Tag Archives: tree

Autumn Forest Impressionism

Impressionist photography is one of the personal projects I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. And since autumn is my favourite season, photographically speaking,  I strive to take as many impressionist pictures as I can during the fall.

Multiple in camera exposures of a tree in a fall forest

I immediately noticed this tree. I was attracted by the pastel colours.

One of the techniques for rendering impressionist pictures involves in camera multiple exposures. I learned it from one of my photographic heroes, Bryan Peterson.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

The leaves were backlit, an ideal situation. And I figured the touch of red/orange would make the picture ‘pop’.

Working in the forest, I found that moving the camera down a little bit after each frame produces the most pleasing results. How much movement is a matter of taste and also depends on the focal length of your lens. The photographs in this post were taken with a 35mm lens on a DX camera, corresponding to a 50mm lens for a full frame sensor.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

It is harder to get the overcast sky out of a vertical composition, and I believe this is the reason I have fewer of these. But I’m very pleased with this one.

A bit of experimentation is in order, and with practice, you develop the muscle memory that allows you to generate impressionist photographs of your liking without much trial and error.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

I took a picture from pretty much the same vantage point the year before, but the colours are never quite the same from year to year (or week to week for that matter)

But even with the practice I’ve got under my belt, I always take several pictures of a given composition to make sure there is at least one I really like. If your cameras allows for multiple exposures, I would encourage you to give this technique a try.

Multiple in camera exposures of a fall forest to create an impressionist photograph

I try to find compositions with a pleasing arrangement of trees. It’s harder than you think.

Light Painting Trees

In my light paintings of musicians and dancers, the scene to light paint is relatively small. I can easily go through the scene a number of times to make sure I haven’t forgotten to light paint any part of it. And a moderately powerful LED light is good enough to do the job. Note that I never light paint the whole scene in one go, but only one part at a time and put together all of the shots in Photoshop.

I really want to hone my technique and push myself to do more and more challenging light paintings.

The bigger the scene to light paint, the harder it gets. One of the main difficulties in light painting a large scene is to remember which part of the scene one has already light painted. It thus pays to develop a systematic approach.

For the scene below, not only did I used a more powerful light than in my people light paintings, but I had to figure out which path I would take in order to light paint the whole scene.

Light painting of trees

There is a wooded area pretty close to where I live. I had noticed these trees a while back, and I immediately knew I wanted to light paint them.

iPhone Photography: Lone Tree

After taking a nature fine art online photography class, I really took to adding textures to my pictures. I was therefore delighted to find out there were apps that allowed me to do this on my smartphone.

iPhone photograph of a lone tree in winter time edited with the DistressedFX app.

This is my favourite of all the versions of the lone tree photograph I created with the DistressedFX app.

One of my favourite editing apps is DistressedFX. It is very easy to use, but it does take quite a bit of experimentation to find which photographic subjects best lend themselves to adding DistressedFX textures.

iPhone photograph of a lone tree in winter time edited with the DistressedFX app.

It never ceases to amaze me how different a photograph can look when applying another DistressedFX texture.

The ‘distressed effects’ worked out quite well, in my opinion, with this photograph of a bare tree taken during the past winter, on my way to a meeting.

iPhone photograph of a lone tree in winter time edited with the DistressedFX app.

This high contrast version works because of the graphic simplicity of the subject.

When editing the photos, what I typically do is cycle rapidly through the many textures/overlays DistressedFX has to offer, and then go back and tweak the ones I thought looked good.

iPhone photograph of a lone tree in winter time edited with the DistressedFX app.

This effect is called ‘Surreal’.

If you are like me and love to add texture effects to your iPhone pictures, I would recommend you try the DistressedFX app. But be warned it’s going to take some experimentation before you get the results you want.

Impressionist Photography: Winter Forest Pans

This is the winter instalment of my forest impressionist photography project using the panning technique.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I discovered this location in the fall and was curious to see what it would look like during the winter.

While I’ve been using this approach for some time now, I’m still surprised by the results I get. This luckily means there must be many, many other photography subjects out there for which one can get interesting panning shots.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

It was one of the few locations deep inside the forest where I managed to get the panning technique to work.

From experience, I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to dismiss something out of hand without giving it a try, because some of the most interesting discoveries I’ve made with impressionist photography techniques were ‘happy accidents’. So experimentation is essential. On the flip side, that also means one must discard of lot of attempts, but that isn’t too much of a problem with today’s digital technology.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I found it earlier to use the panning technique in soft light, and the clear advantage of the winter season in Scotland is that there are many, many cloudy days with even soft light.

In the film days, such a project must have cost a fortune. Not only is the cost of taking a picture minimal with digital, the immediate feedback from the display at the back of the camera allows one to adjust from shot to shot, thus enhancing the chance of getting a usable photo. And in spite of this, it does take quite a few takes to get it right.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I find vertical shots more challenging when panning the camera. 

And while I’ve slowly grown to like the muted colours of the winter season, the spring colours now on display make me itch to pursue this personal photo impressionism project.

Impressionist Photography: Fall Forest Multiple Exposures

In my previous blog post, I showed some fall forest impressions obtained by panning the camera. Another impressionist technique I like is taking multiple exposures in camera. In some cases it produces images I like better than the ones I get from panning the camera, but in other instances panning is the way to go. I make every effort to take pans and multiple exposures of the same subject, and chose the ones I prefer later on. And sometimes, I can’t decide.

Multiple exposures of fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is one subject where panning didn’t really work for me. I much, much prefer this multiple exposure version. Taken in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

Finding subjects that work with multiple exposures is a matter of trial and error. I stumbled upon trees as a good subject for this technique while walking in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. I then tried the technique on multiple trees in the forest of Blackford Hill. Since I liked the results, I decided to go back to the same location to document the seasonal changes.

Multiple exposure photograph of the fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

This is another example of a multiple exposure version woking better than the panning shot. And I would not have been able to decide which technique worked best prior to taking the photos.

I do these kinds of personal projects because they help me refine my vision as a photographer. When starting out in photography, one is very often frustrated because the images out of the camera do not correspond to what one saw on location. This is because the digital camera doesn’t see the world the way we do.

Multiple exposure photograph of the fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This scene is one example where I like both versions, multiple exposures and panning (see my previous blog post for the panning shot)

It is thus important to be able to visualise in one’s mind what the photograph is going to look like given the scene in front of us.

Multiple exposure photograph of the fall forest in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

Here’s another case where I cannot decide if I like the multiple exposure or panning shot better.

My light painting and impressionism projects do require a great deal of pre-visualisation, and I believe they’ll make me a better photographer.

Multiple exposures photograph of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.

It’s always a good idea to take both vertical and horizontal compositions. I find it harder to take multiple exposures photograph when holding the camera vertically.

Impressionist Photography: Fall Forest Pans

Fall is my favourite season for taking pictures in the forest. I love the feeling you get walking around. But with the amount of detail modern cameras are able to reproduce, it is sometimes difficult to convey that feeling in pictures.

Panning picture of fall forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, early fall

It was rather early in the fall, and thus there were only hints of the autumn foliage colours. This is one of my favourite panning shots.

Panning the camera during a long exposure is a very effective way of getting rid of the fine details and leaving the viewer with just an impression of the scene the photographer is looking at.

Panning picture of fall forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, late fall

A few weeks later after the first photograph was taken, the fall colours were in full force.

And from day to day and week to week, the colours of the forest change and one gets different pictures every time one goes out, even if choosing the exact same vantage point. Especially since it is rather difficult to replicate the camera movements from one time to the next.

Panning picture of a few trees with fall colours on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is an area I had walked by and not paid attention to in the spring and summer. But the wonderful fall colours grabbed by attention and I worked this location for a while, getting a few pictures I like very much.

All of the pictures in this post were taken on Blackford Hill, in Edinburgh. I wanted to get pictures from that same location for different seasons. I think for 2015/16, I’ll be looking at other wooded areas for my personal forest impressionist photography projects.

Panning photograph of three trees with fall colours, taken on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This is another photograph from the same location as above. From a different point of view. And the light did change from one shot to the next, as this picture has slightly waker tones than the previous one.


Impressionist Photography: Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

I’ve taken quite a few photographs using impressionist techniques in the forest of Blackford Hill. Since I now have quite a good grasp of the kind of forest subjects that make for interesting pans or multiple exposures, it was time to see what other locations have to offer in that department.

Pan during a long exposure of trees in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

I had to wait for the clouds to cover the sun, in order for the lighting on this scene to get more even. I then panned the camera up and down during long exposures

Princes Street Gardens is one of the many public parks in Edinburgh. It is centrally located, in-between the hill Edinburgh castle is built on and the main shopping area of central Edinburgh, Princes Street.

Multiple exposures of three trees in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

“Threes”. In graphic design, the “rule of odds” states that surrounding an object with an even number of surrounding objects leads to a composition that is more pleasing to the eye. In this picture, I combines the rule of odds with the technique of multiple exposures.

The park can be quite busy, so it was important to select a relatively quiet time to shoot impressionist photographs there. It is quite rich in subject matter, and I was able to get nice pans and multiple exposure shots.

Abstract of plants, panning the camera up and down during a long exposure

When there are too many people around, it is time to move in closer and look for abstract compositions of plants and flowers by panning the camera up and down.

On busier days, moving in closer for some abstracts can produce interesting results.

Impressionist Photography: Summer Forest

Until recently, in my impressionist forest project, I had only used diffused lighting. The reason was that I believed the high contrast scene produced by sun rays into the forest wouldn’t work when panning my subjects.

A few weeks back, I was on a scouting trip with a camera. It was a beautiful sunny day that made the excursion very pleasant. The road to the location went inside a wooded area, and since I hadn’t taken pictures for a while, I really felt the urge to take some photos. In the digital age when film cost is no longer a factor, there isn’t any valid reason not to experiment. And since I hadn’t anticipated getting any decent pictures from the scouting trip, there was no pressure of any kind. Even though I was kind of convinced it wouldn’t work, I decided to experiment anyways. Who knows, may be I could add some photographs to my impressionist forest series.

Panning impressionist photograph of summer forest

The sun rays coming from the back of this forest scene add an interesting touch of warmth to this panning impress inis picture of the forest.

I was partly right in my initial judgement, in that the strong highlights in the sunny forest scene did ruin a lot of my attempts. But in some cases, as in the photo above, these highlights could be tamed in Photoshop and give me a picture like no other in my collection.

Panning impressionist photograph of  forest

The light was significantly softer from this angle, but the few patches of sunlight make for a better image.

I now have a better idea of the kind of subjects that might work for this kind of panning photography, and I look forward to going out on sunny days in the forest to see if I can further add to my collection.

Impressionist Photography and Photoshop

In a previous post, “Impressionist Photography”, I talked about a couple of camera techniques one can use to create photographs with an impressionist look. The effect is achieved at the moment of capture and I find it most fulfilling as a photographer when I can create the image in camera rather than later in Photoshop.

However, there are certain effects that are simply not achievable in camera and must be done on the computer. The two camera techniques I discussed in my previous post, multiple exposures and panning, create an impressionist look by eliminating the fine details in the image.

And once the details are gone, it is impossible to bring them back later on the computer. A creative technique I learned while taking an online Fine Art Nature Photography class with Kathleen Clemons consists in keeping the details in your subject but not elsewhere in the photograph by applying a Photoshop filter to simulate panning and create an impressionist background. The image looks very different than one with a sharp subject in front of an out of focus background, and definitely has a surreal feeling to it.

Tree in Blackford Hill Edinburgh with impressionist background created in Photoshop

The background is blurred with a photoshop filter while the subject, a tree with fall leaves in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, is kept sharp.

Tree in Blackford Hill Edinburgh with impressionist background created in Photoshop, example 2

Another example of a Blackford Hill, Edinburgh forest scene treated with the same technique.


Impressionist Photography

The name impressionism comes from the title of a Claude Monet painting, “Impression, sunrise”.  It depicts the harbour of “Le Havre”, France. To create his masterpiece, Monet used loose brush strokes. As he put it later, “landscape is nothing but an impression”. His painting conveys the feeling of what it was like to be there, but doesn’t contain much fine detail.

In many ways, the impressionists’  way to look at the world went against the rules of academic painting. It took some time for their work to become accepted by the public and the art establishment.

Photography is a medium of supreme realism. Therefore the title of this blog post, impressionist photography, may sound like an oxymoron. But sometimes the exquisite detail produced by today’s cameras can be a distraction. The frame is too busy and the image doesn’t really convey the essence of the scene as the photographer experienced it. It is possible to eliminate the fine details in the photographs by means of several techniques. One of them is the use of multiple exposures and the other involves using camera movement to blur the details out. These are illustrated in the two photographs below, taken on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. Note the painterly feel of these images of the autumn forest.

Multiple exposure of autumn forest scene in Blackford Hill Edinburgh

The multiple exposures effectively eliminate the fine details of this forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh and one is just left with an impression of the landscape.

Panning of autumn forest scene in Blackford Hill Edinburgh

The up-down panning movement of the camera effectively blurs out the details of this autumn forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.