HOW TO: Fun Abstracts

Recently I was watching videos by photographer Bryan Peterson on various photographic hints and techniques. Primarily, I was interested in honing my skills using a flash. I learned a lot of useful and creative methods for using flashes in outdoor photography. Then I watched whatever was next in line.

One exercise he demonstrated caught my attention, and it had nothing to do with flashes at all. He used common household items as props to create fun and interesting abstracts.

Here is my take on it. You will need a few things to get started and there is no need to buy anything or even leave your house. First thing you will need is a tripod although if you do this outside and it is bright enough, you may be able to go with hand-held.

Next you will need a clear casserole dish, some water, cooking oil, and a brightly colored shirt or fabric of sorts. I used both patterned shirts and solid colored shirts to see the different effects.

Place the fabric of choice, which will be the background of the photo, on a table or even the patio or deck. Prop up the casserole dish slightly above the shirt with whatever you have around. Wooden blocks, books or even several drinking glasses. The idea is to elevate the dish so you can change out the fabric easily.

Set up your camera on the tripod so the lens is parallel with the bottom of the dish. Add some water. I filled my dish about 1/3rd of the way. Then add some cooking oil. Since oil and water don’t mix, the oil forms all these neat circles floating on the water. With the fabric underneath the dish, the patterns and colors take on a whole new look.

Play around with different exposures to obtain the look you want. Drawing a spoon or your finger slowly through the mix will make different size circles. Or even stir it a little to make millions of small circles. All three shirts I used were of different colors and each produced totally different effects.

Give it a try…it’s a lot of fun!

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  1. July 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Neat abstract, David. πŸ™‚

    • July 28, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Thanks Bob, I need to try this again and not stir the oil so much. It was fun playing though!

  2. July 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Waht a great tutorial! Thanks, David! πŸ™‚

    • July 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Thanks Ted, Give it a go sometime! I was even playing around with clear glass dishes with engraved patterns (no oil though) on top of fabric to see the effect…who knows where this will lead…

  3. July 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Very cool David! When I get some time will give this a try. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    • July 28, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Thanks Vickie, it’s a ton of fun playing with the oil and water creating different patterns!

  4. July 27, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Hot diggity dog! New thing to try!!!

    • July 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Yippee! You gotta try this..it’s a hoot! You will find yourself photographing all kinds of stuff! It’s a great thing to play with when it’s super hot and muggy outside!!!

  5. July 28, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Pretty cool image!

    • July 28, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Montucky, I took a whole bunch of shots with different colored backgrounds…which made it difficult to decide what to post!

  6. July 28, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Well, that’s an interesting technique! Brilliant result!

    • July 28, 2012 at 10:28 am

      I thought so too!!! It’s a bunch of fun making different size circles of oil. I even shot some after stirring the mixture quickly and then getting a quick shot. The result was a multi colored whirlpool!!!

  7. July 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    This really sounds like fun — I’m going to try it!

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Oh it really is and the possibilities are endless!

  8. July 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Pretty interesting.:) I have something in my mind and perhaps these days you will see my results.

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      Cool…I’m looking forward to see what you have come up with!

  9. July 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    That is really cool and creative!

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      It really is a lot of fun and just about anything will work as a background!

  10. July 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Cool. and fun! I remember him, my friend took one of his courses.

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      It really is…I bet his courses are fun and inspiring…sometimes he is just a hoot!!!

  11. July 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    What a fun idea…inexpensive and a very cool effect!

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      You have to try this…no two designs will be the same!

  12. July 30, 2012 at 3:36 am

    WOW! This is great, fascinated me. Thank you dear David, love, nia

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      It’s a lot of fun to play…just let your imagination run wild!

  13. July 30, 2012 at 5:43 am

    It’s true; oil will float on the surface creating a lovely pattern: D this is so clever and so creative πŸ™‚

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Different amounts of oil will create different effects to. Experiment…I did for hours!

  14. July 30, 2012 at 9:16 am

    neat.. i have yet to try this but here’s an interesting modification to the same technique: http://tinylanscapes.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/tons-of-fun-photographing-oil-and-water/

    • July 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Mike Moats rocks! He does amazing things with a camera and lens. Been following him for years! Give it a try…I’m curious to see what you come up with!

  15. July 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Pretty cool! And so easy, I’m going to have to try this! Thanks for sharing David!

    • August 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

      It’s a ton of fun and once you get started you’ll come up with all sorts of ideas!!!

  16. August 15, 2012 at 5:21 am

    That sounds like a great way to get interesting abstracts β€” will make note and try it out sometime. Thanks for sharing the method. And, I really like the end result πŸ™‚

  17. vcgspelulcace1989
    September 2, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Reblogged this on ginaktoebesq and commented:

    • September 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks for the re-blog and for stopping by…enjoy!

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