One of the more interesting and eye-catching ideas that we’ve stumbled upon recently is the idea of photo Impressionism. Impressionism was born in France in the middle of the 19th century with painters like Monet, Sisley, Morisot, and Pissarro. Traditional impressionistic paintings feature small, visible brush strokes, accurate representation of light, and the inclusion of a feeling of movement.  "[the artists] constructed their pictures from freely brushed colors that took precedence over lines and contours...They portrayed overall visual effects instead of details, and used short "broken" brush strokes of mixed and pure unmixed color—not blended smoothly or shaded, as was customary—to achieve an effect of intense color vibration.”

Claude Monet - Poppies
Claude Monet - Les Coquelicots

At Daylighted, we came across Photo Impressionism by coming across the work of photographer Stephen D’Agostino.
“Sharp focus and a steady image can sometimes get in the way of the idea being conveyed... With photo impressionism, the movement of the frame is often more important than what is moving in the frame.” Stephen says.

Stephen D'Agostino - Beach Umbrella In The Round 2Stephen D'Agostino - Beach Umbrella In The Round 2

To achieve his impressionistic work, Stephen uses a photo technique he calls 'in the round'. This is a technique that layers multiple photos and uses opacity blending in Photoshop to create the desired effect.

San Francisco photographer Christopher Dydyk also uses 'in the round' photography and photo stacking. He explains "Traditional photography is beautiful, but lacks the multidimensionality to fully express the sensations of energy and joy that are often felt when looking upon a San Francisco scene. To overcome the limitations of traditional photography as a medium, I developed a technique that captures these feelings. To begin the process, I repeatedly photograph a subject, such as a tree, as I walk a circle around it. Once I have all of the images, I digitally layer them on top of each other, subtracting some elements and highlighting others. The addition of this temporal dimension to the photograph conveys the energy that I feel around the tree, and the tree's relationship to its setting."

Christopher Dydyk - North Beach CafeChristopher Dydyk - North Beach Cafe

To create an 'in the round' impressionistic photo, choose a subject that is strong enough to be able to be deconstructed. Strong symmetrical shapes and blocky color work well, but lots of details or similar colors can blend together and fail to produce a strong finished image.  You can hand-hold the camera, but the subject needs to stay in the relatively same space in the viewfinder as the camera moves. Stephen walks all the way around the subject, photographing it from different angles and directions. In Photoshop, open all the photos as layers on top of each other. Play with opacity in the layers to achieve the desired effect. Try starting with 100% opacity decreasing opacity by half for each consecutive layer. There are some photo stacking scripts that can help with this process. Also, try playing with blending modes like 'overlay' in your stacked layers. For a list of photo stacking scripts and more comprehensive directions, check out Stephen's site here.

Another photographer, Canadian Matt Molloy, celebrates landscapes with a different approach to photo impressionism. He uses photo stacking to add drama and whimsy to beautiful skies.

Matt Molloy - Sunset Sprectrum
Matt Molloy - Sunset Spectrum

This is a photo stack of 186 photos of the sunset, merged into one image. Some pieces of his use up to 400 photos, all shot on a tripod, merged into one final image. Creative photo stacking differentiates his work from standard landscapes.

Hal Eastman creates impressionistic images very differently.

Hal Eastman - Natural Dance #27Hal Eastman - Natural Dance #27

Hal shoots only with film for his Natural Dance series and all of his striking effects come from in-camera technique rather than digital manipulation. He uses multiple exposure and long exposure in camera to express this impressionistic freedom of dance. His creative process is the opposite of instant gratification; his effort and art only float to light after the shoot, in the red haze of the dark room.
“Eastman’s unusual camera and printing techniques, developed over several years, give the images the feel of impressionist paintings and charcoal drawings, and represent an innovative approach to dance photography.”

Using a long exposure, multiple exposure, digital stitching and photo stacking, photographers are going beyond the limits of photo-realistic, representative work. Photographers are demonstrating their imagination, inspiration, and interpretation in their efforts to move from realism to emotion and expression. Like the original impressionists painters, these photographers are incorporating movement as the fundamental and essential feature of the experience of the art. This art seems to transcend the literal and become the stuff of dreams, movement and imagination.

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