Monday, 10 November 2008

A question of skill

Forest path, The Hague, November 2008

I've intrigued for some time by the application of blur techniques to create images that convey moods rather than details. I've played around with various blur techniques myself: Processed Gaussian blur, out-of-focus techniques, multiple exposures etc.

The idea of using camera motion deliberately was a new one to me. I've been enjoying seeing Juha's experiments recently and the image with the post is a recent experiment of my own.

Then I read of the "Impressions of Light" work of William Neill over at Luminous Landscape, where he expands on his techniques. And that brings me to the subject of this post. All through my experimenting with various techniques I've been looking for specific ways to achieve specific goals. It is far from straightforward to do. I was hoping Neill's work would yield more insight. Quite the opposite.

While I really like the work he has produced, his expansion of his methods seems to remove the skill (the Latin artis) from the art and make it more a matter of persistence and random selection. the final result doesn't seem to get much past a 1 in 1000 random selection. Neill also states that use of Photoshop or other software to produce thee sort of results can often look over done. Indeed. That is where the skill comes in. He gives the impression (although it is probably wrong) that he doesn't have the software skills to produce the effects, and so has to resort to many attempts in the field. I get the feeling from his descriptions that just about anyone could produce similar work, which then relegates the value of his own work.

I'm feel sure that, with the appropriate techniques for certain subjects this whole arena can be turned into a much more skilful process than it appears currently. And that also means we shouldn't deny the ability to use software tools effectively as being a legitimate skill of the modern photographer.


  1. I didn't have quite the take as you when I read the article. Sometimes you have to have the idea to do your own thing in the first place, then you have to have the energy and determination to see it through to completion. OK others can do it, but the point is they haven't and don't. Often, the really clever (arty in this case) things don't seem so clever when you break down into elements and the steps that were taken from the beginning of the journey. But hey, it's the end result the artist wants us to see, not the machinations.

  2. Colin, I agree with you entirely, although that may seem contrary to what I wrote.

    I think the point there is that I'd be overall more impressed if I didn't know the machinations. I think the work is actually very beautiful.

    As to whether others have done it. I don't know. Haven't seen similar techniques published but how many flckrers have been doing similar?

    I want to see more from Art, I suppose, than just energy and determination. I want unique vision and skill - and I don't get that feeling here.

  3. Coming back to it - I suppose it also comes down to publishable material: The technique itself doesn't have enough insight or "specialness" in it to warrant an lengthy article on a major website, IMO.

  4. It's been done before, in days as a camera club member 15 years ago I remember an exhibition of transparencies of the same sort of thing. It's an even harder thing to do on film, you don't get the instant feedback and you have to wait and see what you get! I do remember enjoying looking at the images which is what it's all about.

  5. Well written! I agree that it should be more than just random shooting when using motion blur and related techniques. But it is indeed difficult to map what kinds of things are possible, and how you can link various post-procesing tools to the workflow. But this is definitely an interesting area.

    And of course, here in Finland we now have so little light available that long exposures are the way to go, and experimenting with motion blur comes naturally.


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