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1 – Introduction
Just like I did for my previous series of essays on abstract landscape photography, I decided to separate the examples for this series on Triptychs in two different essays, one for color examples and one for black and white examples. This is therefore the first of two essays featuring triptych examples. In this essay I describe the creation of a variety of color triptychs and I discuss specifics aspects of their composition. I also talk about the stream of inspiration that led me to make specific choices in regards to color, processing, image selection, image arrangement and more.
2 – Rock Abstracts Color Triptychs
Some of the Rock Abstract photographs featured in the triptychs below were published previously as single images in my Abstractions essay series. I decided to use them to create triptychs for two reasons. First, abstract images are very good candidates for triptych compositions because they take on additional meaning when positioned next to comparable images of the same subject. While this is true for any well-composed triptych, this is particularly true for abstracts because of the lack of information about the original subject and context. Second, abstract images do not reveal the context in which the subject was located. Positioning it next to two other images fills this lack so to speak by adding additional information. While information about the original context and subject is still unavailable, the additional information provides new clues that can help the viewer enjoy the image and decipher its contents.
3 – Stones Color Triptychs
This series of triptychs is very similar in its approach to the Rocks series that I just talked about because both series feature abstract images of rock details. The main difference is that images in the Stones series feature a large color palette while images in the Rocks series are almost monochromatic. The Stone series also emphasizes the patterns and the details of the stones while the Rock series relies on the overall impression created by the images. My triptych arrangements make use of these compositional aspects by playing on the continuation of the stone patterns from one image to the next. As we will see in other examples, creating a compositional continuation from one image to the next is something that I use regularly in my triptychs.
4 – Clouds Color Triptychs
I love using clouds in triptychs because they offer virtually endless opportunities for permutations. To give me additional compositional options, I regularly flip cloud images left to right. Sometimes I position the flipped images on each side of the central image to create a symmetrical triptych composition. This is the case with Cloud Abstract #1. Other times I position the flipped images next to each other with a third image on the right or on the left of them to create an asymmetrical composition. This is the case with Cloud Abstract #2. Occasionally I use the same image twice in the same triptych, without flipping it, to create a repetitive effect. This is the approach I used in Cloud Abstract #3.
5 – Roses Color Triptychs
These photographs of roses were also published previously as single images in my Abstractions essay series. However each single image takes on a richer visual quality and an enhanced emotional appeal when combined with two other images. Here I used two different approaches to the composition of these triptychs. In Roses Triptych #1 I used three horizontal rectangular images of three different rose photographs. This triptych draws its interest from the variety of images. In Roses Triptych #2 I used three square images of the same rose photograph. This triptych draws its interest from the repetition of the same photograph, each featuring a slightly different color palette. These two different approaches create two different visual and emotional effects. Playing with compositional variations generates endless creative opportunities, making triptychs a rich subject for the creation of new images and for the development of a personal style.
6 – Landscapes Color Triptychs
Landscapes offer unique possibilities for triptychs because of the presence of the horizon. One of my favorite creative approaches is to use the three images to extent the visual impression of width. When I do that my goal is to extend the landscape beyond what was originally present in nature.
This is precisely what I did in the first example above, Dawn Triptych. In this triptych composition the same butte is present in all three images. My goal for this image was to give the visual impression of an endless horizon line to better show the immensity of the land and the mystery of dawn as the world transitions from day to night. If I had taken a single photograph the width of the horizon would have been far less. Taking three photographs and positioning them next to each other, gave me the freedom to expand the width of the horizon beyond what I could have captured with a single photograph.
In this second landscape example, above, my creative motivation was comparable to the one in the first example, i.e. to expand the width of the horizon and to create a feeling of endless space. Here too the same elements are present in all three photographs. There are only two photographs used in this composition. The left and right images being the same image flipped left to right. While relatively unimportant, the original capture is the image on the right. The left side image is the flipped version. The clouds moved between the time I captured the central image and the left/right image otherwise the framing is virtually identical, except for the vertical versus horizontal composition. The road in the center of all three images is the same road repeated three times. I positioned the same image flipped left/right on each side of the triptych to create a symmetrical composition. I wanted the composition to give the impression that the clouds were opening a welcoming path for the viewer. The effect is both aesthetic and emotional. It gives a feeling of balance to the image.
Here my creativity was motivated by the colors in the photographs. While the original color palette in these three images was relatively similar, it was also almost monochromatic, making it possible to create variations of color palettes. This is exactly what I did, creating a different color palette for each image in Lightroom and in Photoshop (I use both to process and optimize my images, starting the work in Lightroom then completing the process in Photoshop using adjustment layers). The three images were created with three different color palettes: oranges, yellows and mauves. I could have presented each image individually but presenting them as a triptych allowed me to show them as a tri-color harmony. It also gave me the opportunity to create a visual collage by placing each image so that the shape of the mesas continues from one image to the next, as if the images were taken in succession. In reality they were not. All three images were taken looking in the same general direction and show the same landscape features. The variation in composition comes from using lenses of different focal lengths and slightly moving the camera from right to left. I stood in the same exact place (I did not move physically) when I took these three images.
7 – Color Antelope Canyon Color Triptychs
Antelope Canyon is one of my all-time favorite locations. It is also an ideal subject for triptychs. Certainly, the fact that I have been there countless times helps because over the years I have assembled a huge collection of Antelope Canyon photographs and this allows me to create endless triptych variations. However the subject itself, because of its abstract nature, color variations and compositional opportunities, is a godsend to photographers. I have been to Antelope Canyon so many times I stopped counting. In fact I never counted because the point was to take photographs, not to record the number of visits. The first time I went there was 1986 and I have been back every year since, most years multiple times. There is a reason behind my undeniable fascination with Antelope Canyon: it is a photographic dream. And when it comes to triptychs, what we have is a new possibility of presenting not one but multiple images of Antelope in a single piece.
One of the problems I face with my Antelope Canyon images is how to present all the photographs I have created over the years. Not a bad problem to have, but a problem nevertheless. Triptychs offer an effective solution to this problem by making it possible to feature two or three images in a single triptych composition. In the Triptych above, Antelope Color Triptych #1, the right and left images are used to enclose the central image. For the left and right images I selected images that have a curve on the outside edge to create a visual enclosure on the sides of the triptych. The central image was selected because it has a tunnel-like composition which works well as the center image. The finished piece gives the impression of a continuous image from left to right and right to left. This is a purely visual impression because not only are the three photographs from different locations in the canyon, they were also taken on different visits. In addition the right and left images were flipped to accommodate my vision for this triptych.
This second Antelope Canyon triptych example is about color. The three images I used were selected because blues, mauves and pinks are their dominant colors. Here color is the primary creative motivational force. Composition however is still important, as demonstrated by the central image which features a large pure black area. This image works well as the center image because it draws the eye towards the middle of the triptych. The viewer’s eye is then drawn to the sides of the composition by the left and right images which have less prominent shapes but feature a wealth of details that invite close up examination.
In this third example two light shafts — actually the same photograph flipped left to right — are used to frame a panoramic central image. The dark tones and horizontally-sweeping curves of the central image contrast with the vertical composition and lighter tones of the left and right side images.
The two triptychs above follow the same compositional idea as Antelope Color Triptych #3 namely using a light shaft to frame a central image featuring a prominent detail of the canyon. However, here the light shaft, titled Light Bends, were curved in Photoshop to give them an intriguing and unexpected appearance. Here too, just like in Antelope Color Triptych #3, a strong horizontal central composition is framed by vertical images whose details invite close examination.
These last two color triptych examples demonstrate a composition focused on form and color, my two favorite sources of inspiration. In regards to the orientation of the three images, triptych #6 features a central square image framed by two horizontal images, while triptych #7 features a central horizontal image framed by two vertical images. In both instances the side images are used to frame the central image, by using the same image flipped left and right in triptych #6 and by using two images that are darker on the outside border in triptych #7.
8 – Arcosanti Color Triptychs
This final set of examples makes use of abstract photographs taken at Arcosanti in Arizona. Some of these images were published in my Abstract essay series while some have not been published yet. These photographs are details of a concrete structure covered by hundreds of individual ceramic tiles. There are such a huge number of ceramic tiles that I created over ninety different images at this location. While each photograph is interesting, seen one at a time they are not representative of the feeling I had when I was photographing this structure. My motivation for using these images in triptychs was to recreate the experience I had when being at that structure and photographing it. I had the impression of being surrounded by artwork. At no time did I feel that I was looking at a single piece. Rather, I felt I was looking at multiple pieces at the same time, going from one to the next, my eyes in constant visual motion. The four triptych combinations below are my attempt at recreating this experience so as to share it with my audience.
9 – Conclusion
Color triptychs offer a virtually endless number of possibilities. You can use realistic or abstract images, you can use the same image twice by flipping it right to left, you can use images with a similar or dissimilar color palette and more. The artistic possibilities are limited only by your imagination making the process of creating triptychs a rich creative endeavor. This endeavor is not over. In the next essay, Ωwe will look at examples of black and white triptychs. In doing so we will continue exploring the creative possibilities of triptychs as they apply to black and white images. This next essay will be part three of this three-parts series.
10 – Workshops with Alain and Natalie Briot
If you enjoyed this essay you will enjoy attending a workshop with us. I lead workshops with my wife Natalie to the most photogenic locations in the US Southwest. Our workshops focus on the artistic aspects of photography. While we do teach technique, we do so for the purpose of creating artistic photographs. Our goal is to help you create photographs that you will be proud of and that will be unique to you. The locations we photograph include Navajoland, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion, the Grand Canyon and many others. Our workshops listing is available at this link.
11 – About Alain and Natalie Briot
You can find more information about our workshops, photographs, writing, and tutorials as well as subscribe to our Free Monthly Newsletter on our website here. You will receive 40 free eBooks when you subscribe to my newsletter.
I create fine art photographs, teach workshops with Natalie and offer Mastery Tutorials on composition, image conversion, optimization, printing, business and marketing. I am the author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style, Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold. All 4 books are available in eBook format on our website at this link: Free samplers are available so you can see the quality of these books for yourself.