Friday, August 21, 2015


I have been fascinated with Impressionism since my college art days. It was no surprise that when I first picked up a camera, some of my images started taking on an impressionistic feel to them. It was a subconscious transfer from artist to photographer.

For this piece I will share two aspects with you: What are some of the characteristics of Impressionism? How do I create my impressionistic images? 

In my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first), you will see several examples of my photographic Impressionism. Contact me if you'd like your own signed copy.

These are some of the characteristics commonly used to describe the effects masters like Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and others created: Sketchy and unfinished. Lack of detail. Colorful. Blurring. A sense of movement. Irregular surface texture.

Given today's obsession with extreme detail, no shadows, deep saturation, and getting a photograph as sharp as possible, I can see why most photographers would hesitate venturing into this artistic arena. As a photographer who considers himself an artist first, I love it! It takes me beyond the level of taking pretty pictures of pretty things.   

Now that you know some of the characteristics, let me share how I create my impressionistic images. I use four different techniques, but my most frequently used is in-camera double exposures. I will focus my explanation on double exposures.

Before I show you some examples, let me walk you through the steps I take. First, not all subjects are conducive for this application. So, I pick and choose. However, I have applied it to different subjects and get different but good results--I like them all for different reasons. 
Although you can take as many exposures as you want, I usually go for just two superimposed images. I've tried more, but they look too "muddy;" too busy.

When I decide that a double exposure might work well, here are my steps.
1) I take the first image slightly out of focus (using a relatively wide f/stop); not too much,  
too little. It's a judgement call. I'm looking for a soft feel, with soft edges. I take a test
    shot to see if I like it, before
engage my double exposure feature. If I don't like it, I'll do
    it over until I like it. Once I like the feel of it, I engage the double exposure feature and
my first shot--the one I just took and like.
2) I look at the result on my screen and make two decisions: a) Do I like it? b) depending on
I want to achieve (what I want it to look like), I carefully look at it and decide
    whether I want to overlap the next one right over the first one or whether I want to 
    recompose for the second one. Again, it's all based on what I'm trying to create.
3) For my second shot, I re-focus (manually) and adjust my f/stop to get lots of detail. 
    I usually, not always, underexpose it by about 2/3 of a stop (again, the bottom lines is: 
    What do I want it to look like?) before I get the shot.
4) If I don't like, I go through the above steps again. It's a form of bracketing. If I think it's
    80%-90% what I want, I know I can fine-tune it slightly afterwards back home.

Okay, now you know what characteristics I'm trying to achieve, Impressionism, and my technique to create my impressionistic images. Here are some examples.

This is a short trail right in Crested Butte, Colorado

It can work with several subjects, not just nature.

 Courtyard. Zurich, Switzerland.

Coincidentally, this pond is called "Monet Pond."

Wildflower hillside near Crested Butte, Colorado.

I get more comments about this image, "Watercolor Willows."

So, as you can see, you can apply this technique to diverse subjects and get different results. Shapes, colors, compositions, and lighting all contribute to the final results.

All images are available as fine art archival prints. Contact me if interested.