Abstractions

I spent the entire last week at a “Fine Art Creative” photography workshop with Prager Fotoschule instructors Eckart Sonnleitner and Fritz Poyer at Stift Göttweig in Lower Austria. Göttweig monastery is a beautiful place on a hill overlooking the Wachau region across from Krems. Originally I had signed up for a similarly themed photo workshop in Tuscany, planned for the end of May, alas that was not to be given the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated fears and travel restrictions. Göttweig proved to be a more than suitable substitute, with an atmosphere of peace and calm and – in the summery August weather, with blooming flowers and herbs and bright sunshine everywhere, sometimes a positively Mediterranean feel.

Flaming flowers (ICM)

One of my aims for this workshop, apart from good company among like-minded people, was to expand my photographic horizons towards experimental and abstract photography. Here I show you some of the results, something rather different from my usual documentary work.

One of the simplest things one can do and still achieve an “arty” effect is to photograph through different types of glass. The first two below are taken through thick semi-transparent glass at a greenhouse towards the garden. The second one is taken through a milky glass church window, and the third is inside the Goettweig museum tract, taken through window blinds lit up by the sun.

A shot through a milky window, no filter added
Using light falling onto window blinds for an interesting effect

A much more extreme effect is achieved by intentional camera movement (ICM). This works in all kinds of directions, and I found that it depends on the motif, which direction works best for the desired effect. It turns out that I like what a circular camera twist does.

From single-image blurs I decided to move on to diptychs, where I contrasted the concrete, documentary type pictures I usually take with abstractions of the same object or motif and then turned them into diptychs.

I played around with double and multiple exposures too (below).

In-camera double-exposure
In camera 7x exposure

Despite initial “purist” misgivings, I even gave in to temptation and did some creative Photoshop actions. I had hardly ever used Photoshop before and am not really familiar with the programme, usually preferring a straightforward photographic approach, but Fritz Poyer is an ace at it and showed us some stacking actions that yield very interesting pictures. You can see that the result is quite different from a multiple exposure effect. I think I will explore this type of creative project more in the future.

The result of some 10 photos I took surrounding an apple tree, stacked together in Photoshop
A similar composite of purple flowers in front of a wooden shed.

I had a wonderful time, and I can only encourage all photography lovers to play around with different genres and techniques. It is a good experience to expand one´s boundaries and step out of the comfort zone now and then.

And just so you know what I mean by an almost Mediterranean mood just about an hour from Vienna, I show you some landscape photos taken at Göttweig – “uncreative” and purely for the mood and a sense of place.

Does it get any more summery? Göttweig has a beautiful meadow instead of a boring lawn inside the monastery grounds.
And when you stand in a certain spot, it seem as if you are overlooking some Tuscan vineyards from an old farmhouse wall. But really, this too is Lower Austria.


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