Blur —

The more photos I take, the more I realize that for the person who loves to take photographs but knows little about the mechanics of how photography works in the field, things tend to fall to either one of two laws: Murphy’s Law, or the Law of the Jungle; so it went as I attempted to create a photo for this week’s Daily Post photo challenge.

I do all of my shooting with my phone. It’s both a convenient and effective tool for capturing images, and so it’s not necessary for me to have a dedicated camera on hand, ensure that it’s charged, with enough free space in memory to take all the pictures I wanted to at the highest resolution. But it turns out that my phone’s shutter speed is freaky faster than a Jimmy John’s delivery driver. Yesterday when I got to shoot out at my in-laws’ place on the Missouri River, I intentionally tried to get some blurred photos by moving the phone quickly while pressing the shutter button.

A crystal clear, unexciting photo was the result.

I’m almost certain I frowned in confusion. Then I held up the phone, and spun in a circle, pressing the shutter button so rapidly that eventually the photo app threw up a circular arrow popup in an effort to get me to slow the heck down. I got about ten photos, all of them clear as a bell and about as interesting as an audiobook of Ben Stein reading a phone book.

So now I was done trying. Obviously when you wanted to capture an object in motion, you couldn’t; and when you wanted to intentionally blur a photo, you also would fail — Murphy’s Law.

So I began to look for interest in the world around me. This is where I often feel the daunt in photography: like, what really qualifies as an interesting shot? Am I just playing the part, or can I really find something that people would agree is visually appealing? Some day I will learn much more about photography. In the meantime, I figured out how to get my blur by trying to shoot in the direction of the afternoon Sun, while blocking it with my hand so it wouldn’t wash out the CCD and the resulting picture.

Auto-focus was the key here.

Pinching Out the Sun, by Rob Ross
Pinching Out the Sun, © 2015, Robert W. Ross. Creative Commons 3.0 CC BY-NC-SA

It turns out that my phone has a remarkably short focus field; you only have to be about an inch or two away from a subject to focus, and it automatically focuses on the closest subject. My current phone uses touch focus in the native camera app, but I happened to be using Hipstamatic, which doesn’t have a touch focus feature at this time so it focused on my hand. I held the Sun captive for a moment while I took this one. Then I wondered if I could do it with something so insubstantial as a pine needle, so as to get a more or less completely blurred photo.

Sunlight Cutter by Rob Ross
Sunlight Cutter, © 2015, Robert W. Ross. Creative Commons 3.0 CC BY-NC-SA

I got the opposite effect, but no less interesting: it looks like the light of the sun is cutting off the root of the blurry pine needle.

Here’s the upshot: I didn’t think to save blurred photos. I have, up until now, considered them to be garbage (i.e., a good reason to click the garbage can in my photo app.) I haven’t seen one worth keeping yet, but now that I’ve made a few on purpose I’ll probably consider in the future whether a blurry photo I’m viewing has some worth. It’s the least you can do for that unimportant, frozen moment in time. If you think about it, these moments of life — each moment of which should be precious to those who live in it — are now more expendable than ever. The first visual capture device in history was the eye, and those images were recorded in the mind. They could only be transmitted through the spoken word of oral tradition.  Millennia down the road, we began to capture these moments on light sensitive media — first film, and now digital memory. We’ve innovated our way through the challenges — clarity, color, cost, convenience, &c. . . now it seems like these moments are expendable when they don’t meet the strict criteria of the the photographer — their needs, their current mindset, their idiosyncratic preferences.

But what if someone else thought that image was useful? Even if it was worth less than a penny and so had to be given away — would it be worth erasing?

I’m not saying we should keep every image we capture, but maybe more of our images are worth another look.

(Daily Post photo challenge: Blur | Header image by Sophie Asia)

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2 thoughts on “Blur —”

  1. Seeing with different eyes – rather than the one we have in the moment, is what a good or better photographer is all about. During the days of film – well, after the processing and printing either of 4X5s or contact sheets – you had to really think about images – and soft focus, or blurry bits and depth of field etc. And it was done. The moment captured – as it – no “do overs” because each moment *is* unique – even in “studio work.”

    It’s about reflection really – besides – what we *think* we are seeing and what an actual lens captures – well the two aren’t completely compatible.

    The camera wins – every time – and I think, it’s up to us to look and re-consider stuff – but that’s just my not so humble op. 😉

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