Photography Techniques | Composition Corner - Abstracts
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Composition Corner-Abstracts

Just a quick little blog for you all in the Composition Corner series, about abstract underwater photography. Shooting abstracts is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine and, is what I invariably resort to if not stalking a more specific shot of something. Whilst oft times a bit of an indulgence abstract photography is something which can nearly always be achieved wherever you are.
It is also a great way to try out different techniques like shallow depth of field or backlighting that you can use in your other photography.
I would be doing a disservice though to some really beautiful abstract photography if I were to just suggest that it was a throwaway method of using up the time between taking other pictures. And you should approach it with as much care and attention as you would anything else in your underwater shots.
I personally look for colour, pattern and texture, and not necessarily in any particular order. I will try and take quite a few shots too of the same thing, at different apertures and using different lighting. This will ensure that when I review my pictures later I have lots of options for different edits and crops. Ok, lets have a look at some abstract pictures I have taken recently that I personally like and think are representative of what I am talking about.

Composition Corner - NudiGills Composition Corner Abstracts
A section of an animal is often more interesting and abstract than the whole.

Ok, this shot of a nudibranchs gills is typical of the sort of shot that I will take after I've taken a more traditional fish ID shot. It's worth trying a few different angles and positions. I picked this one because of the focus on the leading edge of the gills drew my eye into the shot.

Composition Corner - NudiGills
A section of an animal is often more interesting and abstract than the whole.

Here another section of a different nudibranch this time, and I have cropped it tight, in camera and also further in Lightroom to reduce it to simple diagonal shapes. This way emphasising the contrasting textures of the rhino pore itself against the body of the nudibranch and the bokeh of the blurred background.
Composition Corner - underside of an anemone
A very shallow depth of field pic of the underside of an anemone, and the contrasting colours in its skirt.

Here a very abstract picture of the underside of an anemone, splitting the picture into three sections, with the different coloured edges sandwiching the tentacles bubbled texture between the contrasting colours of the skirt. Shot of the underside and with very high ISO and available light, giving a very soft and dreamy look to things.
Composition Corner - Dark Blue abstract
Here the shot is all about the abstract and black in an almost monochromatic abstract picture.

Another very high ISO natural light shot, an extreme macro picture of a section of a tiny blue sea squirt, reducing the pictures colour to dark monochromatic colour, and shallow depth of field blurring everything except a tiny section sharply focussed showing the surface texture of the squirt. Cropped to maximise the overall deep blue.

Composition Corner - fronds of a feather worm s
Here the fronds of a feather worm are reminiscent of stalks of grass blowing in the wind.

These fronds of a feathery tube worm are shot to concentrate the attention on the very foreground feathers. This at the time reminded me of delicate grasses blowing in the wind. I am often reminded of things I've seen topside and shoot accordingly when underwater.

Composition Corner - sea urchin
Here I was drawn to the heart in the centre of this sea urchin

I was immediately drawn into the heart of this psychedelically colourful sea urchin, and the heart shaped central piece. The eye encouraged along an avenue of orange spines and contrasting purple dots. Its worth exploring different viewpoints and seeing what presents itself to your lens.

All these shots are my very personal impression of how the underwater world often looks to me. I find the exercise of shooting abstract allows me more freedom of expression than any other area of underwater photography, and I feel less rule bound than when shooting specific fish shots.
So I would urge you to exercise your inner expressive nature by trying out some abstract photography on your next underwater excursions. Enjoy


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