Halls of pine.

The trouble with playing around with the intentional camera movement technique is that I have a hard time choosing my favourite shots – I love the streaks and blurs created by dialing in a slower shutter speed and moving the camera during the exposure. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, and I end up throwing away a lot of messy photos, but I’m usually pleased overall. Plus, it’s kind of liberating to purposely throw a picture out of focus. Here are a few images from a recent outing to the lovely pine woods of Puslinch Tract:

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Blurred vision.

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There are probably a million ways – either accidentally or intentionally – to make an image of smudged trees.

Truthfully, most of my smudged subjects have gotten that way due to some error on my part, like wobbly hands or poor focus or forgetting to change my camera settings.

But I tried to be purposeful for this one. I slowed down the shutter and pointed my camera out the side window of the car while travelling the highway just after sunset.

It isn’t a very crisp image, but I liked the colour and the paintbrush-like strokes of the blurred treeline.

(Safety first, by the way: the window was closed and I simply steadied the lens against the glass, trying not to freak out other travelers. Also, in case you were wondering, I was not driving the vehicle at the time. You can never be too careful.)

 

Unfocused.

 

This ancient string of Christmas lights has several sections that flash randomly and completely out of sync with one another, which I find somewhat unsettling. The bulbs get hot to the touch as soon as they’re plugged in – also unsettling (perhaps even alarming).

These lights are almost certainly a safety hazard on the tree. But if you shove them into a tangled pile on the floor instead and make a photo by purposely throwing them out of focus (and then unplugging them immediately, of course), they look kind of pretty.

Those who know photography (I am not one of them; I had to look it up) will have a name for this effect: bokeh. From what I can understand, it’s the quality – including the shape and softness – of the out-of-focus points of light in an image.

Apparently, there’s good bokeh and there’s bad bokeh. I started to read about the difference, but the bokeh connoisseurs were using words like diffraction and spherical aberration and catadioptric and I gave up because my head began to ache.

That’ll be a lesson (and a post) for another day.

Whether these lights are examples of good bokeh or bad bokeh, I don’t know. The important thing is that they’re not setting fire to my Christmas tree.

Round we go.

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My “assistants” helped me prepare for today’s photo of a marble run. One of them built the tower and controlled the flow. The other one tried to prevent our cats from photobombing the shot and eating marbles. It was a team effort.

I used to think that any blur in a photo meant it was a bad photo. Aren’t we trying to freeze time, capture a moment? But I’m starting to see that intentional blur (not the kind that results because I accidentally focus on the foliage in the background instead of the subject’s face) can be a creative way to express movement and energy in an image. I’ve seen some beautiful shots created by zooming or panning the camera – techniques I haven’t tried yet. Today I just played around with the shutter speed until the marbles were clearly moving but not blended together into one massive streak.

First the pinwheel, now the marble run – I’m starting to think I may be able to make photographic use of some of the neglected toys that are loitering around the house. In which case, it’ll be practically guaranteed that I’ll have the set-up assistance of a kid or two. And a couple of cats.

Day 7. The spins.

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Sweet, sweet daughter.

Thank you for parking your metallic purple dollar-store pinwheel in our front yard.

It has finally exited your closet, where it has been in hibernation for roughly half your life, during which time I’ve periodically tried to sell you on the appeal of this nice, old-fashioned, non-battery-operated-nor-wirelessly-connected toy.

I wasn’t hinting that it should become a garden ornament.

No worries. It’s growing on me.

You picked a perfect spot for it to catch the wind.