Flower photographer John Holmes on creating a series of stunning abstracts

Abstract flowers
John’s utility room became a temporary studio when he photographed this chrysanthemum. (Image credit: John Holmes)
  • Mission: Experiment and learn new techniques during lockdown
  • Photographer: John Holmes
  • Location: Limerick, Ireland
  • Kit used: Nikon D750 and Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD


From my mid-teens onwards I always had a camera. I started off with an Instamatic, before moving on to a Nikon F-301 and then a Nikon D80. When I retired in 2010, I decided to focus on photography more and bought a Nikon D300S, a wide-angle lens and some ND filters (opens in new tab). Thinking I had this photography thing sorted, I went to a coastal photography workshop and suddenly found out what I didn’t know and what I actually needed to know.

Moving forward I learned what I could from books and YouTube, but ultimately gained more knowledge and experience while out shooting with other photographers, entering camera club competitions and attending workshops.

During the boring days of lockdown (when the opportunity to travel for landscape photography was very restricted) I decided to focus on improving my software skills and invest time in Adobe Photoshop CC (opens in new tab), re-working old images and using some newly acquired techniques. Fortunately, I come from an IT background and I get as much satisfaction processing an image as I do capturing an image.

Not many people would enter a floral photo to a black-and-white competition, so I submitted the chrysanthemum (above) to be different. The simplicity of the original image with the black-and-white conversion provided the visual impact I wanted. It was taken in our utility room against a black background with very low light and was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

This image started as three red peppers before John used Adobe CC to turn it into an amazing abstract. (Image credit: John Holmes)
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Up next (above) is an abstract I reworked from a shot of three red peppers using a similar setup to the chrysanthemum image, but with two Manfrotto LED light panels (opens in new tab). While the original image was good, it was processed as an abstract using Photoshop and Lightroom, which I think turned out better than the original. 

John’s striking abstract images are created in Adobe Photoshop and refined in Lightroom. (Image credit: John Holmes)
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The third abstract started off as a top-down image of a dandelion seed head and was taken outside in natural light (above). Again, while the original image was okay it didn’t convey the visual impact I wanted. 

The two abstracts were created using standard Photoshop filters and techniques I learned on YouTube. A final edit was completed in Lightroom to adjust the shadows, exposure, clarity and texture to add extra punch. I tend to create abstracts from images with dark backgrounds and brightly colored, isolated subjects – flora is particularly great for this.

See more of John's incredible work by visiting his 500px page (opens in new tab).

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