Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In praise of blur

click photo to enlarge
I've said elsewhere in this blog that the technical and technological side of photography doesn't interest me very much. In fact, I engage in it only to the extent that I have to in order to make the photographs that I require. The truth is that I pursue photography because I like making pictures.

I do, however, occasionally visit photography forums and one thing I have gleaned in my surfing is the extent to which many photographers value sharpness above all other qualities in a camera/lens combination. Consequently lens acuity as measured in lines per millimetre seem to be very important to many. Questions about new lenses or lenses that someone is considering buying often solicit forum members' evidence of sharpness. Colour rendition, bokeh, contrast, flare handling and all the other qualities that are desirable in a lens come well down the list of sought after features - if they are considered at all. Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate a sharp lens, and I also understand that a sharp lens can be manipulated to lose some of its sharpness whereas a lens that isn't very sharp is difficult to sharpen. But, sharpness isn't everything, and some subjects are the worse for it. Moreover, using your lens in ways other than to secure maximum detail is often the right thing to do.

I was thinking about this when I photographed a bed of coneflowers the other day. I took a shot of the blooms aiming for sharp examples in the foreground and blurred heads behind. But, as I looked through the viewfinder I found I preferred the out of focus flowers to the sharp examples. So I took a few shots, some that resolved great detail, and others - like the one above - where nothing was sharp. Out of all the images that I gathered it was the out of focus ones that I preferred for their hazy, indistinct, painterly qualities.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 300mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 1250
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On