Sunday, August 29, 2010

Deepening Understanding in a Blur

Times Square-6-2
Most photography you see is crystal clear and tack sharp (a favorite term for photography geeks).  In fact, with the advent and exponential advances of digital photography, it seems like we are mistakenly in pursuit of perfect focus, resolution that would allow one to dissect Cindy Crawford’s mole from a crowd shot at a L.A. Lakers basketball game (does she even like basketball?), and sharpness sufficient to cut diamonds.
In my opinion, we are obsessed, and missing the point.  Art does not require all these harsh terms and equally harsh outcomes.  Often, art moves you in exactly the opposite direction.  In like manner, telling a story through photography can often push you away from the edge of the sharpness cliff. 
A very simple example is something I learned taking photographs about 25 years ago.  I was a young Ensign on a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter and wanted to photograph helicopter operations.  A couple of months after taking the shots, finishing the patrol, sending the role to the lab, etc. (yes, a bit different than today’s instant feedback) I could see a helicopter miraculously floating over the deck with rotors perfectly still.  It did not look right…rotors have to spin for a helicopter to fly.  The next patrol, I went about the same process of photographing helo ops, but this time I closed the aperture and slowed the shutter speed.  the result was still a helicopter in air over the ship’s deck, but the rotors were a spinning blur.  Visually, this made sense.
Times Square-5
The photographs featured in this post speak exactly to these combined components of sharpness (or lack thereof) in context and forgetting the obsession to have a razor sharp photograph (as a general rule/obsession).  Both shots come from Time’s Square, NY.  This is one of the most energetic places on the planet.  There is constant motion, noise, activity, and the entire world coming together in one place.  A photograph of Time’s square should attempt to capture this energy.  I chose to do so by letting the energy flow through the blurred motion combined with some intentionally overblown lights.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

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