Category Archives: Photographs: Abstract

Tower

Tower
Tall building in shadow, San Francisco

Tower. San Francisco, California. May 6, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Tall building in shadow, San Francisco

I have a series of photographs, a series that contains only a few images, that I call “imaginary landscapes” — photographs that do not attempt to be objectively real depictions (not that photographs can truly succeed at such a thing) but instead go for what I might term a subjective reality. This photograph is perhaps the urban equivalent to those. An “urban imaginary landscape” perhaps?

The source image came from a recent visit to San Francisco, when I was in a location where I could look directly toward the outer shells of a number of very tall buildings. Because the weather was overcast, the light was muted and it made its way into shadowed areas that might otherwise be very dark. This produced a source image that allowed me a great deal of leeway for interpretation in post.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

A Door

A Door
Etched glass door to outdoor light

A Door. Mission Viejo, California. April 2, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Etched glass door and outdoor light

This is either really interesting (somewhat interesting?) or a really great illustration of what can make photographers so annoying! With a camera in my hand, I start to see differently, and things that would otherwise often escape my notice start to catch my attention and intrigue me, and they sometimes become photographs. At almost any time the visual impulse may kick in and I’ll see something that demands to be photographed. This was one of those times.

We were visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Southern California, after our landscape and nature photography trek to Death Valley. Enjoying a few lazy days after working the desert, we were sitting around at their home doing nothing in particular that I can remember — when I noticed that the colors of objects behind this door and outside were being reflected and refracted in such a way that the etched surface of the glass was producing intense colors. The glass actually has no color — everything seen here is either the color of something behind the glass or a refraction of some sort.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Dunes, Sky

Dunes, Sky
Sand dunes, shadows, and morning clouds

Dunes, Sky. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Sand dunes, shadows, and morning clouds

Another photograph from another morning among the dunes. Because of the daily wind and dust storms during this visit to Death Valley National Park, we had many opportunities to find sand dunes with no or few signs of other visitors besides those creatures that actually live there. We approached the dunes in a variety of ways during this visit, and I photographed them almost daily, sometimes more than one. But I always came at them from a direction that wasn’t the most popular or best known. This time I came around on a looping route from a side and swing around behind some low, sandy areas to photograph in early morning light.

There is a lot to see in the dunes, and I had a few ideas as we arrived at the edge of the dunes. (While I usually don’t begin with a specific photograph it mind, I often have some general conceptual ideas I want to explore, and I keep my eyes open for subjects that could work along those lines.) I started with some old dry playa textures in front of the valley floor leading of toward distant mountains as the sun rose, and then I climbed some short dunes to look for interesting curving shapes and conjunctions of lines and subjects. I photographed some creosote plants against sand patterns and eventually moved deeper into the dunes, seeing the rippling textures of wind-blown sand draped across hills and valleys. I stopped to photograph a bit of sand texture straight on, and when I looked up and to the side I saw this series of curving horizontal lines with the cloudy sky above and beyond.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Geese, Twilight

Geese, Twilight
Geese, Twilight

Geese, Twilight. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 25, 2015 © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Abstract photograph of low-flying flock of geese in twilight

It has been a while since I share a fuzzy goosescape, so I’ll try to make up for it with this one. Late in the evening of a long day photographing migratory birds and the San Joaquin Valley landscape, after the sun had set, I made this last photograph of the day in very low light. As we photograph on into the evening — typically with the camera off the tripod when photographing birds — we try to keep up with the fading light by opening up the aperture, raising the ISO, and gradually lengthening the shutter speed.

Eventually there comes a point where the light is so low that this won’t allow sharp photographs of moving birds any more. I actually look forward to this end-of-the-evening time and I happily switch over to intentional motion blur photographs. I lower the ISO, close down the aperture, lengthen the shutter speed and try for soft, blurring photographs. A lot of this work is rather experimental, since you can’t completely know what you’ll get ahead of time. You do have some control — shutter speed controls just how much blur there will be; by panning the camera you can get moving subjects to be defined enough to recognize; by moving the camera you can control the angles and curves of lines of blurred light. And when it all works out just right the result can be quite beautiful and, in some ways, more suggestive of the feeling of this place at twilight.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Winter Dusk, Three Birds

Winter Dusk, Three Birds
Winter Dusk, Three Birds

Winter Dusk, Three Birds. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 1, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Motion blur abstraction of a winter scene with three birds landing

Near the end of the day, well along into the dusk hour, with light fading fast, I decided to take advantage of the poor light and “play” a bit with very slow shutter speeds and intentional camera motion. By moving the camera in various ways during the exposure I can control to some extent the angle, length, and linearity of the blur. In some cases it is enough to just track the birds — and give the less fuzzy image of the three central birds, I am pretty certain that is what I was doing here. In other cases I can basically ignore the motion of my subjects and simply think about how to move the camera to create patterns in the motion blur.

I’ve often felt that working for sharply focused, stopped motion images of birds is not the only way to depict whatever it is that attracts me to them. The camera lets us see birds in ways that we really cannot usually see them with our own eyes. When birds are in motion it is almost impossible — at least with many types of birds — to clearly see them. They move too fast and the motion of wings is essentially impossible to track visually. And when we do stop them with a fast shutter speed, while we get to see them with a kind of clarity that isn’t otherwise possible, we may also sacrifice that sense of constant motion. So I started playing with the idea of intentionally avoiding sharp focus, allowing camera motion to come into play and using slow shutter speeds to allow the birds to blur and to blur their surroundings as the camera moves. To me, this sometimes evokes more strongly the feeling of the fast motion that I observe among these birds, and creates a different sort of honest portrayal of them.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Two People, Railing, Walls

Two People, Railing, Walls
Two People, Railing, Walls

Two People, Railing, Walls. New York City. December 29, 2013. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Two figures seen through a gap in walls at the top of a stairway.

There is probably not too much to say about this photograph, though I could probably say a lot about it if I got started. During a rainy day visit to a New York City museum, I saw the gap between walls at the top of this stairway and the effects on color and luminosity of the various different sources of reflected light in this space. I lined up with the scene to leave a slender gap between the corners of two walls so that people passing by in the hallway would momentarily show up in this gap. I tried a variety of focus points – on the people, on the edges of the walls, on the railings… but in the end I liked the version that doesn’t really focus on anything specific.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Paint on Metal Wall

Paint on Metal Wall
Paint on Metal Wall

Paint on Metal Wall. Brooklyn, New York. December 27, 2013. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Colorful patches of spray paint on a metal wall, Brooklyn, New York

While wandering around in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn, between a walk in one direction on the Brooklyn Bridge and a walk back in the other direction on the Manhattan Bridge, we walked up some streets under the flyover at the Brooklyn end of the Manhattan Bridge. This is not what you might think of as a “special” area, being beneath a bridge and containing at least some of the expected forms of urban decay. Surprisingly though there were some interesting things to see here – nice light on this day and some urban/street subjects.

As we walked up one narrow street we passed, as I recall it, some storage yards and similar that were fenced off from the roadway and sidewalks. I think this was part of a section of metal fencing along the sidewalk. I remember looking at this very bizarre pattern of colorful paint and wondering how it got there. There were no signs on the wall at this point, but it looked like someone must have spray-painted some objects in front of the wall, and done so more than once and with a wild variety of colors – blue, hot pink, fluorescent green, several shades of hello, orange, black, and more. This accidental art seems to be the result of the creation of something else that was nowhere to be found.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.