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.
Over the years photography for me became much more than recording where I have been. Conveying the impression that the scene in front of me leaves on my mind became more important than a purely literal representation.
In my photographs I strive to capture the atmosphere and emotions that the surrounding world evokes in me, and hopefully pass on the feeling to the viewers. Photo impressionism is one of the techniques that allows to simplify the subject down to its essence, and reveal the sense that it creates. Similarly to when you glance at a scene without focusing on detail. The impression it leaves is that of colours, shapes and textures.
Therefore I dedicated a part of my work to experimenting with the intentional camera movement (ICM) and multiple exposure techniques commonly used in photo impressionism.
This image is a result of using these techniques. I was standing at the edge of a woodland, when I spotted the regular pattern created by the tree trunks, interspersed by the autumnal colours of the leaves on the forest floor. The colours were gradually merging into the darkness of the thick forest with no distracting highlights. A perfect combination of colours and shapes to paint with the camera.
I experimented with ICM, however I was not very happy with the results, which were simply streaks of colours. I wanted to preserve a little bit of texture in the leaves and tree trunks. Therefore I decided to use the double exposure functionality of my camera. The first exposure was a straight image with f5.6 aperture, focused on the trees closest to the camera. For the second exposure I chose a smaller aperture f16 to increase the shutter speed and to be able to capture the camera movement.
I post-processed the image in Adobe Lightroom 5, where I increased the contrast and clarity. I used the radial tool to darken the edges. Then I brought the image into Adobe Photoshop CS6 to further enhance the contrast and colours using the curves and NikSoftware ColorPro plugin.
The result is just enough detail to portray a late autumnal day in a forest, but without all the distractions that our minds tend to dwell on when observing the real world.
Editors Note: This is the first image of Vanda’s to catch my attention. I found it on Flickr where Vanda regularly exhibits her photo impressionistic vision. You can also find her on Facebook. Her website can be found at http://www.mylenscapes.co.uk/ Vanda’s work is definately worth checking out. Thanks for sharing your technique.
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.
“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 have been following Bob Cruthcher on Flicker for a couple of months now and enjoy his use of intentional camera movement (ICM) together with a slow shutter speeds to produce visually compelling images.
One of my goals this year is to feature the work of photographers who are experimenting with impressionistic technique.
I have been following Bob Cruthcher on Flicker for a couple of months now and enjoy his use of intentional camera movement (ICM) together with a slow shutter speeds to produce visually compelling images. Crutcher lives in St. John’s Newfoundland. Looking at his Flickr Photostream St. John’s is visually rich environment.
Earlier this year Crutcher told me that “Legs” (the lead image above) was his favourite impressionistic photograph. It is a strong composition with lots of visual interest drawing the eye from left to right. I like the saturated colour and strong sense of motion. The exif data tells a lot about the technique. Shot using a Canon Rebel and a medium telephoto at 1/8th of a second, the camera appears to be moved slightly vertically during the exposure.
Vertical ICM isn’t new. Freeman Patterson, another east coaster, used it effectively in the mid 90’s to create trees with height and weight to rival an Emily Carr. But with a deft hand and a new point of view Crutcher has given the approach fresh look.
I also like the compositional range. Some images are tight crops; looking for the picture in the picture. Others are wide perspective like the one below. Nicely done Bob.
I follow the blog photographic punctuation because of the strong impressionistic images and thoughtful commentary. Many of the images are taken with an iPhone.
If you wander through the images on the blog you will notice a grittiness and contrastingly a dreaminess. Take this one for example. The low resolution black and white creates drama but in a way that generalizes the subject; drawing the viewer in. The strong composition is not just because of the artist’s adherence to the rule of thirds, but look at the juxtaposition of the background reflection. Nicely done!
I knew the phone would be passed to me. I knew this once she took the call. She showed me the caller ID as it rang and vibrated in her palm. Hello, she said, her gaze fixed on me. Yes, she said, this is me. She lowered her head and listened intently. Sorry, she said, can you repeat, she said. She turned from me and walked a few steps ahead. I see, she said. Yes, she said. Yes, what? I said. She turned again and raised her head and looked at me, mouthing something. What? I said. With her arm and hand fully extended she passed me the phone. You talk, she said. Hello, I said.
Photographic art is a reflection of current cultural influences and the technology available to the photographer. Pictorialists, the forerunners of photo impressionism were strongly influenced by the impressionist painters of their day. But did the influence go both ways? Were the Impressionists inspired by photography? A recent exhibition of early photographs and impressionist paintings at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art suggests they did.
I found the promotional material for the exhibition an interesting read. According to the UMMA’s web site:
“This exhibition advances a new argument for the origins of what was called “the new painting,” namely that a unique convergence of forces—social, artistic, technological, and commercial—along the Normandy coast of France dramatically transformed the course of photography and painting (as well as of the region itself). Within this framework, the invention of the camera and the development of early fine art photography in that particular setting will be seen as the specific catalysts that brought about a new approach to painting.”
Elsewhere the promotional material for the exhibition says:
“”After gazing at Monet’s or Courbet’s work, it’s a short step to grasp how photographers’ quest to “arrest motion” became aesthetically valid and how instantaneity captured their imagination, said McNamara.”
I am not sure that is really what was going on. These photographers were not trying to arrest motion for its own sake. Like painters of their day they fought against the tools at hand to capture the essence of a their subject; and the technology at hand was limited, cumbersome and expensive. Remember that Eastman did not introduce a practical portable camera until about 1888.
It may be true that the photography en plein air challenged painters to do the same but I don’t agree that arresting motion was a factor. For me the open question is whether the photographers of this period would have moved towards impressionistic images if they had access to better tools? Was it a coincidence that Pictorialism traces its roots to about the time of the first Kodak?
“’The Lens of Impressionism’ is clearly an exhibition that draws on history, but raises contemporary issues,” said McNamara. “With the Internet and the proliferation of images in our culture, questions arise about originality. These were the same issues facing Impressionist artists working at a time when photography was influencing how they looked at the world.”