#167. (In defense of) More blur

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Oct 20

Hi every one. Here is a third contribution from our South African friend Paul Perton, a pro photographer from Cape Town who is defending our rights to make blurs a part of our art! Go Paul! I particularly like the notion that there are many types of blurs and as many ways of producing them.


Unsharp – no mask was a bit out of left field for many photographers. The message I got from several readers was clear; we strive for well focussed images so what the hell was I thinking about talking-up blurry pictures?

Well, tough. There’s a world of ideas out there and I quite like the idea of photographs that inform by suggestion, colour and shape, so this time I’m delivering some intentionally blurry images.


The point of interest is very blurry, rendered that way by the mist, yet on close inspection, much sharper than we expect.

I’ve also broken the Rule of Thirds quite comprehensively here. It’s hard to imagine how else this picture might have worked.

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Still camera, moving water. With just a reduction in ISO and a tiny aperture, the shutter speeds drops and with a bit of experimentation, this is the result.

Shot in Ribbledale – this image of tannin saturated river water is a big favourite.

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Like the shot above, this is moving water. This time, on an icy December Scottish morning. With a long(ish) and heavy zoom, a tripod was essential.

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More water – this time with the camera being moved while the shutter is open. Panning.

Usually associated with moving objects, it works equally well with inanimate scenes.

The technique delivers unpredictable and often strange effects and practice is essential to get anything near interesting results.

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Another horizontal movement blur, this time at sunset on South Africa’s Atlantic coast.


One of the unpredictabilities I mentioned.

This time instead of moving the camera horizontally, I wondered what might happen if I moved the camera vertically. A couple of false starts later, I had this.

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Find somewhere, or something to rest your camera – you won’t always have a tripod in your pocket – set up the shot with a long exposure and shoot away. Once in a while, you’ll get something like this; a guy running for a train.


More movement; people on the Underground.


Tired? Bored with the Mona Lisa? Try using the gallery’s seats for a rest and a solid surface for disconnected movement. Better still, if you can get your camera down to ground level to give yet more presence.

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Another opportunity; by using the extremely limited depth of field of a wide aperture lens, it is possible to blur just about everything, saving just one spot for the eye to work towards.

For me, the red of a car’s brake lights turned this into a very special picture.

For the technically minded, this was shot with a 50mm f1.4 lens wide open.


Same lens, same aperture, but a completely different result; pin sharp focus draws the eye, while the confusion in the rest of the image builds some interesting visual tension.

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Two final images – same setup, different results.

The first started as a mistake; I have an ancient 500mm fixed aperture (f8) mirror lens that gets little use due to the difficulty of focussing it accurately.

I was keen to test the focus indicator on my new(ish) DSLR and wondered whether I might get more use of the 500 if it did. One afternoon late last week as the sun plunged downwards towards Cape Point, I saw my opportunity and rigged camera and lens on a tripod. This was my first look through the viewfinder; as yet unfocussed, the lens had delivered an unexpected bonus. Once focussed, the sunsets weren’t bad either.

So, with a resurrected interest in the 500, I went looking for the kind of light that an unfocussed mirror lens renders so well.

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Success. Late afternoon sun, Kogel Bay.