Abstract photographer Ann Newman in Iceland

Why did I decide to become an abstract photographer?

Here’s the truth: I never intended to be a photographer at all.

And I don’t really like being cold. Let me tell you, that water in Iceland has ice cubes floating in it. Big ice cubes from glaciers. 

I simply wanted to be a travel writer. But travel writers need to have photos for their stories. That’s how this whole crazy adventure started.

And learning photography confused me.

Four years ago, I sat in the passenger seat on the way to Banff National Park. I was excited by the trip, but I also felt lost. Bill, my boyfriend, sensed that.

I’d been learning photography all this time, and yet, I wasn’t any closer to what I actually wanted to do with it. I felt a deep desire to live life on purpose. I’d had enough of the corporate march and was lucky enough to be able to quit. But after catching up on lost sleep and playing a lot for two years, which was great, I realized I needed more.

“What is it that excites you when you are taking photos? What can you see yourself focused on?”

I struggled to answer. I was feeling sorry for myself. I’d spent five years investing time and money in a travel writing program. At the first conference, I left convinced I needed a camera. What the speaker said made sense. People love visuals. They aren’t going to read a magazine article unless there are pictures. And magazines don’t have the staff or funding to hire a photographer to send to the place you are writing about. If you are there creating a story, develop visuals too. That’s how you’ll sell your travel articles.



Scripps Pier Photo Shoot

Taking up photography sounded simple.

I went to a camera store. What felt good in my hand slipped into a plastic shopping bag. I did not know how to use the camera, so I signed up for travel photography lessons from the same group I’d been learning about travel writing. There was a mixture of excitement and fear as I realized that what I bought required many other purchases I never intended or budgeted to make. Lenses, filters, cases, a backpack, a tripod I hated after opening two times, more lenses, another bag, the next tripod—it was an endless back and forth to the camera store.

I struggled with the math of photography. I paid for and attended several photography workshops. Once in a while, I’d take a photo I loved. I couldn’t stop looking at it. The rest were pure garbage.

And then, I signed up for a critique session. Weeks one and two of the critique sessions were fun. I got to see my peers’ travel photos, learn tips on cropping and composition from our mentor, and see how processing could bring the images to life. Then, on week three, he said, “Ann, you seem attracted to shapes, patterns, and textures. You need to add people and places to these. That’s what people want to see in travel magazines.”

Photographer taking a picture of sunset at the Grand Canyon.

How could I have been so off course?

So sitting in the car, looking up towards rugged mountains, I faced reality. “I like patterns, textures, shapes. I hate travel photography. I don’t want to ask people to sign a legal form so that I can take a picture of them. I don’t want dinner to get cold because I need to take photos of my dinner at a restaurant. I don’t want to be ‘on’ so I can interview someone at any moment. I need my space, my calm.

What I like to take is abstract photography. I’d like to have a website and write about abstract photos. I know that sounds weird, doesn’t it?”

Bill smiled. He kept driving, but I could tell he was thinking. He finally said, “How about calling it Annstracts?”

Abstract photographer Ann Newman in a slot canyon

Contemplating my next step

I didn’t say anything. I’ve never been good at hiding my reactions or lying. But at that moment,  I could have won a poker game. I picked up my cell phone. I pulled up the domain name and found it was available.

After a few clicks, I looked up from my phone. “Done.”

He took his eyes off the road to look at me. “What?”

“I just secured Annstracts. The domain. I love it. It’s me. Let’s go look for abstracts!”

New to Abstracts?

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abstract photographer Ann Newman at Saguaro National Park
Abstract photography at Dead Horse State Park in Utah

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