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Abstract Underwater Photography

Abstract is denoting art characterized by geometric, formalized, or otherwise nonrepresentational qualities. Abstract photography concentrates on shape, form, color, pattern, and texture. It is, in a way, about introducing the viewer to the essence of an object.

Abstract photography is not about understanding and recognizing the subject of the shot; it is more about helping the viewers gain an emotional input by enjoying the image.

In abstract photography, the subject is secondary. Here are some examples of what’s primary:

  • Patterns
  • Textures
  • Color variations
  • Tonal variations
  • Curves, Shapes & Geometry
  • Blur
  • Angles
  • Focus and Depth of Field

Think of those factors that make a photograph an abstract one, and then think of the underwater world that we like to visit with our cameras; we can now agree that there is a lot of really cool potential for shooting abstract underwater images!

Against the Rules

A photo dive with the aim of bringing some interesting abstract shots back home requires a different way of seeing things during that dive. It also requires forgetting about (for the moment) some ‘rules’ of classic UW photography.

I need to add that when it comes to abstract photography there is simply no “middle ground”; some people love it, and some hate it. It's simply a question of personal taste and preference.

The attempt to open senses and eyes for abstract images sharpens the photographic eye and stimulates our creative senses. Suddenly, very common or even ‘boring’ subjects offer a new photographic potential. We’d only require the eyes to see it, and the vision of the final image.

Time for a warm up!

Under The Bridge

Good news first, almost any camera can do it. Compact cameras, D-SLRs, mirror-less cameras are all generally suitable for abstract photography. Same for lenses: prime lenses (with fixed focal length), zoom lenses, wide-angle, fisheye or macro lenses, they all work :-)

So, let's hop in the pool of creative opportunities. There are masses of them, so I’ll just list a few examples here:

Patterns
Any kind of decorative motifs such as color patterns of fishes, corals, sunray reflections on the sandy seabed, or even different blue-tones in open water.

Textures
Anything that gives the feel of ‘touching it’ such as rough metal of wrecks, stones & rocks, skin details of a shark, surface of a jellyfish, or fish scales.

Spinning Coral

Color Variations
Anything that comes with at least 2 colors could work. The “abstract” here comes from the interplay of colors. All blue and red tones work fabulously here; green and yellow tones can work as well, as long as they are bright and not dark.

Tonal Variations
Variations of color tones (different tones of the same color) and also black & white elements have great “abstract potential”. Tones of blue (or green) water, the interplay of light, or shadows at wrecks are good to start with.

Curves, Shape & Geometry
In simple words, it's about how things/subjects are formed or shaped. Corals, fish fins, special underwater landscapes, wrecks (in total or only parts of them) and silhouettes of all kind... as long as they look interesting.

Blur
No sharpness, intentionally! Motion blur, Bokeh, Panning, Spinning or Zooming are lots of ways to create an abstract shot based on, or working with, blur. This works with almost anything you can find underwater!

Angles
Unique or even uncommon angle of views can create interesting abstract photographs. 100% permission to break “classic” rules granted! From below, behind, or even diagonal... just as you like it ;-)

Just Bubbles

Focus & Depth of field
To set the focus at unusual points of the subject can create interesting abstract shots. Using the depth of field for abstract photography is a small science itself, the most known style/technique here is Bokeh.

Give it a try, and shoot your macro subject with f/2.8 to 4.5 instead of the classic f/11 to f/16 that is widely used for macro photography. A totally different, maybe even abstract, image would be the result. Once again, be brave. Break the rules from time to time.

Please note, that the line between a good abstract photograph and a totally useless one is quite thin. It could become tricky to claim an unsuccessful photo (blurry, not in focus, nothing to see on it etc.) as ‘abstract art’.

The difference here is that the successful abstract photographer knows exactly what he/she is doing. Exposure, shapes, colors, structure, angle of view, and focus happen by intent, not coincidence (except some lucky snapshots, of course).

Going Abstract

Is abstract photography viewed as contemporary art, fine art, or as no art at all? This doesn’t really matter so much. What matters is to open our eyes to new visions and ideas of photography, and always stay open and tolerant to something different. It is important here - as always- to enjoy taking images underwater and to like your photos, even the abstract ones ;-)

Happy shootings, happy bubbles, and always be safe!


Further Reading

All Other Articles By Rico Besserdich

Overview of Scuba Diving in Egypt

Tips to Save Money While on Your Cairo Holiday

Schnorcheln Hurghada / Giftun Insel

When The Sun Goes Down

Published Apr. 1,
2016

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Much like a facebook page - you need to first have a personal account through which you can login and manage the business page.

After creating a personal account, you will be directed to 'My Dive Shop' section where you can claim existing listing or create a new one.

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