How to Take Good Blurry Photographs

Photographers spend most of their time trying to take sharp photos. They set their camera on a tripod and ensure a fast enough shutter speed. They’ll sit around for hours waiting for the wind to die down before they trigger the camera. And when they do trip the shutter, it’s usually with a remote switch so they don’t have to touch the camera and shake it.

I’ll admit, I typically do the same. There’s nothing worse than taking a shot that you think will look amazing when printed, only to discover there was a slight shake in the camera and now the picture just looks bad.

Lately, however, I’ve been experimenting with the practice of intentionally blurring some photographs. I got into it by accident. I was out taking photographs one day when, for whatever reason, I moved the camera significantly while triggering the shutter. The lines and color combining that resulted were cool. They almost looked like paint brush strokes. So I decided to try doing it on purpose. I would paint with my camera.

There’s a big difference between a blurry photo and an intentionally blurred photo. Blurry photos look like you were trying to get a clear, sharp image but you didn’t know what you were doing. An intentional or artistically blurred photo should remind you of something in a fine art gallery. If you’re going to try it, keep in mind that you still have to adjust for the optimum shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

When I shoot blurs I’m out in the early morning or late evening for the best light. I’ll set my ISO at 100 and open up my aperture fairly wide to an f/16 or f/22. There’s no need to blur your background with a short depth of field since the whole image will be soft. The shutter speed should be slow enough to allow your movement to matter. However, you don’t want it too slow or there will be no distinction at all.

The point is, you still have to pay attention to everything you normally would when shooting any type of photography. With the wrong light, subject, composition or exposure, your blur photography will still look bad.

Below is one of my favorite blurs. I was staying at an Airbnb in western Colorado farm country. While I was taking a walk one early morning I looked off in some bare trees in the middle of a field. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a muster of peacocks perched on the branches. There were eight or ten of them.

I didn’t have my camera at the time so I came back the next morning with it and tried to capture a few images. It was pretty early (read low light) and I was hand holding the camera. I knew I wasn’t going to get perfect pictures so after taking a few to prove to myself that I was actually seeing apparently wild peacocks in the middle of Colorado, I tried taking some blurs of them while they were flying down from the trees. The result was an oil painting like image.

Since then, I’ve blurred many subjects. It adds a whole new aspect to my photography and gives some variation to what I produce. It’s also artistically freeing during those times when I know I can’t capture perfectly sharp pictures. You can use any situation to your advantage, even when the situation seems to be giving you a disadvantage.

 

Photo Challenge Day 5 – Cactus Flower

For Day 5 of my 30 day photo challenge I ended up in the desert. I spent two hours exploring and photographing flowers, landscapes, bugs and animals. It was a great time and the most enjoyable of the photos I’ve taken for this challenge so far. 

I think I took over 160 photographs and I liked a majority of them. The picture I chose for today’s post might not be my favorite. I can’t really tell because I have so many favorites.

If you want to see more from my hike you can check them out on my Flickr page

30 Days of Photos – Day 5

Day 5 – Cactus Flower

Finding Color in the Desert

I went out for a hike in a desert area to visit a lone tree where migratory bluebirds come to feed on the berries each year. I was either too early or too late because there were no bluebirds. So I decided to turn the hike into a desert color photo walk. I was also trying to get a good picture for my 30 day photo challenge and this was the perfect opportunity.

The tree

When you first look out onto most desert landscapes you might be tempted to assume it’s just a brown, arid, lifeless scene. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once you learn to observe the desert closely you’ll see that it is teaming with life and is full of color. Sometimes it takes being still and waiting for your ears to acclimate to the sounds and your eyes to the shapes and colors the desert provides.

I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast since I was trying to get out to the tree while the sun was just coming up. I realized that I was getting pretty hungry and should probably get back home soon.  But now that I was out looking for colorful subjects and finding them at every turn, I just couldn’t break away. I was having too much fun and it was so peaceful being the only person in sight.

I spent about two hours walking the hills and trying to avoid getting skewered by cactus needles. I came away with over 160 photographs. I knew I was going to like a lot of them. After I brought them home to look at on the computer screen I realized I liked too many of them. How in the world would I be able to choose one for the photo challenge. In the end I did choose one although it’s hard to say any one of them is a favorite. You can see it at my Photo Challenge Day 5 post.

Here are a few of the photos from the day. The rest can be seen on my Flickr page.

A Handful Worth Keeping

It’s funny how you can take a hundred pictures and only get one or two that are good enough to keep. The subject may have moved, the camera may have moved, the camera settings were wrong, the light was bad, the framing was crooked, the background was too busy. There are so many factors and variables.

But it’s worth it for those few good images. The ones you look at and realize they could have only been produced by persistent effort. That’s what happened this morning when I had an impromptu photo shoot with my dog Shadow.

The sun was just coming up when I looked down our hallway and noticed a beautiful soft light on the wall. It looked perfect for some nice photography. I knew the light was changing even as I looked at it so I needed to start shooting right away before it left. What I needed was something to photograph. My dog was lying on the couch being lazy so I decided to put her to work.

I called her over to where the nice light was and had her sit. She is usually well behaved and does what she’s told and this time was no different. Even so, I think she badly wanted to run over to me when she saw me crouched on the floor in weird positions with a camera in my face.

Shadow was actually so well behaved she was a little boring. A few times she turned her head or sniffed the air and those were a little more interesting shots. Thankfully she’s cute enough that even the boring shots are fun. It only took a few minutes for the good light to go away. I moved Shadow to a new location and took a few more pictures but by then the moment was over.

Out of all the pictures I took there were only a handful that I thought were worth keeping. But I enjoyed exploring what works with the dog. If I had more time to think before shooting I would have gotten different angles, worked with the depth of field a bit and explored some more ways to manipulate the light. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow morning.