Sea Blue Lens


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Blurred Vision Part 2

Last month, Exploring With a Camera was about using blur creatively when taking photographs. This month, Artistic Blur Part 2 is about adding blur to images during post-processing.

I don’t normally do a lot of “creative” or special effects post-processing. I’m more focused (pardon the pun) on capturing what I see and getting my photos to be sharp. Why would I want to mess them up by making them blurry in post-processing?

Then I saw a couple of other people’s responses to this prompt and it looked like they were having fun, so I thought I might try it. I pulled a few images from my archives and started to play.

102_0206 alium seed headStarburst

This is an onion that had bloomed and gone to seed in the garden. I used Photoshop Elements to add a Radial Blur filter with a zoom effect.

DSC_0046In One Basket

This blur was added in Lightroom. In the original photo, the basket was sharp while the eggs were out of focus. I moved the clarity slider to the left (minus 71) and decreased the vibrance and saturation, which gave the image a soft overall glow that I liked.

101_0726 bird angelGarden Guardian

In PSE I added a layer of Gaussian blur to this little angel using the Linear Light blend mode. Then I added a filter layer of enlarged grain.

DSC_0123Flight

In this image, the background was already somewhat blurred due to the depth of field, but the bird was sharp. I tried several different effects and decided I liked this one best. I added a texture layer (Empty Page, a free texture from the lovely Kim Klassen) and then added a Palette Knife filter. I’m not completely satisfied yet and may try some other things with this one.

Here are the four images before I began playing with them:

Befores

I really enjoyed this exploration. I’ve already got a few more images in mind that I’d like to try some of these techniques with. Thank you, Kat, for all of the fascinating aspects of photography you’ve introduced me to through Exploring With a Camera.


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Getting Over It

Yay, it’s finally here! I’m taking a new class in Kat Sloma’s Find Your Eye series, called Journey of Fascination. We received our first lesson yesterday, “Letting Go.” It’s about learning from our photographic mistakes and missed opportunities and then letting them go — not continuing to beat ourselves up about them. Our assignment is to write a photojournal entry about one of those mistakes, what we learned from it, and whether we’ve let it go.

Let me count the ways . . .

Oops . . .

Probably like most photographers, I’ve missed a LOT of shots for various reasons. Driving by and not being able to stop. Not being able to get to my camera quick enough. Losing the light. Dead battery. Wrong lens. Wrong settings. Operator error.

Where'd he go?

Where’d he go? Note to self: practice panning.

Some of those I can’t do much about. Sometimes you just cannot pull off the road to get that photograph, no matter how badly you might want to. Clouds and light change in an instant, and there’s no controlling that — not for the average human, anyway.

I try to keep my camera close at hand now. It’s usually on my desk, with the lens on it that I’m most likely to want in a hurry. These days, that’s my 55-200mm zoom, for capturing the birds that fly in and only stay a moment or two. I keep my battery and a backup charged and change it before it runs completely out of juice.

Darn it!

Darn it! Wrong focal point.

The mistakes that bother me the most are the ones I make due to lack of technical expertise or knowledge of my camera. When I read over this lesson, one very painful one leapt to mind. Several years ago, some dear friends asked me to attend and photograph their wedding. It was a weekend-long event at a beautiful location, and began on Friday evening with a dinner for all the guests in a dimly-lit restaurant.

I arrived late, as I had to drive a long distance after work to get there. For some reason, I decided to change my camera’s flash setting to “rear curtain sync.” What I wanted was to capture the ambient light, then add a pop of flash to capture the details. (I wanted a more natural atmosphere than straight flash would give me.) What I didn’t take into account is that this might work fine for a stationary subject, but not so well with moving targets.

Here’s a photo from that night:

Makes me want to cry.

Still makes me want to cry.

Actually, this image (cropped to just the instrument and hands) doesn’t look that bad. You might almost think I’d done it deliberately. But, believe me, the blurred pictures of people sitting around tables, eating, chatting, and laughing, were not pleasing. The worst of it was, of course, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. There could be no do-overs.

Fortunately, I realized my mistake right after taking the image above, and the rest of the weekend and the photography went fine. But by then the dinner was over and the damage done. My friends were gracious and forgiving, but my stomach still clenches whenever I think about it. Clearly I have not let it go, despite knowing there is nothing I can do about it.

The takeaway lesson for me was to never, EVER experiment with the unknown when the results are critical. Don’t guess, but plan ahead of time and KNOW what is going to happen if a setting is changed. Look up what I want to do and how to do it. Experiment on my own time, ahead of time.

If those photos had been for myself, I’d have been disappointed and probably angry with myself, but I’d have gotten over it. What’s done is done, and there’s no point in brooding about what can’t be changed. But in this case, I disappointed someone I cared about who was counting on me, and that’s the part that hurts. That’s what makes it hard to let this one go.

.


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Blurred Vision

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

Hi — I’m back! I didn’t deliberately set out to take a month-long blogging break, but that’s pretty much what happened. Don’t know why, but I guess I must have needed it.

I can’t say I’ve got any deep thoughts or dramatic breakthroughs to report upon my return. But since my Word for 2013 is Explore, I thought I’d jump in with Kat Sloma’s Exploring With a Camera. Each month, Kat offers up a lesson on an aspect of photography, with clear explanations, how-to’s, and plenty of examples. This month’s exploration was “artistic blur.”

I spend a great deal of effort in trying to get my photos to be as sharp as possible. The concept of trying to blur a photo by moving the camera around during exposure, for example, or by deliberately not focusing before capturing an image is difficult for me to grasp. I tried some experiments for this lesson but, sad to say, they were not successful. However, in looking through my archives I found that I do use other types of blur to create the effect I want in a photo.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow

In this photo, I used a shallow depth of field to hint at the setting of this desert willow, but the blossom is clearly the subject.

Eventide

Eventide

In this case, even though it’s the grass that’s in focus, it leads my eye to the cottage in the background. For me, the cottage in the soft, warm evening light, with its sense of peace and quiet solitude, is the real subject of the photo.

Summer Storm

Summer Storm

I took this photograph becauseĀ of the blur caused by a brief but intense summer rain pouring down the window.

Window Waves

Ripples in Time

While this image was taken on another rainy day, the blurred distortion of the clapboards is caused not by rain but by the wavy antique glass of the window that I was shooting through.

Ripples In Time

Water World

These are ripples of a different sort. The water in this cove seemed very calm, but the blurred reflection tells another story. This is one of my favorite reflection photos.

Downtown

Downtown

In this image of the Los Angeles skyline taken from the Angeles Crest Highway, the mountains and distant city are blurred by mist and rain.

Slow Water

Slow Water

This blurred water is caused by using a slow shutter speed, a common technique used by landscape photographers to give moving water that milky effect. To be honest, it’s not something I do often, but I was experimenting with it one day and this was the result. To me, milky water looks very unnatural; I prefer to freeze the motion, leaving the water clear. But I did enjoy trying and comparing the effects of different shutter speeds on this occasion, and I’ll experiment more with it in the future.

Spots and Stripes

Spots and Stripes

This effect was achieved by shooting through a flowering shrub. Focusing on the bird beyond caused the foliage to blur into a translucent wash of color. I’d like to say I did this on purpose, but I was quite surprised by the result when I downloaded the images.

Illumination

Illumination

The blur here is caused simply by hand-holding the camera. The interior of this church was very dark so the shutter speed was slow. It’s sharper than I expected to get, but I like the softness of the glowing candles.

Angry Squirrel

Angry Squirrel

Autumn Gold

Autumn Gold

My apartment in Maine backed up to the edge of a river, and I had wonderful views from my windows. I took a lot of photos through those windows, with more or less success. These are two of my favorites. I was shooting through a double paned window and a screen, which gave these images a soft-focus effect that I like.

The Blues

Singin’ the Blues

Car window + Raindrops + Reflected Sky + Wide Open Lens. Once I’d have just thrown this away, but I like it. So with this little abstract, I’ll close my exploration for now and go link up with Exploring With a Camera: Artistic Blur. I think I’ll make it just under the wire.