Saturday, September 26, 2009

Focus Pocus (part II)

 Staffer at the Capitol
Earlier this month I posted an entry (Focus Pocus!) that was inspired by a conversation with my good friend John Downey (Far Out Photographic) on the subject of sharpness and focus.  At the end of that entry I presented a short list of conclusions, one of which was “There is some very good photography to be had that is not in the sweet spot of focus (the real question is “how far can we go and still get something pleasing?”  I may just test that).”
Bike at the Library of Congress
This week lived up to the challenge and began work on a project to create a body of photography that is not in focus.  Yes, I am intentionally “un-focusing” the shot.  The other constraint I put on this project is that all the shots will be taken with my 50mm lens.  I imposed this constraint for two reasons; 1) I wanted to face the challenge of working an entire project with one lens, and 2) I believe the single lens will bring a more consistent look throughout the project.
Union Station Calling
After a couple of shoots worth of completely out of focus photographs, the answer to my original question became quite clear – it is possible to intentionally stray quite far from a focused shot, and still make good photography. 
First Street NE
The real challenge of this type of photography is that counter-intuitively, rather than take the pressure off the photographer to make a tack-sharp photograph, it applies new and greater challenges.  I quickly found:
  1. Out of focus photography concentrates the viewer on light and form.  If you have bad lighting, or are not able to capture the essence of form, you have nothing.
  2. Composition is king.  Any flaws in composition are exposed dramatically.  Because the typical details that draw attention in a photograph are missing, the eye becomes more critical to the composition.
Motor Cycle on H Street
I will have more thoughts and more photographs comprising this collection.  I will be sure to share them as it proceeds.  In the mean time, I would like to hear your thoughts on the photographs featured in this post, and the concept of this project.  The photographs featured in this post were all taken in the Capitol Hill area of Washington DC using a Canon 50mm f/1.8 II mounted to a Canon 5D.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

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