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Fine Art Photography Blog

Monthly Edition No. 9 – Leipzig Layers

Print of the Month

December 2023

Leipzig Layers
Germany
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25
£35 GBP

During the spring of 2023 I was fortunate to visit, for the first time, the beautiful and enchanting city of Leipzig, Germany. I had looked forward to this for a long time, as I had been told of the city’s charm by close friends and artists, and had read enough to know of its remarkable history and residents.

On arriving in Leipzig by train, Ruth and I were immediately struck by the splendour of the architecture and the magnificent civil planning that had been established and evolved over the centuries. Leipzig is simply one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited anywhere.

Even so, I’ve learned that a beautiful environment, in and of itself, does not always lend itself to the kind of picture-making that I most love to do.

While I certainly appreciate and enjoy architectural photography, I generally avoid it, as it feels too much like documenting someone else’s creative product. Street photography holds some appeal for me, but I usually prefer to make photographs that don’t include people… so my street photos often feel lifeless.

But for abstraction, I’ve rarely encountered a city that offers as much as Leipzig. I roamed the city streets over a couple of days, having an absolutely marvellous time making pictures.

The image I’ve selected for this month comes from outside a vacant retail shop, whose windows had been covered with coloured construction paper and plastic sheeting. I worked this scene for a very long time, designing all kinds of compositions and shooting in bursts while the plastic fluttered in the breeze. For an abstract photographer, it was a magical experience!

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 8 – Autumn in Central Park

Print of the Month

November 2023

Autumn in Central Park Photograph by Nat Coalson

Autumn in Central Park
New York City
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25
£35 GBP

Something a little less abstract for this month …

New York City is magical in every season but autumn is special, particularly in and around Central Park. My aptly-timed photograph for this Monthly Edition gives us a glimpse of the spire on the roof of The Dairy, Central Park’s Visitor Center and Gift Shop, viewed through beautiful, multicoloured leaves.

This photo features a composition technique that I love using, sometimes referred to as “frame within a frame”. The arc of golden leaves emphasises the steeple and sets it off from the surrounding background.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 7 – The Sultan’s Mystique

Print of the Month

October 2023

Abstract Photography: Artigianale IV: The Sultan's Mystique by Nat Coalson

The Sultan’s Mystique
Barcelona, Spain
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25
£35 GBP

This photo was taken during the same photo trip as Monthly Edition 6 (Girona Ripples). Some years ago, I was hired to lead a private photography tour around Spain. It was an unforgettable experience!

We stayed several nights in the centre of Barcelona, a beautiful and energetic city full of visual stimuli. Our hotel had a wonderful old cellar where breakfast was served each day. As I sat eating, I marvelled at the ancient ceiling, with its multicoloured layers of patina accumulated over centuries of painting, peeling and repainting.

One morning after the breakfast service finished, we obtained permission to photograph in the cellars. Over a period of several hours I made many photographs, most with my camera pointed straight up. This is one of my favourites, and is now being released for the first time as a Limited Edition print.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 6 – Girona Ripples

Print of the Month

September 2023

Girona Ripples
Girona, Spain
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25
£35 GBP

A few years ago I was hired by a client to lead a private photo tour around Spain. Our itinerary included stops along the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona in northeastern Spain.

We stayed a couple of nights in Girona—an exceptionally interesting and beautiful town. The river Onyar flows through the centre of the old town. The river is lined with lovely, colourful buildings which create captivating reflections in the surface of the water.

I visited the location several times, in different conditions, to evaluate the light and determine the kinds of photos I wanted to make. When photographing reflections, the strongest reflections and most colourful results are possible when the surface of the water is in shade, while the subject being reflected is brightly lit, as is the case in this photo. Also, using a polarising filter is very effective for refining the appearance of the reflection.

This is one of my favourite images from the trip; I can look at it endlessly and always find something new and interesting.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 5 – Eternal Cycles

Print of the Month

August 2023

Eternal Cycles
Maine, USA
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25

Visiting New England, USA during the autumn can be a magical experience for photographers. Many years ago, I was in Maine attending a workshop given by American photographer John Paul Caponigro—a fantastic experience in many ways. After the workshop I enjoyed a few days of photography on my own.

I had been practising and experimenting with ICM (intentional camera movement) for a few years at that point, having been particularly inspired by the earlier work of nature photographer William Neill. I’d seen his beautiful photographs of tree trunks turned into lovely, translucent streaks through a process of moving the camera vertically during a long exposure. I wondered what might be achieved by using different types and directions of motion to create the blur effect.

On a beautiful fall day during that trip through Maine I was feeling inspired by the splendour of the autumn colours. I attached my camera by its mounting plate to the end of my tripod’s centre column, which also featured an articulating hinge. This allowed me to rotate the camera around the axis of the lens. I pointed the camera upward toward the canopy of multi-coloured autumn leaves set against a brilliant blue sky, and during long exposures rotated the camera to produce the swirling effect you see here. Through lots of trial-and-error I eventually found a combination of camera settings and techniques that produced the effect I had envisioned in my mind.

That day I spent hours alone in the forest with my camera, making many photographs and enjoying the solitude and a very engaging creative process. This photograph is one of the results. I’ve titled it ‘Eternal Cycles’, evoking the motion of the changing seasons and the enduring and magnificent colours of nature.

Over the years, this image has been one of my most successful photographs. Many times I’ve printed it in very large format on canvas and then embellished the canvas with clear acrylic brush strokes, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind original work of art.

Now, for the first time, I’m offering Eternal Cycles as a fine art, limited edition print at a very special price.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 4 – Feast for the Eyes

Print of the Month

July 2023

Feast for the Eyes
Gothenburg, Sweden
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25

A few years ago Ruth and I visited Gothenburg, Sweden. I had a fantastic time exploring this beautiful and historic city. I discovered several very lovely parks, including the one shown in this photo, which had a beautiful pond covered with water lilies. Surrounding the pond was a hedge of rhododendrons, which were reflected in the surface of the water.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 3 – Shapeshifter No. 4

Print of the Month

June 2023

Shapeshifter No. 4
Photograph 2018
Manchester, UK
Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25

In 2018, a good friend (and an exceptional photographer) shared with me some images he had made of a very special place. I knew right away that I simply had to go there and create my own photographs.

Although the location (which I’m keeping secret, for now) is only a couple of hours from our home in the Midlands of the UK, the logistics proved challenging. Being in a city centre, transportation and parking were of concern. But more important was the fact that this is a very public—and very busy—area. I hadn’t been there before, and I was unsure about the conditions I would find when I arrived.

Nevertheless, I optimistically planned the day of shooting. I decided to take the train from our town to the big city, even though that meant lugging all my camera equipment. I took my full complement of gear: a large camera backpack full of various lenses and a backup camera body, and my trusty tripod. The train ride took several hours and required a change of trains at a very busy station.

The journey went as expected, with no major issues. But when I arrived at my destination, it was cold and pouring with rain. I walked through the city as quickly as I could, hoping it would all be worth it.

When I arrived at the location, there were a few people here and there, but otherwise it was relatively quiet. I spent some time walking around, standing in various places, just looking, and thinking, immersing myself in the feel of the place and getting a sense of the kinds of human activity I might expect once I got into doing some serious photography.

I enjoyed several hours in the location, shooting diligently for long periods and taking a few short breaks. I had an amazing time!! I made nearly 500 frames, representing a fantastic variety of angles and a range of focal lengths, from quite wide to very close up.

This type of situation is a perfect example of the critical importance of composition, framing and visualisation in photography. The most subtle shifts can make a huge difference in the total composition, and this relatively small space provided an infinite number of possibilities for interesting images.

It’s not every day that I have so much fun and feel so immersed in the process of photography. On my return journey home I felt the deep satisfaction of knowing I had made some images that I was very happy with and that would make incredible prints.

After later reviewing, sorting and editing the day’s images, I selected 25 which make up the final collection. I’ve given the series the title Shapeshifter, illustrating the amazing way that even a tiny shift in angle and perspective creates incredibly different pictures in this special location.

(And if you’re wondering what exactly this picture shows, it’s simply a reflection in a mirrored surface. This is exactly how it appears to the naked eye—I haven’t manipulated or altered the image in any way.)

I’ve previously produced this photograph as large format, original canvas and metal prints. Now, for the first time, I’m releasing it as a limited edition print on paper.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 2 – Fusión

Print of the Month

May 2023

Fusión
Photograph 2018
Near Aracena, Spain
Edition of 25

During the Spring of 2018, Ruth and I led a small group on a private photo tour of Portugal and southern Spain. Our carefully planned route took us through many authentic and rarely visited places, including the area around Aracena.

Our group stayed a few nights at a rustic family farmstead, situated on a vast tract of ranch land. The property also enjoys acres and acres of wild oak trees, the acorns of which are fed to the local pigs raised to make jamón ibérico.

One day, while exploring the woodlands on our daily walks, I discovered a huge, cast-iron disk half embedded in the forest floor. I don’t know what it was—maybe some leftover farming equipment, or remnants from mining or some other industrial activity.

In any case, I was captivated by the colours, patterns and textures of the metal dish. I made a series of photographs, working to get the angle of view and composition just right.

I’ve previously produced this photograph as large format, original canvas and metal prints. Now, for the first time, I’m releasing it as a limited edition print on paper.

PS—the photo tour mentioned above was one of many that Ruth and I have led for private clients. We create bespoke photo experiences anywhere in the world, so get in touch if you’d like to discuss your own private photo tour!

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Monthly Edition No. 1 – Sutton Harbour

Print of the Month

April 2023

Sutton Harbour No. 1
January 2023
Plymouth, England
Edition of 25

This photograph is one of a series of images I made during a trip to Plymouth, England in January 2023. Ruth and I had been to Plymouth a few times before, and during one of our trips discovered the beautiful and historic Sutton Harbour. I absolutely love seaside and maritime environments, especially for my abstract photography.

While wandering around the docks, I encountered huge stacks of lobster and crab pots, all stacked up and wrapped with cling film. The rain and sun combined to create wonderful, dewy condensation on the film, taking on the appearance of water.

When I find situations like this, I can spend hours deeply engrossed in my photography, exploring every nook and cranny to find the most intriguing compositions. This image stands out as one of my favourites from this particular shooting session.

Read more about the Monthly Edition programme

Photo prints on dibond

Over the past few months, I’ve started working with a new printing and mounting process that I’m getting pretty excited about!

I’m printing my photographs on film and laminating them onto dibond, a composite material made of thin aluminium sheets on the outside, with a plastic core on the inside. It’s lightweight, rigid and durable, and the panels can be hung on the wall with or without a decorative frame.

Mounting prints onto dibond isn’t really new, but what’s exciting me is printing on clear films and laminating those to dibond with lovely surfaces, such as brushed aluminium. This allows the surface of the board to show through the films. The combination of layering the printed images on the dibond sheet creates some very interesting opportunities.

I print the clear film using my Epson large format printers, which provides very wide colour gamut along with archival permanence. Then I laminate the prints to the dibond board.

Shown here is one recent example, titled Fusión.

First, I printed my photograph in reverse on the clear film. This allows me to flip the film over so the printed image ends up on the back side, the film thickness creating a protective layer. I mounted the print film to the brushed aluminium dibond using optically clear laminating adhesive film.

As you can see, the clear film is very glossy. So I made another variation of the work by applying a matte laminate afterward (see the last image below). I like both looks—it just depends on the specific image, and the planned installation.

Next, I will be working on layering multiple printed images on separate films to create a composite 3D effect.

I’m really loving this new process, and it opens up a lot of new possibilities. In the past, I have also had metal prints made by directly printing onto the brushed dibond… but this requires a very large, flatbed printer. And the UV-cured solvent inks on flatbed printers provide nowhere near the quality I can get from my Epson pigment-based printers. The best thing is that I can produce these entirely in-house!

Much more to come on this … stay tuned.

 

How to read a picture

In modern societies most people learn to read written language, but many have never been taught how to actively ‘read’ pictures, such as photographs, paintings and drawings.

This is a shame, because a lot can be missed when our engagement with a visual work is done half-consciously and ill-informed.

Instead, you can get the most enjoyment from viewing a photograph, painting or other work of art by viewing it actively instead of passively. Here’s how.

Activate your awareness
The first thing you can do when viewing a picture—whether it be a photograph or other kind—is to put yourself in a heightened state of conscious awareness.

Normally, we tend to go through much of our day not being fully aware of our surroundings—even what’s going on in our own minds! We are thinking about so many things at once that it’s easy to be distracted. As a result, we are often not completely ‘tuned in’ to any one thing in particular.

So, to actively read a picture, first bring yourself fully into the present moment, paying close attention to both your external experiences and your internal responses. …In other words, wake up!

Watch where you look
Next, look away from the picture for a moment and then bring your gaze back to it. At first glance, pay careful attention to where your gaze is attracted. Then notice the path your eyes take as they travels across the image. Eye travel is an inherent part of viewing an image, but we usually do it without thinking.

What elements do you most strongly notice? What do they look like? …What do they remind you of? …How are they interacting?

Remember to also scan around all the edges of the picture—sometimes there are joyful surprises to be discovered there! You may also encounter elements that distract your attention from the main point of the picture.

Go deep
Stand (or sit) at a distance that allows the picture to occupy most of your field of vision. Allow your eyes to relax and defocus a little, as if you were looking “through” the picture, not at it. This allows the edges of the picture to fade away into obscurity, immersing you more fully into the picture space. Then, once you’re deep into the image, bring your focus back to clearly observe the individual elements within the picture. You will pick out many of the same objects that attract your attention, but you may also notice new things.

Associations, themes and metaphors
The brain is an association machine—everything we recognise and understand is based on something we learned before. The mind is constantly (and unconsciously) evaluating visual input to compare with what is already known. New stimulus provided by the unfamiliar creates new intellectual interest and new pathways in the brain. And even the most abstract imagery can trigger memories and emotions through these associations.

Many artworks are created to tell a story or convey an idea. While looking at the picture, consider what you interpret the artist is trying to say with the work. The best visual artworks have a clear point to make, even if the image is soft and the message is subtle.

Where do they want you to look, and what to see most clearly? Is the artist’s intention aligned with your physical experience of seeing the work?

Castle Point, New Zealand - a lighthouse stands illuminated atop a sea cliff overlooking a small bay at sunset on the southwest coast of New Zealand's North Island. Photo © Nat Coalson, all rights reserved.

Use language
Try to apply some words to visual elements you perceive and your viewing experience in general. Let’s use my photograph of Castlepoint Lighthouse as an example.

Start with simple adjectives that describe individual elements, larger groupings and the work as a whole.

Keep it very basic at first: “blue”, “cloud”, “lines”, “water”, “rocks”.

Then expand your mental language to articulate more complex ideas: “twilight”, “coolness”, “outside”.

Work your way to broader concepts, such as “solitude”, “hope”, “safety”, “searching”, etc.

What you’re doing here is using language to translate optical input into ideas, describing the characteristics of the picture using terms and concepts that you are intimately familiar with.

You’re also engaging multiple regions of your brain in the process. This is how viewing a picture becomes an active experience rather than just a passive, disengaged stare.

Importantly, whether or not you actually find the image appealing, this process allows you to make a more direct connection with the work, to determine what you think it’s trying to say, and to recognise and clearly understand your own personal response.

Broaden your horizons
Active seeing can not only enhance your experience viewing art but throughout your life. This state of awareness, in and of itself, is likely to bring you surprising revelations as you begin to notice much more in the world around you. It’s also in these ways that photographers and artists find such a deep, meaningful connection to their subject matter and, more broadly, to their lives.

To review the basic steps:

1. Activate your awareness
2. Watch where you look
3. Go deep
4. Consider associations, themes and metaphors
5. Use language

New Work: The Lexicon, 2022

The Lexicon, 2022

In December 2021, Ruth and I visited the beautiful city of Lille in northern France. Exploring the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, I discovered this scene in a shadowy doorway. I made a number of exposures, shooting handheld, working to create the strongest possible composition while abstracting the graphics by removing the visual context of the surrounding scene.

After applying only very minimal adjustments to enhance tone and colour, I printed the image onto Breathing Color archival canvas. I stretched the canvas onto pine stretcher bars and then, using a small brush, applied clear acrylic—over only the lines. They stand out nicely against the dark background, and the hand embellishing creates a unique, one-of-a-kind mixed media work.

I’ve mounted the canvas in a black, wood float frame. The finished work is just over 24 x 36 inches and is priced at £950.

Contact me to enquire about a purchase

 

The Art of Photography Conference 2021

I’m super excited to be organising and presenting at the all-new Art of Photography Conference!

17 April 2021
10 am – 10 pm
British Summer Time

This one-day (all day!) online event features an incredible lineup of 16 top photographic artists, each presenting a special session about their personal passion and process in photography.

Tickets are on sale now – spaces are limited so register today!

ArtPhotoConference.com

Welcome to the all-new NatCoalson.com!

Thank you very much for visiting – I’m thrilled to have you here, and to introduce you to my new website. I’ve been working on this site for several years, behind-the-scenes, as I was also producing many other projects. As a very significant labour of love, I am pleased to present the new site. I would love to show you around a bit. read more…

Seeing More, Seeing Better

Most of us go through life looking without really seeing.

While this doesn’t always directly cause major problems, everyone can benefit from practicing more active seeing.

For photographers and other visual artists, being able to see effectively is the most important skill you can develop.

See what I mean?

To demonstrate how easy it is to have your eyes open but not really be seeing, try this simple exercise:

  1. Sitting comfortably in a safe place where you won’t be disturbed, fix your gaze on something around you. It should be in the middle distance; not too close nor far away.
  2. Keeping your eyes open and trained on that same object, recall a favourite memory of a time in your life that you can vividly remember. It could be yesterday or years ago; it doesn’t really matter. Immerse yourself in this memory — put yourself back in that place and time as much as you can.
  3. After spending a few moments with your mind fully elsewhere, bring your attention back to the present moment.

When you regain present moment awareness, immediately notice that while you were concentrating on that memory, the input from your visual systems was effectively put “on hold”. While your eyes were still open and generally taking in your surroundings, your brain was otherwise engaged.

In this state or mind, you’re looking without really seeing. This example demonstrates how the eyes and brain must be working in tandem to fully take in and understand what we see. read more…

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