Meet photographer Rachel McNulty, who was inspired by lockdown to create abstract seascapes without leaving her home…
I have always loved abstract and impressionist art, and enjoy creating simplified abstract seascapes using intentional camera movement, or ICM. But lockdown restrictions meant photography trips to the beach were on hold – so I started to think about how I could apply some creativity to my photography to somehow have that seascape experience but from the comfort of my own home.
My inspiration came from one of my early ICM images, taken on a beach in the Vend several years ago, where I had wanted to encapsulate the bright colours of the scene in an abstract form – the golden stretch of sand, the deep turquoise sea with white flashes of the breaking waves and the wide expanse of clear blue sky.
The brief I set myself for my project was simple – it had to be done in-camera, and using only natural light sources. I had no desire to spend too much time in front of a computer screen editing, and it was part of the challenge to create images working with the variable light conditions on the day. I wanted to travel to an imaginary beach and watch imaginary waves crashing onto an imaginary shore and be able to paint those scenes with my camera. So I started to experiment with one of my favourite materials – glass – or to be more precise, those beautifully coloured turquoise blue gin bottles, and set myself up with a collection of empty bottles on my dining room table.
My technique is simple. I use the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, shooting mostly between F2.8 and F4, and focusing in close to the glass to capture the patterns created by the light and reflections. I often shoot towards the end of the day when the sun is lowering in the sky, as it comes through the windows it can be used to cast a warm diffused backlight through the bottles.
When I start making an image, I will spend some time looking at the bottle through the viewfinder to get inspiration for a scene, looking at how the light and colours and reflections are working together. By moving the bottle a few millimetres, I can see new waves or storm clouds can appear, adding drama to the image, or perhaps just the tranquillity of a calm sea at sunset can be seen through the turquoise glass.
The final editing process is used simply to bring the scene to life, by tweaking the sliders to correct the saturation or applying a little more contrast or sharpening. Occasionally I will move the sliders further, challenging what the software can add to the image, but more often than not I prefer to come back to something resembling the original colours.
This project started as a means to carry on my creative photography from home, but each new set up is still an experiment as to what seascape can be conjured up. With so many imaginary beaches to explore, I am intrigued to see where my next creative journey through a bottle will take me.