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Photographic abstractions Michael Critchley

A notebook of images from our environment


Photographic abstractions Michael Critchley

A notebook of images from our environment

Dedicated to my wonderful wife Francine, who listens and encourages and is always there to keep me focused! What would I do without her?

PHOTOGRAPHIC ABSTRACTIONS The design and photography in this book are Copyright ©2012 by the author Michael Critchley. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical or electronic means without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Photography: Michael Critchley Design/Text: Michael Critchley

This book is about my favourite

As you browse through the pages

photographic subject – abstractions.

you will notice many parts of buildings or

It is about what I see all around me,

objects but not the whole object. The pieces

every day. Yes, there are birds-on-twigs,

that make the building are far more

butterflies-on-flowers, people and

important to me than just a photographic

landscapes but I prefer to look for

record of a barn in a field, a stained glass

compositions in man-made objects.

window or a sculpture of Queen Victoria.

I see texture, colour, pattern

These pieces are my ‘abstractions’,

and shape but most of all, composition.

I liken them to abstract art where shape,

This, to me is ‘the’ most important element

colour, texture and spatial relationships

of my pictures. The fixed distances

play together to form the image and take

between objects and shapes cannot be

the viewer on a journey to all four edges –

changed but the distances from the four

the composition is the organised sum of the

edges of the photograph as viewed through

interior functions of every part of the work.

my 3x2 viewfinder is what determines the

They are my abstract notebook, yet pieces

composition. I try not to crop on the

of art in their own right.

computer – only the bare minimum –

but take time to accurately compose in camera. This is one of the few disciplines I impose on myself.

What I see, is what you get.

The ‘art’ is in seeing.


Bottom House Farm, Robin Hood’s Bay We stayed at a farmhouse B&B on our weekend trip to Robin Hood’s Bay and took the opportunity to photograph the farm buildings and equipment. I like the arrangement of the window frames with the black shape of broken glass; the corrugated metal and the shadow of the roof; the angle of the wooden panel over-lapping the rough stone wall. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/250 @ ƒ11


A59 Longsight Rd, nr Mellor Brook I pass by this structure most days in the car knowing that there, is an image. One late afternoon there were no cars or trucks parked in front, so I stopped and took half a dozen shots. A composition of 2 halves; the dark grey metal roofing and the ‘activity’ of the yellow door constrained between the metal and the concrete render. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/200 @ ƒ7


Bottom House Farm, Robin Hood’s Bay I like the position of the rusty metal door and the strange lock; the black square and the lock’s shadow; the angle of the metal gate over-lapping the door. A touch of colour is added by the yellow handle of a farm implement. A composition of 2/3 stone wall texture and 1/3 ‘activity’. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/250 @ ƒ7


Roach Bridge Paper Mill This image is divided into 1/3 brick wall and 2/3 ‘activity’ – where there is a lot going on. There are four main closed openings and each one has its own sub-composition. The strong shadows from the red metal beams join the LH 1/3 to the RH edge at a small corrugated metal window from where the ‘journey’ moves inwards to the small white window of one sub-composition.

Canon EOS 400D EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM ISO 400 1/100 @ ƒ20


Eden Camp, Malton These old army barracks provided a good days photography with plenty of bricks, concrete, metal and army memorabilia. Divided by a row of bricks and a concrete column, is the composition of 1/2 dark grey concrete block wall and 1/2 ‘activity’ (the green window and red bricks). The broken window adds interest and is the focal point. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/800 @ ƒ9


Low Moor, Clitheroe Wandering round the streets of Low Moor I found this wall with a wonderful arrangement of openings – all boarded up. A great example of pattern and texture. An arrangement composition of top half and bottom half. The following three photos were taken of the same wall and begs the statement: “The whole is equal to the sum of its parts – but can a part be greater than the whole?“ Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 200 1/800 @ ƒ8


Low Moor, Clitheroe This taffeta-patterned, plywood panel on the red bricks, caught my eye. The concrete render adds an extra shape to what could have been a boring stone wall. A clichĂŠd rule-of-thirds composition. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 200 1/800 @ Ć’8


Low Moor, Clitheroe A different composition based on the previous page’s photo, using the taffeta-patterned, plywood panel and red bricks. The straight edge of the patterned plywood overlaps the small red bricks which force their way into the large chunky stone wall. Canon EOS 7D EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM ISO 125 1/100 @ ƒ8


Low Moor, Clitheroe Another simple geometric composition. Concrete render surrounds a ‘Stonehenge’ style doorway which encloses a sub-composition of wooden door panels. Canon EOS 7D EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM ISO 125 1/100 @ ƒ8


Le Clos du Quesney, Corneville, France A simple geometric composition of two halves – top and bottom, divided by an old wooden beam. Below is a wall of flint pieces set in orange mortar. Above is a sub-composition of five different sections each with its own composition. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/25 @ ƒ7.1


Le Clos du Quesney, Corneville, France A composition of five different sections intersected by two diagonal cross beams. Each section with its own composition, can be viewed together in combination with its neighbours, as a triptych. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/25 @ Ć’7.1


Low Moor, Clitheroe An interesting composition of different shapes and areas of pattern. Canon EOS 7D EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM ISO 800 1/250 @ Ć’11


Bicheno, Tasmania Both left and right hand halves, divided by a dominant orange rusty pillar, have a diagonal force directing upwards toward the top left. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/125 @ Ć’14


Whitby The contrasting white window frame and the ochre and black painted wall, screamed at me as I walked down this street. Not to mention the back of a giant’s bald head in the window! The No. 6 plaque adds a gentle touch to the image. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/250 @ ƒ7


Low Moor, Clitheroe A Tale of of Two Squares. Surrounded by a border of white, rough render, this is a bold horizontal statement. Canon EOS 7D EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM ISO 125 1/200 @ Ć’8


Bicheno, Tasmania Scale and interest is added to the ”Rhapsody in Grey Fibro“ by the soft grasses at the bottom. Rule of thirds composition. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/125 @ ƒ14


Bicheno, Tasmania One of my favourite finds. I love the two copper patches, top and bottom; the movement of the diagonal blue squares from bottom left to the top copper patch; the dark blue paint and the subtle rivets. Antonio Tapies would have been proud of this creation. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/125 @ Ć’18


Formby “Rhapsody in Blue”. A simple elegant composition of shapes and position – with a dash of yellow. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/125 @ ƒ13


Formby “Rhapsody in Blue #2”. A simple geometric composition of shapes and position – with a dash of green and white. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/200 @ ƒ10


Cairns Harbour “Rhapsody in Yellow”. A simple elegant composition of shapes and position – with a dash of white. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 400 1/160 @ ƒ9


Cairns Harbour “Rhapsody in Red”. A simple elegant composition of shapes and position. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/320 @ ƒ11


Cairns Harbour “Rhapsody in Red#2”. A simple, interesting composition on the outside edges, of shapes and position – with a dash of blue, white and green. Definitely not rule of thirds! Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/320 @ ƒ11


Phytobotanica, Moss Nook Lane, Rainford “Rhapsody in Black”. A simple geometric composition of curving shapes – with a dash of ice blue and coloured wire. Canon EOS 7D EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM ISO 400 1/60 @ ƒ4


Keighley Simple, big flowing shapes with strong contrasting shadows and colour. The RH third dominated by the large, dark, circular area. A white cloud in a strong blue sky. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 320 1/100 @ Ć’11


Keighley Large, flowing lines on rusty metal pipes and a coded number painted in yellow. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 320 1/320 @ Ć’8


Keighley A dark shadow and large, flowing lines on rusty metal pipes with, white lettering placed on rule of thirds. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 800 1/1600 @ Ć’6.3


Clitheroe The painted out no. 8, an unlocked door and spattered paint. What mysteries are hidden behind this isometric composition? Canon EOS 7D EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM ISO 400 1/125 @ Ć’6.3


Royal Daffodil, River Mersey I like the ‘activity’ happening on the edges, leaving the centre free. The triangle formed by the bow of the boat points to the blue square box which links to the bottom with the other blue painted objects. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 400 1/1600 @ ƒ6.3


Eden Camp, Malton A striking composition of symbols, direction and colour, conceal the aeroplane underneath. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/1250 @ Ć’9


Eden Camp, Malton Geometric composition with black spots and lines. The image is divided horizontally into 1/3 top and 2/3 bottom. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/400 @ Ć’9


La Bourzaie, France Three panels of textured wood. The central Sgt-Major Panel is giving Private RH Panel a good talking-to! Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/125 @ Ć’5.6


Port Arthur, Tasmania I love the ambiguity of the three different walls. The composition is vertical thirds – dramatic blocks divide the left hand sections, while a subtle shift in construction forms the other division. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/250 @ ƒ13


Port Arthur, Tasmania A simple composition based on the juxtaposition of stones and their shadows. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/250 @ Ć’6.3


Jumièges, France A simple geometric composition of patterns and texture. It reminds me of an aerial photograph. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/1000 @ ƒ5.6


Kettlewell A central composition of the brass lock and black, graffiti-covered doors, hidden behind a verge of nettles. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/640 @ Ć’5


Whitby A white textured central composition with lines linking the top to the bottom and sides. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/800 @ Ć’8


La TrinitĂŠ sur Mer, France Two variations on the theme white-on-white. (This and the following image). Three vertical divisions of painted wooden panels. Here, the left and right sides merging inwards, dominate the central horizontal planks. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/500 @ Ć’13


Herberton, Australia Colour has no part in this composition – 2/3 LH side and 1/3 RH side – only the position and scale of the wooden panels. The receding corner edge of the 2/3 became hidden as I moved carefully to my left making the whole image ambiguous and flat. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/800 @ ƒ5


Bottom House Farm, Robin Hood’s Bay “Rhapsody in Grey”. A simple geometric composition of panels and shadows and bolts. Canon EOS 7D EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM ISO 400 1/250 @ ƒ8


Roach Bridge Farm A dark geometric central composition with lines linking the top to the bottom. Light and shadow add depth to the posts and cracked beam. Canon EOS 400D EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM ISO 200 1/60 @ Ć’4.5


Whitby The metal hinge points toward the unlocked lock, placed at the junction of vertical and horizontal lines, while the deep red colour strengthens the base of this black image. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 400 1/60 @ Ć’14


Low Moor, Clitheroe An interesting composition on a dark grey background with the junction of the brown vertical meeting the brown horizontal at the rule of thirds position. The image can be divided up into sections with sub-compositions involving shadows. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 800 1/160 @ Ć’7.1


Chatel, French Alps Pattern and lines dominate in this composition. No description is necessary. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 800 1/160 @ Ć’7.1


Clitheroe The two dynamic beams and the black shadows dominate this composition with the aqua strapping adding a touch of colour.

Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 800 1/160 @ Ć’7.1


Clitheroe An interesting composition of halves. The blue draws the attention to the gap, from which the piece of wood is falling, pointing at a metal lug, which in turn points across to its opposite lug. The eye then travels upwards to the metal flange protruding into the sky. Round and round we go. Canon EOS 7D EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM ISO 200 1/500 @ Ć’8


Herberton, Australia I love the colours and shapes in this image. The strange block of wood; the tear in the rusty mesh hiding a coffee pot, and the light shining through the rear of the structure. Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 800 1/125 @ Ć’5


Mont Saint Michel, France Composed looking down from the parapet onto the sea below gives this image a flat 2D feel to it – immediately an abstract on canvas! Canon EOS 400D EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ISO 200 1/800 @ ƒ6.3


”I don’ t understand“ This is my notebook of observed and found designs. It’s never ending, continually growing and eventually I might produce something worthy of praise. Here, at the end of this book you may feel like saying “No, I don’t understand” which is perfectly acceptable because not everyone understands abstract art. I say “Be different”.


“Rhapsody in blue with white and orange” The photographs in this book are an attempt to form a link between photography and abstract art. They are not emotionally inspired from the depths of my soul, but pure observations of the environment surrounding me. Having lived within the influence of an arty family certainly helps, but once you are aware of certain design principles, the world is full of visual excitement which doesn’t have to follow the ‘Rule of Thirds’. The art is in seeing. I hope you enjoy this book and are inspired to look at things differently. Michael Critchley

“I love the complicated logic of a perfect composition. It is not just the shapes and lines that make one travel through a painting. It’s the placement of the strongest colors, the sharpest lines, and the dominant shapes.” (A quote from the artist Kathryn Stats)

Photographic abstractions  

This book is about my favourite photographic subject – abstractions. It is about what I see all around me, every day.

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