky break.

2002 – While the first consumer digital SLR camera came to market before the publication of Photo Impressionism And the Subjective Image, they were not widely available  until  a few years after that. Digital capture  was to photo impressionism what tube paint was to the impressionists.

Digital photography meant immediate artistic gratification at no cost per image thereby facilitating endless experimentation and immediate feedback. Printing could be bypassed altogether. Looking back we see a rebirth of photo impressionism in the second half of the last decade.

The advance in digital camera features often meant techniques like  in camera multiple exposures could be achieved without any skill  (just compose and click) further enabling the genre. But still photo impressionism was not fully democratized until the iPhone’s first release in 2007.

slow
Slow – a long exposure photo impressionistic iphone image by stephen d’agostino

2007 – The cameraphone/smartphone is the swiss army knife of digital devices and in many ways perfect for impressionistic photography. They are widely available and often affordable to own. They are exceptionally portable and as a result are always with you. Smartphones often have built in filters and features to assist in taking photo impressionistic images. The technology assumes that images will not be printed making sharing easier on a variety of platforms. Inexpensive apps are available to further the creative process. It is noteworthy that recently Apple and others have focussed on the camera as an important part of the smartphone mix. 

Smartphone photography has taken off; the iphone is now the most popular camera on Flickr. Not surprisingly the mix of widespread accessibility, the availability of creative apps and  immediate artistic gratification at no cost per image has allowed more photographers and now non-photographers to push the bounds of creativity on their phones.

The popularity of photo impressionism has followed the iPhone’s success. Consider the tiny collective as an example; a site dedicated to smart phone photography. By my count 20% of the images posted are wonderful examples of photo impressionism.

tools I use for photo impressionism projects on my iphone.
tools I use for photo impressionism projects on my iphone.

 What’s In My Smartphone:

I was a late convert to iphoneography. For me the camera on my phone was a note taking device; really not worthy of consideration as an artistic tool. It wasn’t until I started to play with apps such as  Slow Shutter Cam and Snapseed that I started to understand the creative potential of smartphones. All the image in this post were taken with an iPhone 4s.

Here is my app list (the digital equivalent of a camera bag):

  • Slow Shutter Cam – this is the app that started it for me. The app has a good suite of features including the ability to control shutter speeds from 0.5 to 15 seconds with automatic exposure control. The app would benefit from grid lines to help with composition.
  • InstaBlend – think of layer blending in Photoshop, a technique I rely on for my “in the round” images. The interface is a bit clunky but it gets the job done. I am experimenting with “in the round” using this app and will post my results shortly.
  • Marksta – I get that the www is the wild west of rights management but if you are proud of an image you should show you own it. This is a great and easy to use copyright watermarking tool.
  • Snapseed – originally a NIK Software picture editing tool. Google now owns it and is embracing it in the mobile market. It is intuitive to use and feature rich. I prefer Photoshop Express but I can’t articulate why.
  • Photoshop Express – An Adobe picture editing tool. It is intuitive to use and feature rich.  This is my go to app for on phone editing.
  • Flickr – I use Flickr as my test bed for new projects. The Flickr community is fully engaged in photo impressionistic endeavours. I prefer the mobile site to the app.
  • Instagram – Another great test bed for my projects. The app is the entry point if you want to use the service. The app has some tools but they are pretty basic.
  • PortfolioToGo – the app is no longer available for download but I still use to show my portfolio on my phone.

Final Impressions:

Iphoneography is a natural tool for photo impressionistic  expression. Portable with a rich set of features and instant feedback it expands not only the photographer’s possibilities, but also increase the pool of potential photographers entering the genre.

I think of my iPhone as a sketch pad. From my perspective it excels at images that are immediate, fresh and impressionistic. My phone is not going to replace my cameras for major projects. Photoshop Express and Snapseed are not going to displace my use of Photoshop. However like tube paint for the impressionist painters iphoneography makes it all the easier for me to explore my vision when and where I want. And that is a big step in the right direction.

Instagram


 

Re-examining the Link Between the Rise of Photography and Impressionism

I recently launched a new blog to provide a place to discuss photo impressionism. The Photo Impressionism Project expands the discussion beyond my own portfolio to other voices.

My first post reviews a recent exhibition which raises some interesting themes; Re-examining the Link Between the Rise of Photography and Impressionism . I had always assumed that Pictorialists, the first Photo Impressionists were influenced by the impressionist painters of their day. This collection asks if those painters were influenced by photography.

From my experience, I believe there is a strong connection between the tools available and the artists direction. The rise of digital photography provided an easy way to experiment with style and subject. Was Eastman’s Kodak just as liberating for photographers in the 1880’s? Was photography itself a comparable change for painters of the day?

Why I shoot in the round and why photo impressionism?

It is unexpected. Photographic images that capture a subject in a way that is generalized. That is why I am attracted to photo impressionism as an art form and in the round photography as a technique.

Think about it. We spend years and considerable sums perfecting our craft. Photographs are judged by their crisp focus and their perfect exposure. But these technically perfect images don’t always convey the essence of the subject. Often a subject has to be deconstructed first. It has to be reduced to its essentials before we can really understand it.

20140312-20140312-_DSC3134-Edit.jpg

When I was first exposed to in the round photographs of trees made by Pep Ventosa I was drawn to them but couldn’t say why. It was only later, looking at a real tree, that I understood his technique really is a deconstruction; and that is unexpected too. When you bring dozens of photographs of a single subject together you would expect them to add to the photograph’s detail. But it doesn’t. Instead shooting in he round averages the scene, creating a new view point based on what is common; not what is different.

I will continue to shoot and enjoy”straight” photographs. But photo impressionism is a passion and there is so much to explore.

For thoughts on photo impressionistic technique see http://www.dagostino.ca/category/technique/

Just Outside The Met – New York

New York is a magical place for photographers. For me it’s the energy of the place; the people; the mix of architecture.

We were walking south on 5th Avenue. A bright morning. The crowds pulling towards the Met and I wanted to capture that feeling. The image above is my second shot. A three second motion blur taken while walking. I guess you might call it a forward pan.

The back story is this. I usually shoot with a Nikon D4. It’s a great camera and my favourite for photo impressionistic experiments. But add a couple of lenses to your bag and after a while the weight is oppressive. A recent back injury forced me to consider other options so I thought I would try a compact system and bought a Nikon N1 J2. In picking the J2 price was a big factor. Nikon’s release of the updated J3 means there are plenty of deals on new cameras.

I was surprised at the image quality of the N1 J2. Even more surprising was the system’s versatility. It shoots Raw (NEF format) which can be a life saver. While it won’t shoot in camera multiple exposures; the shutter releases quickly allowing me to reproduce the effect in Photoshop. The camera gives you shutter and aperture control meaning long exposures are a possibility. Match the lens with a Cameron Fader ND filter using a step up adapter and you have some great creative choices. In my view this is a great alternative for my photo impressionism projects. My only complaint is the LCD can be a pain to use on a bright day. I like using a viewfinder.

For my taste, long exposures and in camera multiple multiple exposures are too soft and washed out. As a result I colour correct and add structure to my photo impressionistic images in Photoshop. In this case I have used NIK’s tonal contrast filter and the mid-tone conturing action from Vincent Versace.

photography, photo impressionism and infrared black & white

%d bloggers like this: