Tag Archives: Photo Impressionism

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/.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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/

 

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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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.

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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.

Tulips In The Round

Another experiment in my “in the round” series. The idea is to capture images all around the subject and then bring them together as a merged image in Photoshop to create more of a gestalt impression of the subject. The more I try this technique though, the more I find it is the deconstruction of the image that interests me; simplifying and reducing to produce a photo impressionistic sense.

For this example I followed the technique I have described in earlier posts. As with most multiple exposure images, the merged result is soft and there is a bit of a colour shift. For some this may be the impressionistic sense they are looking for but I like a bit more structure. In post production I almost always colour balance the image using the black point – white point technique, then using NIK’s filters I add a touch of contrast and then “fluff up” the pixels a bit using the mid tone contrast filter. Masking is important with these filters otherwise you will find there is no movement in the image. I always finish my images using Vincent Versace’s tonal contrast action which I control with a mask.

I really like the result here. A simple impression of a vase of tulips. The in the round approach and the random effect created by multiple images creates a painterly feel; a good example of photo Impressionism.

Apple Blossoms In The Round 2 – University of Toronto Law School Turning Circle

Spring brings some wonderful opportunities to explore “in the round photography”.

The idea is to capture the essence of an object in its environment by taking photographs from many points of view and then merging them into a single image. And the result is often a simplified version of the origin, bathed in muted soft pastel’s. I was first exposed to this idea in New York where you can find wonderful examples by Pep Ventosa at the Lumas gallery in Soho.
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In this case I carefully walked in a circle around the apple tree taking a pictures every few paces. For each picture the tree was lined up in my view finder using the grid lines. Of course you can’t line your subject up perfectly but the process is very forgiving because the result is really an average of your efforts. In terms of numbers think 20 or more pictures.

Because the image is averaged there are other surprising results. While I was shooting a service truck parked in my point of view. It was obvious I was shooting so I was upset that the truck would create a distracting element in the background but as you can see it vanished when the images were blended together. Same thing with the “no parking” signs posted around the tree.

I start post processing in Lightroom where I select all the images I plan to use and then open them in Photoshop as layers. For this one I used an opacity blending script but the blending can also be achieved manually. For manual blending try reducing the opacity of each image by about 50% of the image before it.

I find the result of opacity blending a bit too soft so I use NIK’s tonal contrast filter and Vincent Versace’s mid tone contrast action.

Homage To The Marthoners

Pictorialism: The root of photo Impressionism

Impressionistic photography has been with us since the beginning.

Contemporaneous with Eastman’s invention of the handheld camera, the Pictorialists (1885 -1915) tried to extend the flourishing impressionist movement using soft focus, post production techniques and the suggestion of movement to create images that were more artistic than documentary. The effect was painterly, pleasing and controversial. Looking at their work you see the roots photo impressionism.

 

Equivalent 1926: Alfred Stieglitz

The American photographer Alfred Stieglitz was an early evangelist for this impressionist movement. Starting as a Pictorialist he produced and advocated for impressionistic photography that was more artful than scientific but later advocated the antithetical movement “straight photography” which is the main influence in photography today.

 

The Maypole Pole (Empire State Building) Edward Steichen - example of early multiple exposure photo impressionism

A contemporary of Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, was also an early photo impressionist. Together they would play a significant role in making photography an art form rather than a documentary technique. Using multiple exposure (sandwiched negatives) and long exposures Steichen’s photographs were hugely popular. The Empire State Building image above, for example, appeared in Vanity Fair.

The Flatiron Building Edward Steichen

It is clear that the  modern photo impressionistic movement really is a continuation or rebirth of Pictorialism.

For more see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PictorialismAlfred Stieglitz

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ipic/hd_ipic.htm

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pict/hd_pict.htm

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/stei/hd_stei.htm

Merry Christmas

This image of the Swarovski Christmas Tree was taken at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. 32 images were taken all around the tree then merged together using Tony Sweet’s Layer Stack Opacity Blending script. The resulting image was colour corrected then given a bit of structure using NIK’s tonal contrast filter.

Evergreen trees are a perfect subject for “in-the-round” photography and the christmas tree is the perfect evergreen. I think it is the symmetry that makes it such a good subject. And the strong personal connection to Christmas makes the image more compelling.

I have been shooting “in the round” for about 2 years now and have developed a few personal approaches to the subject. Of course photo Impressionism is meant to be creativity without boundaries or rules but I think you need a bit of craft to make this technique work. Here are some thoughts:

– the subject needs an axis. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical but you have to visualize it spinning like a top and if that visualization works you have something.

– the more you accomplish in camera, the less contrived the result will appear. In the round is inherently messy and the photographer must bring order to the chaos. I accomplish this by careful framing the subject using the grid lines in my view finder. It seems to work best for me if the camera is handheld but the subject (the axis) is carefully maintained between the bottom top grid lines so that its size and location in the frame is constant.

– because the final image is composed of a large number photographs, individual elements tend to dissolve into a textured background unless they are repeated. For example, people walking through your shot tend to disappear while people standing tend to remain a compositional element.

– shoot lots- then shoot some more. I think the technique needs about 30 images minimum to work properly. I try to maintain the same distance from the axis element of the image and use a zoom to fine tune the size of the main subject.

– post production – I start in Lightroom where I select the images I intend to use and then open them in Photoshop as layers.

– once in photoshop you can use a tool such as Tony Sweet’s layer stack opacity script or for more control start with the bottom layer and manually decrease the opacity of each layer above by about 50% ( eg 100 50 25 13 6% opacity) until you get to about 6%. Play with the image order and opacity until you achieve your vision. Resist the urge to fix alignment issues in photoshop.

– the resulting image is going to look a bit washed out so I generally add a bit of life back using a white/black point colour correction, contrast, and NIK’s tonal contrast filter.

Updated: A Personal Milestone 190,000 Views on Flickr

Promoting Photo Impressionism as a genre has always been the main goal of my Internet activity.

While I have tried other sites (such as 500px) Flickr has played a big part along with this website.

My observation is that Flickr has a large and active community of photographers interested in pushing their craft beyond the shackles of “straight photography”. I see lots of experimentation on Flickr and that is the essence of the impressionistic image.

Lately I have noticed that most of my views on Flickr are originating from other sites such as Google Images and blogs. I see that broader exposure as another powerful reason to keep a presence on Flickr.

As photographers we really do live in the best of times, and the worst of times. International exposure is just a click away. On the other hand strong images are so readily available I wonder if it has depreciated the art form?

Via Flickr:
Toronto International Dragon Boat Race – dragged shutter technique ( 0.7 seconds). www.dagostino.ca

Useful Photoshop Tools For Impressionistic Images

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The big technical challenge in producing photo impressionistic images as a montage (as opposed to an in camera multiple exposure) is working with large numbers of images and huge file sizes. Some of my recent experiments (Washington Square in the round for example) have used close to 40 images, resulting in file sizes over Apple’s 2 gig file limit.

Even in camera multiple exposures have issues. I find then to be inherently soft and, depending on the camera, suffer from from a red cast.

Here are a couple of tools I have found to be useful time savers:

Creating A Layer Stack In Photoshop

Adobe Lightroom is my first choice to produce a layer stack in Photoshop because I already use it to manage my images. Select your images then right click for the menu choice.

Dr Brown’s Stackomatic. A great script you launch from Adobe Bridge to create a layer stack.

Opacity Control

Layer Stack Opacity Blending Script. A great script from Digital Outback Photography based on some thinking by Tony Sweet. The script calculates opacity and merges layers into a multiple exposure style image. There are no controls but the result is nice.

Mike Hale’s Stack Mode Panels. I use this panel often to test the effect of changing the blend mode.

File Size Reduction

Perfect Resize makes file sizing, in both directions, a snap. This is important for me because Adobe Lightroom is an important part of my workflow and it does not recognize files saved in large image format (.psb). Often my working files are much larger than Apple’s 2 gig file size limit.

Basic Digital Darkroom

In camera multiple exposures bring their own challenges. My fuji S2 adds a pronounced red shift which is significantly reduced in the S5. As well there is a softness associated with multiple exposures that may have to be addressed.

Vincent Versace has produced some great actions (associated with his books and DVD courses) for correcting white/black point and mid tone contouring.

NIK has a great tonal contrast filter.