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Phil Douglis | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Fifty Two: implying motion by using expressive blur tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Gallery Fifty Two: implying motion by using expressive blur

When you review my gallery “Making time count,” (Gallery Seven), you will find at least eleven images that use blur to express movement. So important is blur to expressive photography that I think it is worthwhile setting up this gallery, dedicated entirely to making photographs express movement through various forms of blur.

I begin this gallery with a collection of examples shot in Vietnam at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. I will add more examples expressing motion from future trips as well.

There are many different ways to put movement in our images: we can combine slow shutter speeds and fast subjects, we move the camera along with a moving subject to make the background seem to move faster than the subject, we can contrast subjects in motion to subjects that remain still, we can push or pull the zoom ring while the shutter is open, and we can simply experiment with slow shutter speeds and see what happens.

Many photographers will use tripods to stabilize their cameras while making images expressing motion. I never use a tripod because it limits my freedom and spontaneity of movement. While the tripod may well produce a more predictably consistent image from a technical standpoint, it often takes its toll on discovery and chance. And I will take my own chances with discovery any day. I would rather produce a technically flawed image that expresses its idea well than a technically perfect image that fails to excite the imagination, stir the emotions, or stimulate the intellect.

There are many photographers who choose to use flash in low light situations. Because of the nature of flash, the image is almost always frozen in time, and often bathed in harsh light and intrusive shadows. I never use flash photography in low light because I much prefer to use the gift of spontaneous motion as an expressive tool, no matter how unstable my camera may become.

Ultimately, it is important to remember that there is nothing inherently “wrong” or “bad” about a blurry or soft image. There are those in photography who cherish critical sharpness as if it was a virtue in itself. Anything short of a tack-sharp picture will produce a deletion. Many beginning photographers are convinced that a blurred image is somehow inferior to a sharp image, and will instinctively strive for sharpness alone as a virtue. Such attitudes can be counter productive when it comes to expression. Images that are brilliantly frozen in time and pictures that extend time and imply motion through blur are merely different forms of expression. That is why we have shutter speeds ranging from slow to fast labeled on our cameras. If we look at blur as a tool for meaning, rather than a technical “mistake,” we will be on much stronger ground as expressive photographers. Once we can free ourselves from the misconception that there are certain technical “standards” out there that we must follow in order to be successful photographers, the more intuitive we will become in our pursuit of ideas.

I present this gallery in "blog" style. A large thumbnail is displayed for each image, along with a detailed caption explaining how I intended to express my ideas. If you click on the large thumbnail, you can see it in its full size, as well as leave comments and read the comments of others. I hope you will be able to participate in the dialogue. I welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas, and questions, and will be delighted to respond.