Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BLURRED BEAUTY


There are few truly absolute rules in photography. For example…does a photo always have to be in sharp focus to be acceptable? Or, on occasion, can a blurred image actually prove a usable depiction?

I'd say the in-focus, non-blurred pix is usually the best, though not always—a hedging-the-bet answer, for sure. But the truth is, this is one of those arguments that must be judged from a point of personal preference, and on an individual image basis. What works for me might not be to your liking, and vice versa. There's also the element of technical proficiency vs. artistic rendering—as well as plain old dumb luck.

The latter is the truth behind the photo of the (I think) dark-phase female tiger swallowtail above. It was a windy morning on the little bit of prairie up the road. The tall grasses and bright wildflowers were swaying like ballroom dancers at a summer fête. And the butterflies were flapping and flitting about, sipping from a purple coneflower here and a spray of bee balm there, in constant battle with the gusty breeze, always on the move, always in motion; moving targets, every last colorful one of 'em. 

I didn't mean to make the shot you see…it just came out this way. But I like it. In fact, it may be my favorite of the lot from that morning's shooting. I'll post some of the others over the next few days. But right now, I'd like to hear your comments…does a photo have to be sharp, or can blurry be beautiful?
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16 comments:

Wanda..... said...

Blurry can be Beautiful...I think!

A few collages of blurry shots appear in my present post...one is of my flower garden, I think it adds a painted quality to the photo. Another one is of actively jumping deer, playing in puddles of water.

I prefer photos of myself to be blurry! :)

Bonnie said...

My eye makes room for them both and you have both elements in this one lovely photograph. It's an incredible shot Grizz - I love the fine lines in the blurred butterfly and its juxtaposition on the sharp-focused coneflower.

Digital artists often use Photoshop's "Gaussian Blur" tool to add a hint of blur to an in-focus shot, believing it adds a note of dreaminess or mystery.

Since everything ultimately is subjective, I believe we do well to make room for both/and rather than rigidly limiting ourselves to either/or - in life as well as art.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: I totally agree with you about this photo. How lovely! And whether you meant to do it or not, the result is outstanding! One time when I don't like blurriness (though other photographers seem to prefer it) is for moving water. Sorry, I just don't like a blurred stream or a blurred waterfall or whatever. Call me reactionary but there your have it.

Congrats on such a lovely photo!

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

Blurry can and is definitely beautiful. I love the gray mist/hue around the wing span - it adds an element of movement or flight. ANd your descriptive language of the goings-on about the prairie are so natural and simply alive. Just like you.
Love Gail
peace......

p.s. come by and see our garden - pics are up!

The Weaver of Grass said...

No Grizz, I don't think a photograph has to be sharply in focus. The one you have taken here would have just been quite an ordinary photograph had it been still and truly in focus. As it is it makes such an impression and gives the whole image feeling as well. Wonderful blue.

Grizz………… said...

Wanda…

I've just been visiting your place…and as usual, am simply amazed by your lovely home, gardens, and wonderful photography. You are blessed beyond measure.

I can't choose a favorite among your shots, blurry or otherwise, but the ones of the young deer at play are simply terrific by the moments they capture. And your flowers are great.

Your blog remains one of my all-time favorites…

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

I'm with you re. not limiting ourselves to an either/or stance, though as a general rule, when it comes to photography—or at least nature and landscape photography—I tend to favor the straightforward and non-manipulated. (Which isn't to say I'm against lightening, darkening, sharpening, or adjusting contrast, color, etc.) And occasionally, the shot in which motion factors into the image, does a better of capturing the "spirit"pof the scene or object than the shot that's razor-sharp edge to edge. Even if it was by accident.

Perhaps paradoxically, there are highly manipulated nature images that I also like. So I guess in a way, I'm just admitting to self-contradiction. You do some really lovely stuff, for example. Ultimately, this range is why we need to keep our prejudices quelled and our minds open.

Grizz………… said...

Carolyn…

As a longtime angling writer and habitual trout and smallmouth fisherman, a huge percentage of my articles and columns carried photos of rivers, creeks, brooks, and rills—moving waters of all sort and size. I know exactly the sort of shot you mean, and agree…those "silky" water shots are overdone and off-putting. I have no idea why they are so popular.

The eye sees moving water in stop-motion, at least as a general rule. There are, of course, fastwater exceptions. But when I look at the river passing merrily by my cottage, I don't see a blur, even in the riffle.

And yet…as a working photographer attempting to bolster my prose with great images, there were times when a totally frozen-in-time water shot didn't quite cut it, either. So I often employed a shutter speed just slow enough to capture a hint of blur—and when the moving water was thus juxtaposed against a perfectly static landscape background, it seemed to work into a better, more realistic image. But the effect had to be subtle almost to the point of invisibility. Certainly not those foamy/silky water shots that are so popular. And I always shot it "straight" too, because plenty of times that turned out to be the better photo.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Thank you. This was really just a pure luck shot…but one I like a lot, even though the butterfly really did the work; I just focused on the coneflower. I'm glad you like it, though. And I will get by to see that garden.

As this heat continues, please take care of yourself.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

Sometime in the next few days I'll run a shot of the same butterfly on the coneflower an instant before takeoff so you can see the colors even better. They are very pretty, especially the blue.

This "in motion" image was just neat, I thought. And truly all luck.

Robin said...

Focus would have given us a gorgeous photograph that we would have loved.

Blurry shows the nature and spirit of the butterfly, and adds depth.

You 'captured' it just right, in my opinion.

Grizz………… said...

Robin…

You have hit squarely—and I think correctly—upon the crux of things, the factor which lies at the difference between craftsmanship and art. (In the case of this image, I reiterate, accidental art.) Art, be it poem or prose, music, painting, or photograph, seeks to transcend its medium, hoping to get at, as you said, the spirit of whatever it portrays.

I do have that technically fully-focused, well-lit and composed "craftsman" image, taken a second or two before this exposure. It is quite lovely. But this one—where my focus remained in place, but the butterfly moved in a colorful blur—captures an ethereal instant…and I would like to believe, a bit of magic.

George said...

I love this image, Grizz. The colors are sensational and the blurriness of the departing butterfly is a visual reminder of the ephemeral nature of beauty and life itself.

Grizz………… said...

George…

Every so often, in a sort of serendipitous gift, the elements in an image which we seek to capture evades our intent and emerges apart from our creative vision into something more—something better. I take no credit for this shot, but I liked it for its colors and movement from the moment when I downloaded my morning's images. I'm glad you like it, too. Thank you.

AfromTO said...

oh this is wonderful -back from my paintout and won an award-and a new client who wants to buy 4 paintings for her cottage.You deserve an award for this photo.

Grizz………… said...

AfromTO…

This one was more luck than talent on my part…but you can award me a jpeg view of those winning/sold paintings of yours. And I take it your paint-out was without the feared fireworks?