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Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Fun with Christmas tree lights

Are you feeling like your photography needs an extra motivational kick? Do you want to try something a bit different and challenge your creativity? How about setting yourself a photographic ‘study’ or ‘mini-project’ on one single subject, to be undertaken in one single sitting?

I was motivated to do a mini-study one recent Christmas holidays when I was admiring the decorative lights on our Christmas tree. These multi-coloured lights made a cheerful and festive glow in our darkened living room and my mind soon turned to pondering the different ways I could photograph them. Not to be dissuaded by the late hour – it was nearly 10pm – I eagerly grabbed my camera and started to formulate a plan. My goal was to explore several different photographic techniques and see what varied effects I could produce.

Get Moving – Zoom Zoom

I tried a few ‘static’ shots first, but felt this approach would be fairly limited, so instead, I began to focus on images which would contain movement in one form or another.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Speed Warp

I started out with a simple, continuous zoom burst with a one second exposure. ‘Speed Warp’ was one of the very early shots in the series and this particular technique was the first one which sprang to mind.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter

I followed the continuous zoom burst with a more staggered, jerky zoom effect where I would zoom, pause, zoom, and pause within a two second exposure.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Light Burst

Here’s another take on the zoom burst – this time I’ve zoomed in and out, and in and out within the single exposure.

On Closer Inspection

I decided to move in closer for these next few shots and experiment with moving the camera to create different shapes.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Waterfall of Light

This is a more curvaceous interpretation, reminding me of a cascading waterfall.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Boxed In

Experimenting with more geometric shapes, ‘Boxed In’ plays with squares.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter

And as the title suggests, ‘Triangular’ explores these recurring patterns.

Panning Action

I also tried some rapid, horizontal panning shots.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Gone in a Flash

‘Gone in a Flash’ is a straight pass without any additional camera movement. While I enjoy the grand, sweeping gesture, I decided to get a little more adventurous and moved the camera within the pan. I managed to achieve some quite different effects…smooth and flowing.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Sine Wave and Loop the Loop

Then more angular and distinct – ‘Arrhythmia’ reminds me of a heart rate monitor while ‘V Formation’ is even more quirky.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Arrhythmia and V Formation

I finally decided to change the orientation of my panning action and made a vertical pan instead.

Abstract Photography by Jane Trotter
Fairy Lights

I enjoy this shot as I think it retains the shape of the Christmas tree quite well. In fact, ‘Fairy Lights’ was taken near the end of my photo shoot and is really the culmination of all of the previous experimentation and refinement.

Take the Challenge

Abstract Photography by Jane TrotterI can highly recommend the challenge of a mini-study. They’re great fun and will definitely get you thinking more diversely and creatively. I still have fond memories of that night when my Christmas lights began to dance in ways I’d never imagined!


About the Author

Jane Trotter is an abstract photographer living in Dunedin, New Zealand. Reimagining everyday objects found around the home, Jane transforms them into colourful and dramatic pieces of contemporary art.

Jane Trotter