There is a balance in impressionist photography between the moment you remember and the precise instant of the photograph. My exploration has focussed on finding approaches that expand time to become that moment. Opacity Blend Image Stacking produces a result that comes close to that balance. This is what I do.
1. create the stack using Lightroom
The images for this photo impressionistic wave were shot at 60 fps using Nikon’s N1 V3. I shoot hand held being careful to maintain a constant point on the subject even though the camera is panning. The images are then imported into Lightroom.
The images are then selected for the stack. The more images you use, the more impressionistic the effect.
Right click to reveal the menu then select + .
Since I often use Starcircleacademy’s Advanced Stacker app to create additional texture I also export the images to a separate folder at this point.
2. digital darkroom in Photoshop
In Photoshop the stack has to be blended to produce the base image. A good blend can be achieved by starting at the bottom of the stack and then reducing the opacity of the layer above it by about 50% until you reach 3-5%. Don’t be mechanistic with this step. Creativity with opacity significantly impacts on the finished result.
I merge the stack after balancing the opacity to produce a manageable file size. Note the blend results in a flat image. I address that later in my workflow.
If I am going to use the Advanced Stacker App I run it here and then drag the layer over to my stacked image for blending. Note that the App is really just another opacity blend using the lighten mode. In doing so I find it often emphasises movement.
Again I opacity blend until I am happy with the image.
The more traditional darkroom work begins at this point. I colour balance using the black point/white point/midpoint technique.
Often the black point/white point layers have to be balanced.
The process to this point has produced a flat lifeless image as a result the image averaging that has taken place. I add dimensionality to my photo impressionistic images using Nik’s Pro Contrast filter.
Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of Matt Molloy’s time stacking technique. He has taken an approach developed by starcircleacademy.com for long astro photography time lapses and reimagined it as an approach for clouds.
“my favorite is often what I call “time stacking”. This technique of layering multiple still photos has been used for years to create “stars trails” from timelapse sequences.”
Matt’s technique is described in a blog post published on 500px.com last year. Its a great read and provides some insight into this approach.
Tutorial: Time Stack:
Published by Alexandra Kim · March 7th 2014
Today I’d like to introduce the brilliant Matt Molloy, photography enthusiast and budding professional. He’s the author of those amazing impressionist inspired photos. So many people have asked how to do this technique, and he’s been gracious enough to share it here with us! Please enjoy this Time Stack Tutorial.
I’ve always been amazed by timelapse photography and the unique perspective of time it gives you. Once I got into photography, it was a natural direction for me to go. The more I explored timelapse photography, the more I realized how versatile it is. You can get so much out of a timelapse; an interesting video; the perfect shot (selected from several hundred photos of the same scene), enhanced details and distortion correction (often done in astrophotography); or removing elements from a scene (like cars or people). Last, but not least, my favorite is often what I call “time stacking”. This technique of layering multiple still photos has been used for years to create “stars trails” from timelapse sequences.
Here is an example of a “star trail” image I created from a series of 305 photos.
Once I made a few star trail images, I wondered why I’ve never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. I tried it and, after a little tweaking here and there, I was astounded by the resulting images! They are kind of like a super long exposure, showing a large chunk of time in a single image, which is very much like the Impressionist movement that some clever painters came up with around the year 1870.
Here is my very first attempt at a daylight “timestack”.
Here’s what you need to make a “time stack” yourself:
A camera and an intervalometer (a device to make your camera take pictures repeatedly at a given interval). If you have a Canon camera, like I do, there’s a good chance that you can download free software called Magic Lantern that gives you lots of new features including an intervalometer built right into your camera. Perhaps there’s similar software for other brands of cameras, and if not, most cameras will be able to use a remote control that includes intervalometer function. Here’s a bunch of different remotes.
I am expanding the scope of the Photo Impressionism Project to include a discussion concerning photo impressionistic techniques. The project is called “The Lab” and am opening it up to all photo impressionists who are interested in sharing “how I did this”. The idea is to create a discussion; what works and what you might say… not so much.
Taylor’s abstract photographs are unique and visually compelling. I find they have a sense of movement and depth you don’t expect in the abstract. In fact the first time I saw them I paused, first drawn to the movement, then the colour and finally the suggestion of a deliberate photographic process.
“The first reaction I usually get when someone sees one of my prints is oh, that’s a picture of a painting.” – Nashville Arts Magazine
I first came across Taylor Jorjorian browsing the blogs on WordPress.com. Son to fine art nature photographer (Byron Jorjorian), Taylor Jorjorian’s first aspiration was to be a commercial chef, but as he describes it, photographing food was more satisfying than cooking it. Creatively his journey has moved from painting, to commercial photography to fine art photography focussing on the abstract.
Taylor’s photographs are created using a process he calls the Liberum method; a technique he is not prepared to share except to say it is physical, not Photoshop based. Looking at his portfolio I think that is an important aspect to his creative process. Despite the fact the images have a painterly feel they also seem to lever the dimensionality we have come to expect in a photograph. He told Nashville Arts Magazine that:
“Wanting more control over my imagery I have developed a method for making photographs that allows me to escape the viewfinder and create deeply personal images from imagination and memory. I call this my “Libuerm” method. Liberum is a latin word meaning free and unrestricted. This simple definition fully embodies what my work is all about.
They are actual photographs created with a camera, using purely photographic techniques. This is important, as I believe it gives my work a more organic feel while maintaining a sense of honesty and integrity. When you view one of my photographs, you know that you are seeing something that is real and was in front of the camera for a moment in time.” – Nashville Arts Magazine
Reading Taylor’s blog you immediately understand that his approach to photography is thoughtful and deliberate. Despite the appearance of spontaneity his photographs are created; not found.
Taylor recently agreed to share some of his thinking with me.
Interview with Taylor Jorjorian:
Thanks for finding time to discuss photography with me.
SD: I was interested to read in Nashville Magazine that your father was a fine art nature photographer and that you started as a commercial photographer. However I don’t see any artifacts from those roots in your abstract images. Was your journey from straight photography to abstract photography a eureka moment or a journey?
TJ: I have always been attracted to the abstract, both in my own work and the work of others. Before I ever picked up a camera I experimented with other mediums and always tended to portray subjects in an obscure manner. When I did finally take up photography (which was a eureka moment itself, taking place in single night) the desire to create abstract work naturally carried over.
Professionally I was a commercial photographer and mainly did advertising work for restaurants. I really didn’t have any connection with this work and found it non stimulating. In my spare time I experimented with abstract photography using some common methods but found this as equally non stimulating. As much as I as I loved the unique abilities of the camera I found myself feeling creatively constrained by it, unable to fully express myself.
Earlier in life when painting I enjoyed the feeling of being able to convey onto canvas anything I wanted without restriction. I wanted that same freedom photographically. To achieve this I decided to focus on creating and controlling the subject that was projected to camera. Thus turning the camera into a sort of high tech blank canvas. This was a eureka moment but it was definitely a journey to get it right. Once I felt I had developed a solid working method I dropped commercial photography all together and decided to only focus on fine art work.
TJ: Visually my photographs could fall into a number of existing genres. Early on I studied many of these trying to find a fit for my imagery but none of them truly encompassed my work in its entirety. After dissecting my work visually and technically I decided to classify it as “Photographic Surreal Impressionism”. This classification signifies that the images are created with a camera and conveys a personal interpretation of a subject in the same dreamlike way it is mentally imagined.
I also gave a title to the process used to create the work, “The Liberum Method”. Based on the philosophy of subject creation rather than subject documentation this method is all about manifesting what is portrayed to the camera. Liberum is Latin word meaning free and unrestricted. This simple definition truly represents what my work is all about.
SD: While your vision is very different from many exploring the edges of contemporary photography it looks like you have been struggling with a couple of universal themes. For example your blog post “Portfolio Rejection” underscores the debate “what is a photograph”. I am wondering what you believe photography brings to your abstract images?
TJ: Without photography my body of work could not exist. The camera has the unique ability to capture and portray a moment in time precisely the way it was. No other artistic medium can truly do this with the same sense of honesty that photography can. Using the camera allows me to convey this sense of moment through my imagery. When you are viewing one of my photographs you know that you are viewing something that was real and existed for a moment in time. This helps to convey a sense of honesty and provides a more organic feel to the work. that would not be possible without the element of integrity that a camera can offer.
SD: The debate around truth in photography has been with us for a long time. Even Ansel Adams suggests a subjective element in straight photography when he said “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” You added to that debate with a thoughtful essay on the subject titled The Photography Lie in which you suggest the pendulum has gone too far; that digital art should be separated from photography. What was the reaction to your ideas in that essay. Do you think the debate matters to the public or is it only relevant to photographers?
TJ: It was overwhelming. I would be lying if said I didn’t know this would be hot issue but I did not expect the volume of responses I received. My inbox was filled with responses. As you might expect I received a good bit of harsh criticism, some of which was very “colorfully” worded. On the other hand I found many like minded artists in my corner. The majority seemed to agree that there was a difference in what we have traditionally called photography and digital-art that should be better defined.
I actually believe this debate is more relevant to the public than the artists creating the work. The photographer produces the image but the viewer is subjected to it. One example of this is the effect that over processed fashion/glamour images have on the audience. How many people, especially young persons, have made themselves sick both mentally and physically trying to look like the models in these “photographs”? When in reality these images have been so heavily edited that they are more like paintings rather than photographs.
SD: Another aspect of the impact of technology on contemporary photography is the rise of the web followed by the rise of social media. I know your interest is in fine art prints. What has your experience been with the internet?
TJ: I am/have always been a bricks and mortar type of guy. Most of my efforts have been in trying to get my work shown in either physical form or in print. While I have always understood the importance of a personal website I was a nonbeliever in the power of social media and neglected the use of it in the early stages of my career. This was a mistake.
After eventually being persuaded that I should have some kind of social presence I realized how wrong I had been. In the two years since I started a blog and became active on various social media sites I have been awakened to there power. Solely through these online tools I have had multiple opportunities including write ups, magazine features, exhibitions, meeting some great people and even the chance to do this interview. Many times these have lead directly or indirectly to relationships with new collectors. Had I not has a social presence these opportunities would have never presented themselves.
All that being said I am still a brick and mortar type guy. I don’t think an image posted on a webpage can ever be as compelling as seeing the physical piece in person.
SD: Which image is your personal favourite and why?
TJ: It seems like every time I finish a successful shoot I come away with a new favorite. If I had to name one that stands out to me it would be, “Tracey Did I Lock The Door, Are You Sure?”. Completed in 2009 this photograph represents one of the first times that my philosophy towards image making and my experimental techniques truly came together harmoniously. At the time this image vindicated, for me personally, the direction I was taking creatively.
SD: Last thing I want to ask you about is an interesting theme I see in your writing and that is the role of ethics in photography. Why is that important to you when your genre is not tied to journalism?
TJ: The term photography implies a process that is fundamentally understood by most people. The loose application of that term is misleading to the viewer and breeds a mistrust towards the photographic medium. I am not suggesting that a photograph itself need be honest or anything like that. Only that the photographer/artist be so regarding their creative process.
SD: Thanks for that. This is an exciting time for impressionist photography and I am looking forward to seeing where you take your vision.
Using long exposure, multiple exposure, digital stitching and photo stacking, photographers are going beyond the limits of photo-realistic, representative work. Photographers are demonstrating their imagination, inspiration, and interpretation in their efforts to move from realism to emotion and expression. Like the original impressionists painters, these photographers are incorporating movement as the fundamental and essential feature of the experience of the art. This art seems to transcend the literal and become the stuff of dreams, movement and imagination.
There are dozens of really talented photographers posting photo impressionistic images on photo sharing sites such as flickr and 500px. Here is a selection of images which that have been tagged “photo impressionism” sorted using flickrs’ interestinglyness algorithm or in the case of 500px, votes.
“My time stack photos are much like a modern version of impressionism. By combining multiple photos into one image, it shows how light and other elements change over time. This gives a unique sense of movement in an otherwise still image.”
According to Molloy’s biography his artistic pursuits are multidisciplinary; music, painting, drawing and experimental time-lapse photography. I think you can see the influence of the painter in his work .
I really his Power Plant (above). The blocks of colour remind me of the northern lights and that contrast against the silhouette of the power plant with a hint of snow and ice is striking. If you look at the cloud blocks close to the horizon the colour is rich with nice smooth shapes drawing your eye and as your eye travels up the staccato effect trails off to the edge.
This is my personal favourite in his current portfolio. In two dimensions Molloy has been able to capture a moment in time we have all experienced; boiling clouds before a summer storm.
There is real drama close to the horizon. Again this in this image our eye moves to the top edge where the clouds start to lose their form as they bleed off the page.
“The exposure I’ve received through 500px has been great. I didn’t expect the “time stacking” tutorial to get so much feedback, but I’m glad it did. It’s brought me lots of new followers and likely got me some sales, so the hard work payed off.”
What I find more interesting than the technique is its origins. Almost every photo impressionist I follow had a eureka moment; an idea spawned from something unrelated that compelled them to produce photo impressionistic images.
Molloy started his journey with time lapse time photography. The time tracking stacking technique has been used for years in astrophotography to produce star trails.
“Once I made a few star trail images, I wondered why I’ve never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. I tried it and, after a little tweaking here and there, I was astounded by the resulting images! They are kind of like a super long exposure, showing a large chunk of time in a single image, which is very much like the Impressionist movement that some clever painters came up with around the year 1870.”
Its worth looking at the time lapse video Molloy produced to see the genius here. Time lapse compresses time into a few moments. Time stacking captures the moment by compressing time into a single frame. It’s an idea that I have struggled with for many years (see my artist’s statement for example).
I am always interested to know which images are an artist’s favourites. Molloy identified the following 3 and gave me his thoughts on why.
Its hard not to fall in love with Sunset Spectrum; big colour, big sky, classic pastoral scene. To me this one feels like a crossover between the best elements of an impressionist painting and a traditional one. The contrast in styles is great here as it is in his other examples. Molloy told me that “Sunset Spectrum” is one of his favorite time stacks because “it has so many different colours in the sky. I think the barn and the field are a nice anchor for the image.”
Icy Sunset has some of the elements I like in Power Plant but here the jagged ice is a rough reflection of the staccato clouds above. for that reason I think it is a powerful image.
According to Molloy “Icy Sunset is one of my favorite time stacks because it shows clouds that were moving in different directions, but the thing I like most is the crazy foreground. Every year the ice breaks up and it often gets piled up along the shore, it’s always an amazing sight to see.”
Crocheting Clouds (below) is an explosion of colour. In many ways it best captures my memories of late August twilight in Muskoka. For a real treat let your eye wander through the reflections in the water.
“Crocheting the Clouds ” was selected by Molloy as a favorites “because of the rich colours of the clouds. It’s nice that they were reflected in the water too. I think the texture of the clouds is interesting and their paths seem to radiate from the big tree, which leads the eye nicely.”
I had an experience with a painting – to say I merely looked at it wouldn’t do the moment justice – that made me wonder whether my own work created a similar experience in others, and if not – which is what I suspected – why not, and was there a way I could do that?
An interesting side bar; based on the file names, the images in the duChemin’s post are from his iphone.
Since writing this post duChemin has published The Visual Imagination. I hope to review it soon. Till then you can find it at:
Eastman’s portfolio focuses on slow shutter ICM images. They are really quite ethereal; almost painterly. The portfolio alone is worth the $8 magazine price.
The portfolio is drawn from two recent collections. I prefer the “Natural Dance” images over his “Horse Rider” collection. The slow shutter adds to the mystery created by his use of natural locations. Because of the trees they have me thinking of Emily Carr although the subject matter is very different.