When downloading my photos from a photo shoot, the first thing I check for is sharpness. I zoom in to inspect the details. If a photo is not sharp, it does not get a second chance. It is quickly discarded. There is no amount of sharpening that can save a blurry photo.
For landscape photography, when shooting at sunrise and sunset, to get those “tack sharp” photos a tripod becomes a critical element. It is also essential for shooting indoors where there is less light. Less light means a longer exposure and an increased chance for a blurry image.
When we arrived at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Jeff set-up a shot towards the front altar. I did not want to capture the same shot (aka copy). Too often our photographs are all but identical.Knowing Jeff would nail the shot, I decided to try something different. I had read about a photographer who had created a style through deliberate and controlled blur in his photographs. Could I forego the “Tack Sharp” mantra and try something new?
A blurry image should be easy. All you have to do is move the camera when pressing the shutter. I gave it a try and easily got a blurry image and nothing more. I had to make some adjustments. First off, depth of field is not important (if the altar is a bit blurry, no one will know, the rest of the image is blurry) so I set the aperture fairly wide, at “5”. To avoid any grain in the photo, I set the ISO at 64. With this combination, and the low light level in the church, my exposure speed resulted in 2 seconds. Camera settings are now all set, onto shooting technique.
I didn’t want the motion of pushing the shutter button to cause any sideways motion, so I put the camera on a delay mode of 2 seconds. This means that that the camera will take the picture exactly 2 seconds after I press the shutter button. I positioned the camera where I wanted to start the photo and then gently pressed the shutter. After the 2 second delay, when I heard the shutter open, I knew I had 2 seconds to slowly move the camera. I chose to move the camera vertically upward. For me, working from the bottom up was more natural. Now, all I had to do was practice a smooth motion through the areas of the altar that I wanted to capture in the photo.
After several tries, I had something interesting.
As Jeff set up to capture the second mandated shot in a church, that of the organ, I also turned around.Using the same technique I worked to capture a similar image of the organ. The light level was less in this direction so I had to lengthen my exposure time and change the rhythm of my motion. The motion had to be evenly paced and straight over a period of over 2 seconds. The time may sound quick, but it seemed like forever. I had to think about where I wanted to start the image and where I wanted to finish it. For example, how do I want the lights to appear? Do I want the ceiling above the stain glass included in the photo?
Who would of thought a blurry image was so hard to capture?
So what do you think — should the blurry images be deleted? Or does the blur create and abstract image that can stand on its own? Either way, at least I have something different than what Jeff captured.
Remember, it’s all about the light and how you capture it.
Your creative use of motion blur is not really a “blurry image” in the sense of focus-failure. It is an interesting technique that I have tried on several occasions, none with great results. In fact, it appears that your focus is spot-on, only with motion. So, in answer to “does it always have to be tack-sharp?”, I say “no” when the purpose is intentional de-focus such as in your examples.
I appreciate your comments. I think I will continue to explore the controlled blur and see where it leads me at different locations, but only after capturing a regular shot.