OP – The Blog

October 26th, 2010

The Lure of Blur

Posted By Kevin Schafer

At some point, I suspect, every photographer looks at the brilliant colors of Fall, and wonders how to use them in a photograph. Especially, I might add, if it’s windy… In some conditions, it is simply impossible to get a sharp image of autumn leaves, so one is forced to resort to “creative blur.” ¬†It is simply a case of working with what nature offers you; with sharpness out of the question, and a camera in your hand – what else can you do?

On a recent October day, I found the color I wanted, but the wind was waving everything around. So I abandoned any idea of a quiet still-life, or a colorful near-far “Sierra Club” landscape, and went for the color, plain and simple; I slowed down the shutter speed and let the wind create the motion. For half an hour, I burned through exposures like mad, checking the LCD just to look at which techniques worked – and which produced complete, irredeemable chaos (and there were ALOT of those).

These two images are ones I kept, out of a hundred or more. (You might have picked different ones – or thrown them all away – who knows?) The one above I liked because of its gauzy simplicity; it is nothing but pure, abstract color. The one below I liked because of the leaf shapes still visible through the layers of blur. The conventional wisdom on blurry pictures is that something should ¬†always remain in focus for the viewer’s eye to hold on to. But conventional wisdom is often something to be skeptical of.

These images are a real stretch for a hard-core wildlife shooter like myself. But they are a reminder that photography should be creative, risky and playful. Have fun out there.


Please leave a comment

  1. Jon Cornforth Says:

    I love your use of creative blur! It is nice to see some impressionistic images from those of us that aren’t normally known for them.

  2. trungthu Says:

    I like these images too.
    The feeling of something burned for the first one, and the strong wind in the second.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Chandira Says:

    I did a series of ‘light-paintings’ recently of the lights at night across the lake from my house, realizing pretty quickly that a clear crisp shot was out of the question, as I don’t have a tripod. I love a bit of creative blur! It can be a lot of fun.


  4. Kevin Schafer Says:

    I LOVE your “light-paintings” Chandira! (I live in Seattle, too..) I applaud your taking a chance and simply playing with the light. You never know what you’ll come up with – which is part of the fun.

  5. Chandira Says:

    Thanks Kevin! Yes, it’s easy to play with different types of movement on a low shutter speed, horizontal, up and down, fast or slow, or just random swirls and motion, and they all turn out so very different.
    Lake Union is very photogenic at night.
    I like the one that looks like musical notes, too. My art college tutor had an expression, that a lot of the best art was a ‘happy accident’. I work on that basis a lot. You can engineer certain types of accident with the camera that are a lot of fun.

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