January 12, 2021: Education & Training – Abstract Photography with Mike Whalen


Most photography is based on capturing real, easily recognizable subjects such as a people, places, or things. Abstract photography is different. Instead, the objective is to look for simpler visual elements such as: shapes and colors; lines and curves; textures, tones, and patterns. These simple elements become the dominant points of interest in abstract photos. 

The sources could be either naturally occurring or man-made, and of any size. Frequently, small areas of larger physical objects can make interesting abstracts. The images could be found as-is, staged, or generated in-camera. They could also be further altered within a computer via post-processing to produce even more dramatic results. 

The scope of  abstract photography is quite broad and definitions may vary depending on who you talk to or what you read. To add even more confusion,  images could be totally abstract – having no connection to physical reality, or partially abstract – by mixing both physical and abstract elements together in the same photo.   

This presentation will show a broad variety of both abstract and semi-abstract images, and in many cases, how they were created will be described. All images are either photographs, or derived from photographs.

Mike’s presentation can be viewed here: Abstract Photography-Mike Whalen-January 12-2021  (Username and Password required.)


As a teen, Mike learned a few basic photo tips from his father, an artist and photographer. He dabbled with film cameras in the 80’s and 90’s, and after that, played with several digital point-and-shoots.  However, his interest became more passionate after purchasing a basic DSLR in 2006.

Mike joined NVPS in 2009 after learning about the club from fellow member, Willa Friedman. He held board positions from 2010 to the present, including President in 2013. He received several distinguished service awards and multiple competition awards thru the years including image-of-the-year in 2014.

Before COVID, Mike volunteered weekly as a pet photographer for the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and, and as an event photographer for charitable organization’s such as: The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and The Epilepsy Foundation of America.

Mike says that joining NVPS was a significant step in furthering his passion for photography.

Examples of Abstract Images


Below is a small sampling of online articles and galleries showing abstract photography. The NVACC Gallery shows abstract photography from the last 10 years of exhibits at the Joseph Miller Center. Quite a few images are from current and former NVPS members.

This entry was posted in Activities, Education & Training, Presentations.