You hear blurred photograph, you think fluffed photograph. Everybody goes for sharpness. Unless, that is, bokeh is involved. Except that’s not true. Not only can you blur on purpose without relying on a fast lens, but you can also do so in a bewildering number of manners.
The photograph above was the inspiration for this challenge. A sharply focused (almost) background blurred by motion as the camera is panned to keep the unfocused subject in place. Two types of blur in one shot and, to me, a great feeling of movement and depth.
My goal, for this challenge, was to see how many types of blurs we, as a group, could come up with. Yes, shallow depth of field can yield lovely results. But, with the increasing number of fast lenses rapidly flooding the market, I have the feeling it’s all we’re going to be seeing, very soon.
So, what else can we come up with to make some of the frame lose its information content while creating a mood or an effect that traditional bokeh cannot ?
Results exceeded my hopes! Here’s a list of effects I counted, probably missing others along the way:
So, thank you all very much for your contributions and the variety of effects you have obtained !! I did not expect as many different results and processes 🙂 🙂 🙂 But enough babbling from me. On with the pictures.
Paul adds: “For this image, my girlfriend and I were at our favorite Irish location for their “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” celebration in September. The location is a local destination hotel that celebrates the history of the building, and most anything worthy of celebrating. They usually have a local band in the courtyard for their special celebration events, and this evening was a very good folk band playing classic folk music and rock and roll. My favorite song of the evening was Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith, played as folk music. It was great! We were sitting in the courtyard next to the outdoor fireplace listening to the music. I had gotten up to photograph the band and some people on the other side of the courtyard. And while I was returning to my table, the couple at the next table got up to dance. I did a quick lens change, moved to a better location, and made two images of them. This is the first.”
My 2 cents: the photograph above is the exact opposite of my top b&w image. The background is slightly out of focus but immobile and the subject is in focus but has motion blur. Cool.
Paul adds: “[The two images were made] using my M9 and 50mm Summilux V1 lens at maximum aperture or stopped down only one stop. I titled the project “Embracing Imperfection” because this lens was not well regarded when it was introduced, and it does not perform the way I expect a Leica lens to perform unless it is stopped down to f4 or more.”
My 2 cents: I love that lens imperfections are used to add flavour to a photograph rather than be considered inadequacies.
My 2 cents: blur can change the sense of scale (it’s the principle behind the “miniature effect”) and that beer cap, close up, looks a bit like Captain America’s shield. Also, a very peaceful scene at bottom, with the one boat on terra firma not swayed by the waters. There must be a Zen message in there somewhere 😉
Philippe adds: “Blur is the storyteller’s (thus my) friend. It can hide, as well as reveal. It can explain, or leave to the imagination. It can simplify or create mystery. And, as the zen master would say, “in the last picture, it is not the boats that are gently rocked by the swell, it is your mind that is rocking…”
There was a time when I couldn’ stop shooting long exposures while walking. Most of the results proved very uninsteresting. But others stood out and still appeal to me today. If you time the exposure length properly, it’s still possible to see the original scene behind the abstract, which I find very cool.
Although they don’t really blur, I find that shiny reflections have a similar effect by disturbing our vision and appreciation of detail.
Mundane objects can be abstracted through blur-by-wobbly-glass.
Jean Claude adds: “These images intend to convey the emotions I have experienced during several visits to Berlin between 1998 and 2002 – a feeling of melancholy, a sense of displacement caused by the frenetic new constructions of the reunified metropolis and the blurring of its troubled history. After a few largely unsuccessful attempts to capture my vision with traditional cameras, I decided to build my own device, by jury-rigging the front element of a loupe to bellows connected to an antique medium format camera with a focal plane shutter. While the photographs were, sometimes, sharp in the center, their edges were out of focus and subject to uncontrollable and unpredictable aberrations.”
My 2 cents: The consistency of mood is great but what’s even more interesting to me is how the (psychological) focus of most photographs is placed on something that isn’t really sharp. It’s undeniably the center of interest but we are refused the details. This is particularly striking with the statue with a cross on the roof of the Reichstag. Is that a man? What’s happening there? Very unsettling and cleverly done! Unrelated but the two opposites in the Jewish Museum dyptich work so well together!!
Reflection in a summer pond. Scanned from a slide. I just like it, detail be damned.
The prairies on a bitterly cold and flat day with a nice bit of Tri-X grain. My whole world was a big, flat, frozen blur. Keeping cameras and fingers from freezing was a priority didn’t leave time for fussing about.
A bright red bush on a very cold semi-overcast day. Taken with an old cell phone it captures the scene as I remember it. Too cold for a regular camera but this worked for me.
Alan adds: “None of the blurring was “intentional” insofar as I didn’t carefully calculate shutter speeds, f stops and film stock to arrive at a result but just banged away and recognized things that I liked. I know it when I see it!”
My 2 cents: So interesting that sharp images produce blur-like results.
My 2 cents: Sean sent me a complete set of photographs from Kata Tjuta (next to Uluru) to pick from for this challenge. I arbitrarily picked some that had a strong separation between sharp foreground and blurred background, to make a consistent series. The final skyscape was also picked because all of the photograph is in sharp but the fuzzy clouds give an impression of bblur.
My 2 cents: more gems by Paul. The matter of the glass seems to evaporate into photons the further away we get from the plane of sharpness. From watering hole to black hole? 😉 As for the second, is this Jupiter?
Sateen adds: “Identity protection laws stop us taking photographs of people engaged in their everyday lifes. I wonder whether this protects them more than it hides their humanity. I use blurred photographs, among other techniques, to sit at the border between legal and illegal, between creating meaningful photographs and prying, particularly to question the validity of our societal choices, and those that are made for us.”
My 2 cents: I love how finely judged the blur is. We can almost make out the faces but anonymity is still maintained. Unrelated but I love the colour work here! Wow.
My 2 cents: Here, the focus blur seems to join forces with some sort of “light blur”. The light seems unsure where to fall on those leaves. Interesting effect.
My 2 cents: What can I say? Gorgeous. 4 photographs, 3 types of blur. And complementary colours. Also interesting is that combining what seems to be like shallow DoF with user motion (voluntary or not) creates a really interesting effect (Kyoto). A completely focused image with small motion blur could have appeared unwanted. This feels totally done on purpose. Nothing wrong with a lucky break when you experiment, right 😉 The result is lovely.
Lad adds: “One early morning walk over the hill from where we live, I walked in gentle mist. I liked the sinuosity of the fence, but also the background blur, and in post I accented the fog to help convey the magical spirit of the moment.“
My 2 cents: A lovely atmospheric shot. As far as blur is concerned, it’s really interesting how different the blur from fog is to blur from shallow depth of field from fast lenses. It’s more alive and more natural.
My 2 cents: Fascinating. To me, the third photograph (Above the waterfall) “inverts” the concept of rainbow photography. Instead of a hazy multicolour curve over a sharply defined landscape, we have the exact opposite here. The first (Red dust cloud) is what reminded me of my own blurs! So I’m greatful for that pic as I had no idea what to post 😉 😉 And what a shot. It reminds me of a planetary nebula. Really cool.
Many intentional effects and purposes. Some unintential photographs recognized as interesting. And, most interestingly, a heave reliance on what would be considered deficiencies (in scanning, in optical quality, in shooting technique, in sensor tech …) to produce creative results. I particularly like that. It’s an act of resistance in a hobby/profession obsessed with sharpness and technical measurement and so often utterly dead inside.
Lad Sessions recently suggested to me that we make a challenge out of the simple idea of square format photography. Thank you for the great idea. Let’s do that. Rules are simple: anything goes if the frame is square. But it’s not just about cropping any old 3:2 to make it square. Let’s have a bit of square composition 😉 How can you use the square formally, creatively, against the grain …? Can’t wait to see your results 🙂
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