The Making of “Brush Off”

It was refreshing for me talking about making a piece of art instead of just discussing process or training. I will do it again. This time it is the making of the piece presented here. It is titled “Brush Off”. It is one of those abstract, “what is it?” pieces that I like to do.


If you think this is something very exotic, sorry to disappoint you. As a matter of fact, it is something common and mundane.

This is the brush going over the top of my car in an automatic car wash. Looking up through the sun roof. Like I said, mundane. Sorry.

The point, though, is: even something as common as this can be interesting if you look at it the right way. That is a constant theme of my images.


It was not as easy as just pointing the camera up and shooting. If I did that, even scrunching down in the seat, the lens would be almost right against the sun roof glass. That doesn’t work.

In order to get the glass in focus and sufficient field of view and depth of field to render the brush the way I wanted I had to get the camera a couple of feet away from the glass. After a couple of wasted sessions of trying to juggle a small tripod in place, I gave up on that and placed the camera on the console looking up. That was the solution. As long as I didn’t bump it.

Unfortunately though, with the camera there I can’t see what is going on. I had to use the Nikon software on my phone to connect to the camera and control it. Again after trial and error I figured out that I had to put it in manual focus and stop transferring captured images to the phone.

Even so, there is a noticeable lag between triggering a capture from the phone and it actually happening. Probably about 1/2 to 3/4 second. This took practice to get in the rhythm. I had to anticipate when things would be in place and try to lead the event correctly. Lots of trial and error. I ended up throwing a lot of frames away.


After all that, I wish the image I saw on the computer screen had looked like I visualized. But no. This was a sunny day. There were lots of reflections on the sun roof glass, both from outside and inside. It was worse because I had to abandon my polarizer to get the shutter speed I needed. It was a balancing game to blur the brush just enough to add to the mystery and abstraction without making it just a smear.

I did the initial exposure balance and crop in Lightroom, as usual. Then in Photoshop it required extensive selective color tonal manipulation to eliminate the reflections. Then there was more tonal corrections, dodge/burn, limited sharpening, etc.


What I want to point out, though, is that the image is not mainly about technique. Behind the “how” is the “why”. I was curious and mindful even while in a car wash. I asked what it would look like looking up through the top during the wash. And I spent the effort to explore it.

I’m glad I did. I like it. This is one of a series of images I did in the same car wash over many washes. It turned out to be a useful place to ask some “what if” questions and see what happened.

I encourage you to follow your curiosity. Don’t be afraid of looking foolish. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. It is your curiosity and vision.

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