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Monday, 24 November 2014


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At the Minnesota State Fair last August. I wish it had more foreground though... Filed under Near Misses.

Larger here

I can't say that this image is "good", necessarily, but at least the subject was chosen with the intent of working with zoom blur:

I've played with unsharp off and on. As a discipline I like it but rarely like the end results. This one "kind of" met my expectations but ended the exercise. don't mind OOF in an image but a really soft one isn't really for me.

Bill Van Ollefen: Daily Project beginning May 23 2012 &emdash;


No photo to share but a correction to NYS geography. I know that a lot of people think that "upstate NY" is anything above NYC but anything South of the Buffalo/Syracuse/Albany line is really "Southern Tier" to those of us who live north of that line. A bit of regional chauvinism perhaps but when you look at a map NYC is down alongside NJ, barely in the state.

Great timing! I got home Saturday night from a days worth of shooting and realized I left my 3 stop ND filter on the entire day, so many of my shots were taken around 1/20 and ISO 3200. Getting ready to embrace the blur during my upcoming editing sessions!

Good subject, and one that's long fascinated me. I actually have a collection of such intentionally created images waiting for some form of presentation. But it's one that I created this summer that's really captured my heart.

Summer Girl
©2014 Kenneth Tanaka

So much so that I wrote a very brief background essay on it. This is an image that greatly benefits from larger presentation size. You can find a larger and enlargeable) version on my site.

It has always seemed to me that the balance between sharp & unsharp is one of the unique photographic mysteries. It can so easily be the ruination of painstaking setup and composition, but also the making of happy accidents.

This was deliberate, and I don't like it very much:

This one was a total FUBAR at the time, and grows on me:

The style we observe at work is to use Upstate New York, if that's an actual so-named geographical place. If upstate is an adjective to New York, then we don't. The Wiki entry gives the impression that it is a (semi) official name, but I don't know for certain. Maybe it's like an honorary degree, not really official but everyone treats it that way.

You could adopt a style that promotes it to official and use Upstate, it might make your upstate readers happy.

Nice shot of the de-icing. Pictures from the inside of airplanes often seem haunted to me, the kind of thing you find after a plane accident. That's silly, of course, there are lots of flights that don't crash during which people take photos, but that's what yours made me think of. Sorry if that's a little morbid, don't mean to be.

I've been working on a series of images that I capture while driving, all unsharp due to the nature of the process. The 'hit' rate is also WAY lower than 3 in 10.

Here’s an odd photo I shot through a car window as I was being driven home one somewhat beery night. It’s a gas station near my house, with a ubiquitous Tim Horton’s coffee shop bolted on to the side. Anyone in Canada knows that Tim Horton’s is everywhere; it’s like a Canadian institution, particularly in small towns where it is often the hub of social gatherings. (One joke runs “I went into a Starbucks, and there was a Tim Horton’s inside.”)

I didn’t think much of the photo when I first saw it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was emblematic of a typical Saturday night in small-town Canada, where the gas station and the Tim Horton’s is the brightest place around, and they attract people like flies to a streetlight. The fact that it was blurry seemed appropriate for a boozy Saturday night, so I put it on my (now dormant) photo blog and called it “Saturday Night in Canada.”

I considered taking it down a few times, as it’s not what I’d call the zenith of my repertoire, but there was something about it that made me feel nostalgic for my misbegotten youth, so I kept it there.

Good decision, as it was spotted by a university professor who was publishing a book on public policy in Canada. He bought reproduction rights and used the photo on the cover of his book!

BTW, here's a "pro tip" for anyone putting photos in the comments:

If you write your comment in a text editor and then copy and paste it into the comments box, the photo code might fail. The reason is the the quotation marks (") must be straight, "non-curly" quotation marks. Some text editors will convert them to "curly quotes" and that will fail in the comments.

The solution is easy. After pasting it in, simply replace the curly quotes with straight ones. (I.e., delete the curly quote and type in ". It will be entered as a straight quote.)

Two of my favorite kinds of photography are pinhole and train-window. Unsharpness abounds.

Some of my recent favorites:







Does a foggy window count ?

If I'm allowed elements of sharpness, this is the window itself :

Both shot at Blenheim Palace this week-end.

Roger Cicala at the lensrentals.com blog ...

There's just something about getting every shot in focus every time that's appealing to me.

Here's one from a ski trip a few years ago. It turns out to be quite easy to get blurry photos, going downhill, dslr in hand. And Pentax products are well suited to tumbling down the slope ahead of you, on those occasions when the dslr is no longer in your hand.

Action Photography

Here's one with motion blur. It took a lot of frames to find one that worked.

Wordnik uses "upstate" in all its examples.

As a refugee from North Dakota (gone 35 years), I gladly spend drippy winters in western Mossland, dreaming of summer, not missing snow, at all.

Waiting for spring and another de-icing picture.

This is my favorite new technique/trick to play with, especially on long flights or when I don't have a tripod!

As an aside: a professor once said that if you use it once, it's a trick. Twice, it's technique, and more than that, theory.

Anyway, I think people will find that they'll take far more than 10 of these photos because you will be endlessly tweaking the composition and framing of the image. As you can imagine, it's very hard to predict how the elements of the frame will come together, and editing (as in showing only the good ones) makes this kind of picture work.

Here are three of mine:




Le Jardin des Tuileries un Après-midi de Printemps

Le Jardin des Tuileries un Après-midi de Printemps, Paris, May 2013

Taken during a workshop with the great Richard Kalvar. The reason I include it is that I screwed up the focus when I took the shot so the background was sharp while the people in the foreground were soft. During the editing session it was suggested I leave it out of my final edit for the workshop for this reason, but I liked the picture so I kept it in.

Later I 'fixed' the background by softening it in post-production.

"not sure I've ever seen a good zooming blur picture"

Does doing it on an enlarger count? **

William Klein
Candy store

** zoom or magnification change on defocus.... it's the same idea.

I've always loved a little blur exercise to get out of a rut. Here's one from a few years ago with a zoom blur.

Image in comments:

4x5 pinhole image, contact printed to AZO paper, selenium toned:

4x5 pinhole image, enlarged silver gelatin print, sepia toned:

I like unsharp! More images: http://www.jonshiu.com/

Kowloon biker ("front-panned")

@9days.hk in person (overexposed). Click for larger image.

I don't think I've often intentionally saved an unsharp image but sometimes I like to hide the subject behind a foreground.

No problem for me. It's the sharp photos I find difficult.

I've got a lot of these 'unsharp' photos. There must be something wrong with me or maybe my eyes. This is a one shot deal; no bracket, no additional shots. Just carefully setup, and shot. There is a minor bit of trickery - the image has been flipped 180°.

Not sure why I kept this one. Looks like I used the GH2 with the 20 1.7. My dog is posing in front of the Mendenhal Glacier, if you cant tell.

Early morning in Varanasi, India. The woman in the foreground was lit by a street lamp. The scene unfolded too fast for me to focus. Nikon d300 with Nikkor 28mm f/2 at f/2.

A hazy recollection of times past for me.

As an aside, the first shot I tried to post became sharp when downsized for here.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Love the images! A new era for TOP I hope.

Here are some "unsharp" examples:

Weather - snow in North Carolina

Motion - my Niece's Wedding party - with a kiss

And, yes, a zoomer - on the strip in Vegas. It was easier with a push-pull zoom

Taken during my Leica Year:

And this one was taking with one of those $50 500mm lenses, through a morning fog:

A failed attempt at tracking by panning my increasingly mobile two year old daughter:

I like it very much.

Mike, good timing! Did you see this work by François Fontaine on the Leica blog?

I've had a similar concept in my mind for a couple of months, but he's given it a place, purpose and frame of reference that I didn't have the language to develop properly in my mind. The results are wonderful.

A complete accident

I know I have a few that are unsharp for one reason or another, but I guess I don't post many for public consumption. Here's one from a little while back:

Dance Hall

Dance Hall

I agree with Bill in that it can be effective in certain situations. Here's a shot of previously featured Top cat, Lucky, as he goes about his buiness. Don't get in his way, he's a cat on a mission!

But, in general, I find it more effective to have at least part of the image sharp, while the rest is unsharp. Here's a shot of Nigel Mansell in the Williams-Honda Formula 1 car at Brands Hatch in 1985. The blurred background and unsharp wings while the driver is sharp really give a sensation of speed and power, yet focus.

BTW, this was shot with film; an Olympus OM-1 with manual focus lens and Kodachrome 64. Those were the days. This is why I find it hard when folks complain that the autofocus speed of the Arblegarble X200Z isn't fast enough. I remember when no one knew what autofocus was...

OK, I'll play ... de-focused peanut M&Ms.

Traffic and rain in the city gave me uncounted opportunities for unsharp images, only some of them I've taken. Complete unsharpness certainly is not the only option, but certainly the greater challenge, as it goes against our common pixel-peeping self - just think of that new 5k Ma$-screen :)

This is an approach that's close to my heart—I've got an ongoing collection of unsharp(end) images at my site.


near focus

We're not competing so much against the photographers of 1990, though; our new shots are frequently judged against the new shots of other photographers today. So, yes, you can take action photos without auto-focus, I did it, everybody did back then. But judging those photos against those taken by people today with better equipment, they'll come up lacking an awful lot of the time.

Meanwhile, as a bit of counterpoint news, Mr. Sharpness himself, Lewis Baltz, has died this week. Here's the final interview with him, conducted by his friend Jeff Rian.

I'm not inclined toward soft photos, but here's one that I kept...

Two years ago, a friend who works at a magazine said that they wanted to hire a photographer and that he had told his boss about me.
I went to this man's office and I found out that the art department's boss was a lawyer.
One of the pictures of my portfolio was out of focus and he pointed out my "mistake".
I explained that I actually wanted the picture to look like that, and I talked briefly about DOF.

A few days later my friend told me I didn't get the job, and that his boss was convinced that I had "learned some theory to cover up screw ups".

My favorite period in art history has always been the impressionist period, so I often find photos lacking sharpness to be appealing, and I do on occasion try to use the effect on purpose... e.g., the following picture, taken through a scratched and hazy ferry window

I'm really enjoying this thread: some sort of essence of photo being distilled by everyone.

I caught my doggie in mid-pivot, romping with his girlfriend, a mini-dachshund. I wish this one were sharper because I would have loved to have a 16x20 canvas print of this, but it is really too fuzzy for such a large print. I did modify this pic to try to bring some greater detail than the original

Sure, here's a few. I think the X10 even does attractive motion blur

A few of mine from a recent project I call "Autumnal Abstracts".

All are 10-20 second exposures with intentional camera movement.

Here's a true three-hour exercise, Afternoon of the Pub, after three hours in Penny Lane Pub, Richmond.

Here is an exposure of about 5 minutes, made with the camera on a platform of hard-frozen snow. It's a bit of a mystery how the moonlit mountain is blurred, but the star trails still appear fairly well-behaved. I guess the camera must have shifted position only very gradually and evenly throughout the exposure as it settled into the snow.

So, this is confirming what I thought I knew about my own tastes -- I'm perfectly happy with some motion blur, either in parts of the subject or the background, and I'm perfectly happy with limited depth of field, but I have very limited use for photos that are entirely unsharp.

But every now and then one comes along that I can see some virtues in (this is just my opinion, I'm not saying they don't have virtues just that I don't see them) and very occasionally, I think (can't remember a specific example I can point to) one I do actually like.

Yonatan's ferry shot is nice somehow, the reflections helping place the viewpoint and such.

From a portfolio I shot for a railway company, more here: http://cfsalicath.no/2014/07/28/flytoget/

I recently took a sharp shot of a tree in fog, chimped it and thought "what's the point?"; the defocused shot makes the fog even more prominent.

I love defocus or focus/zoom when color is the thing -

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