Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thematic Photographic - Blur

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This week Carmi's asked us to toss out the old photographic rulebook and show him pictures of blur, like all those awful shots which fill up our old albums because we'd taken them and couldn't just throw them in the garbage now, could we.
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My blurry shots aren't from motion but rather from an incredibly shallow depth of field. I've been playing around this week with a friend's lens. It's an old 50mm, f/1.8. A really old one. So old it won't autofocus and the auto-white balance doesn't work. It is however a good little lens in low light, as long as you keep that aperture cranked wide open. The downside of this is that the depth of field is then so shallow that when shooting these little spice bottles on my kitchen shelf only one individual bottle could be in focus at a time, the rest are completely blurry. Oh, and that strange blue cast to all of the shots? That would be me not realizing that the auto-white balance wasn't engaging (and it looks this crappygood after doing some color correction). Meh. I'm chalking these up to the learning process. I still haven't figured out quite what to do with this little lens, but I am learning a whole lot about what not to do.
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Another failure. I kind of like this one anyway though, despite the blown highlights. (How on earth did I manage to blow out the highlights on a dark blue couch?) I'm not sure whether it's the color balance in the foreground, which does work, or the incongruity of having a bicycle in a living room (sadly all too common at my house), or some other intangible, but I like the feel of it. It's not a "good" shot by any stretch of the imagination, but something about it just speaks to me. What can I say, call me odd.

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I'm posting these for fun, but if anyone out there has any practical technical suggestions for me I'd love to hear them.

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11 comments:

Mojo said...

I don't know about "technical" advice, but some of the best "general" advice I ever got was "Just tell 'em you did it on purpose".

Of all of these, my favorite is easily the second one (the cinnamon jar). Personally I think the concept of "spot focus" (well, what would you call it?) is highly underrated. I love shots like this where the subject is sharp, and the other elements are really only there for "context". In fact, one of the most incredible portraits I ever saw only had the left eye in sharp focus. It was a "demo" shot taken with the 85mm f/1.8 lens I bought last summer, and it was that shot that convinced me to buy the lens.

So... I'm not sure what kind of "practical advice" you'd be looking for on these shots... there's absolutely nothing wrong with them -- especially if you did it on purpose. (*wink*)

Robin said...

Great advice, I'll have to remember that ;-).

I do like the very small focal area, I tend to use that a lot. I'm still not sure I've figured out this lens' sweet spot though. Yes, it can be used in low light without a flash, but only with the very small aperture, otherwise I could just use my regular lens. I'm still working out what this one would actually be really good for.

The weird color and light bother me a lot more. Like in that third shot, why do the bike and glider look just right but the white wall looks glowy blue.

Leora said...

Robin, well, your photos did inspire me to go outside and take a picture of a bee on a mum. So they must have some worth! I do like the cinnamon one a lot; I would consider that a success.

Isn't a blue cast because of lighting? Indoor shots are definitely harder for that reason.

Robin said...

When the camera sets the white balance it compensates perfectly well indoors. I'm working on trying to balance the right white balance and settings when I'm shooting in manual. I've got the theory, sort of, but I'm not very good at transferring that into actual numbers for actual shooting. I'm reading a lot and learning though.

Jientje said...

I know nothing of lenses and white balances and stuff like that, so ...
But I love Mojo's advice "just say you did it on purpose"!!
Love that second picture!

Maribeth said...

Love the sofa. Not just the picture, but the design. I want one!

Julia Smith said...

I'm with Mojo - that second photo is perfection. It feels like you've found the spice you're searching for.

MommyWizdom said...

No advice here, just stopped in to say hi! :-)

Dianne said...

I too think the 2nd photo is perfect

I am hopeless technically

I just keep shooting until the camera sees what I see :)

fearfullymade said...

Hi! I'm just starting a photography course and although I don't know much about focal lengths, apertures and all that jazz (yet), I'm busy learning. Anyway, the 2nd project is to do essentially what you've done with your jars. If I remember correctly, I'm supposed to set the lens to a large (high, big...see haven't got the jargon yet) aperture, choose a scene which has a lot of depth and focus on things near to, in the middle distance and then far off. I guess the idea is that everything else will be out of focus which will then focus the attention in the image to the most interesting thing in the frame. For me your cinnamon jar shot kind of works but there's no real reason why the cinnamon is more worthy of focus than anything else, or is there.
As for white balance my camera has a little button to manually set it and you just choose to match the lighting (so it says tunsgten, or fluresent etc). Particularly indoors the auto-WB doesn't seem to work very well.
Don't know if that helps! I had no real success with this project. Not sure if I didn't choose a good scene or if I need a lens with a wider aperture to actually produce the required blur (I just have the kit lens which came with the camera).

Kelley said...

Damn sight better than what I take, girl.

But then again, I am using a camera phone...