Land Jellyfish – Out of focus can be your friend…

As amazing as it might be, sadly there is no such thing as a land jellyfish.

However, when I was in the backyard of my place, I saw these pretty amazing flowers that hung down:

Land Jellyfish

1/60 sec at f.28, ISO 800
Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead
Edited and Cropped in Lightroom

Yesterday, I posted photos of mushrooms that I said were mostly out of focus. I only shared because I thought it was interesting, and not because I thought they were amazing photos.

However today’s post has reminded me of a lesson I’ve learned before. Just because a photo suffers from motion blur 9ot other out of focus effects) it does not mean it is not a great photo! Most people feel that photos need to be in perfect focus, and that if what they want to be sharp is sharp, it is a good photo. In the majority of cases, I feel the same way. If I want something to be in focus, I’m disappointed when it is not! When I was taking the photo above, the wind was blowing slightly, and even though I was on a tripod (so there was no camera shake), the shutter was open long enough to capture movement in the flower. Click on the photo above or the two below to see a larger version and you can see the motion (it looks almost like double vision) in the flower’s stamen.

Black & White Jellyfish Flower          Toned Jellyfish Flower

1/50 sec at f1.8 ISO 200                            1/13 sec at f2.8, ISO 200
Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead
Edited in Lightroom

Was this planned? Nope, not at all.

In fact as you can see, I bumped up the ISO in the very top picture (it was taken after the other two) to try to freeze the motion and make the edges sharp. Not one worked in perfect focus. I could already see it on the back of my LCD. I was getting frustrated by it! I finally gave up because I had already taken some sharper photos before the wind had picked up. At first I wasn’t very happy that the wind wasn’t cooperating.

However, I didn’t delete them right away. Often, if I look at out of focus photos on the back LCD of my camera, I delete them immediately in order to minimize my post-processing work. This time, I saw that they had some potential, and in fact they ended up being my favouite photos from the shoot! I think that the mixture of large aperture blur and motion blur give it an artistic quality.

For the rest of the shots, I couldn’t decide whether I prefered the light or dark vignette. You can also see I was playing around with my depth of field by either having a large aperture (small f-stop number) to make the background go more blurry, or a smaller aperture (large f-stop number) to bring the stamens into focus.

 Jellyfish flower duo - dark vignette          Jellyfish flower duo - light vignette

1/13 sec at f4.0, ISO 400                           0.6sec at f8.0, ISO 200
Dark Vignette                                                 Light Vignette
Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead
Edited in Lightroom

If you enlarge these photos, you can see they are not suffering from motion blur like the ones above (even though the shutter speed of the one on the right is slower than ANY of the above photos). At this point, mother nature was cooperating and the air was silent with not even a wisp of wind! You can see the stamens progressivly get more into focus (sharper) as the aperture gets smaller (f-stop number goes up!).

Jellyfish Flower Trio - large aperture - dark vignette

1/6 sec at f2.8, ISO 200
LARGE Aperture = small number = f2.8 = shallow (LESS) depth of field
Dark Vignette
Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead
Edited in Lightroom
 

Jellyfish Flower Trio - small aperture - light vignette1.3 sec at  f8.0, ISO 200
SMALL Aperture = larger number = f8.0 = more depth of field
Light Vignette
Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead

Edited in Lightroom

Jellyfish Flower Trio - small aperture - dark vignette

2.5 sec at f11, ISO 200
EVEN SMALLER Aperture = f11 = even MORE in depth of field
Dark Vignette
Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead
Edited in Lightroom

And just you don’t think I shoot flowers exclusively with the Raynox Macro Adapter (although I do find it very helpful 😉 ), here’s a shot of the flower sans adapter:

Jellyfish Flower Trio - dark vignette

1/10 sec at f 2.8, ISO 200
Gitzo Tripod & Acratech GP Ballhead
Dark Vignette
Edited & Cropped in Lightroom

So that’s why out of focus can be your friend! Don’t just look at your photos as they are out of camera – look at their potential. The more you try to edit the ones you usually would throw out, the better your eye will be at seeing those you can either salvage, or turn into something really special!

Have you ever “accidentally” taken an out of focus capture that has blown you away and ended up being one of your favourites?

Please share! 🙂

Matt

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2 Comments on “Land Jellyfish – Out of focus can be your friend…”

  1. In the old days of darkroom photography I would sometimes turn the enlarger’s focusing knob to throw the image on the easel way out of focus, and once in a while that soft effect pleased me. (Unfortunately I don’t have any of those ancient images handy to point to).

    As for the digital world of nature photography that I live in now, I, like you and like most people, generally want the key parts of an image to be sharp. When making that happen is difficult, I’ve occasionally taken multiple pictures and then borrowed an in-focus part from one to cover a less-well-focused part of another.

    But as you said, sometimes a mostly soft image due to low light can be appealing. A couple of recent examples:

    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/purple-bindweed-flower/

    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/oxalis/

  2. Matt Korinek says:

    Thanks for sharing Steve – nice shots! Not exactly the motion blur as I have it, but effective use of softness! 🙂


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