When I speak to people about photography a lot of them ask me ‘what makes a good photo?’. Well I suppose you could talk forever about what makes a good photo theoretically; interesting lighting, composition, subject, the ‘moment captured’ etc… it’s all subjective anyway. However it does annoy me when people look at a photo that is blurred or slightly off-focus and dismiss it immediately as a bad photo. A photo does not need to be sharp to convey a moment in time or the personality of an individual or atmosphere of a place. In fact that blurred affect can portray the subject more accurately in many cases. And I’m not just talking about movement in sport or wildlife (though I have included a couple of those examples below). Here’s a few examples I’ve taken over the past couple of years that illustrate to an extent what I’m trying to say. If you want to look at a master of blurred images have a look at Antoine D’Agata’s (Magnum) portfolio.
This is a portrait I did the other week of Gabriel Latchin, a jazz pianist studying at the Guildhall. I shot a few portraits outside then went in to a practise room inside the Guildhall. You can see other photos here. The room was pretty plain, small and dull, but had a nice old Steinway. His music (which you can hear here) is mainly trio jazz. It has that post Miles-Davis feel about it and I felt a simple blurred shot of him playing his own compositions suited nicely.
This was taken in the Underground at Waterloo (I think). For me it captures that feeling of hurrying through tube connection tunnels when you’re listening to your iTunes or have something on your mind. You know the route so well you don’t really notice things and don’t really have a specific memory of walking from one line to another.
This above one was taken at the Sunderland greyhound racetrack. It was definitely helped by the weather. The flood lights highlight the streaks of rain and reflect off the surface all adding to the atmosphere. That the dog isn’t pin sharp doesn’t matterm the strain is still evident in it’s face and body.
This photo of running blesbok in South Africa wasn’t taken by accident, but I had little choice. I was on the maximum ISO (1600) and widest aperture of my camera at the time so a slow shutter speed was all I had to work with. Tracking the blesbok as they run (same with the greyhound above) is what conveys the running motion so effectively.
Like the blesbok these fighting vervet monkeys’ movement is shown on a still by tracking them.
The above photo isn’t hugely blurred, but it’s not sharp and it does make me laugh. Even though it’s a perfectly acceptable situation… a cheerleading spectacle, you can’t help but think what the face or feelings of the girl being lifted are like… having her rear and thighs gripped and elevated by two cheerleaders and guy who’s strained face is looking straight into her crotch.
Maybe I like this photo because it reminds me of a great weekend I took with some mates of mine after we completed our University Finals in Loch Tay in Scotland. We spent about 6 hours down by the perfectly clear but freezing lake building a fire, drinking beer and burning sausages. Naturally despite the sun having gone down and the temperature dropping these two still insisted on wading out for a fish and a swim.