As photographers we are constantly striving for tack sharp images and go to many lengths and great expense to achieve this. Using time tested techniques such as mirror lock-up, cable releases and a good sturdy tripod can all go along way to achieve this but I’m now seeing an increase in the use of purposefully blurred images.
Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing new, and it’s certainly not to everyones taste, but, if you trawl throughout the pages on Flickr there is definitely an increase in this style. I’ve gone to great lengths myself to get those super sharp images but now im also finding these blurred images more intriguing. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the sense of leaving something for the imagination – allowing the minds eye to sharpen the image. These images can certainly be perceived differently from person to person but I also ask myself ‘what has the photographer seen in this image?’ because the composition and content is not always immediately clear.
There are many diffent methods to achieve this blurred effect – long exposure handheld, camera panning, tilt and shift lens’ or by using the powerful tools within software such as Photoshop and each give their own unique results. I have so far tried panning and the Photoshop method and examples of each of these can be seen here.
I mistakenly thought that this technique would be easy to emulate hand held – how wrong could I be? You need to think just has hard about composition and the elements within you scene. I had far more images go in the recycle bin using the panning technique than I would have taking traditional landscape images. You also have to think hard about the amount of movement your going to use – too much and it’s just a streaky mess and too little looks as if you’ve just poorly focused the image. I found my best results came from focusing on a key point in the image, such as a tree trunk etc, as this gave the image an anchor, then used various shutter speeds from about 2 to 4 seconds while experimenting with different ways of panning the camera. Very hit and miss but very rewarding when you get a worthwhile result.
I think it will be a while before I could invest and try the tilt and shift lenses but in the meantime, for some blurry inspiration, please take a look at Chris Friel’s website. I was introduced to his stunning work by another equally accomplished photographer and friend, Doug Chinnery. Chris is a master that the artistic blurred images and used many different techniques to achieve the effect but also confesses to having an appalling shot ratio.
Great British Landscapes, the new online photography magazine produced by Tim Parkin and Joe Cornish, have just featured an interview with Chris so why not check that out too along with some other very useful and interesting articles.
If you’d like to see more of my work please check out any of the links below.