Blurry Serendipity

I well remember my excitement in first achieving–albeit accidentally–a depth-of-field effect that made the subject pop. I don’t remember the first time I used the zoom function on my then-new DSLR camera to get a close-up of a flower I couldn’t get, well, close to, and generated an out-of-focus background (Surprise!), but this shot would be one of the early instances of blurry serendipity.

Close-up of orange globemallow flowers.

Globemallow, Chandler AZ

Woohoo! Cool depth of field, even though I didn’t, ahem, know exactly what I was doing.

Since then, I still haven’t put the time in to reliably get the effect I want, but when it works, it works. It’s usually so much better than filling the frame with a jumble of small flowers on a bush in full bloom, for example.

Full-frame view of yellow bush.

Carolina Jasmine, Bull Island SC


I mean, I don’t hate it, but this is so much nicer, no?

Yellow flowering vine in close-up with pine trees.

Carolina Jasmine, Bull Island, SC

But there’s always something more to learn, and I now try to pay more attention to composition when the background is going to be somewhere between flat-out blurred and softly out-of-focus (you know, whatever the camera decides to do). Sometimes, for example, I remember to look for backgrounds that pick up the main colour of the foreground.

Branch of pink rhododendron blossoms.

Rhododendron, near Myrtle Beach SC


Sometimes I even see an opportunity to pick up a secondary foreground colour in the background.

Red poppy in foreground, bed of yellow daisies in background.

Poppy, near Myrtle Beach SC

Woohoo, indeed. When it works, it works.

Now if I can just figure out how to get the degree of blur I want, you know, on purpose.


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6 Responses to Blurry Serendipity

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    On my camera, it’s manual aperture control — let the shutter do whatever it wants to compensate for getting the right degree of fuzzy through aperture control.
    Now, if you can tell me how to get my fingers to produce the right notes on my tenor recorder, I’ll have the world in order.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – That’s my next project – to learn my way around my camera. It got bumped by a work project in the first quarter – how rude!

  2. Kate says:

    Amazing pictures Isabel!
    I really love the shot of the poppy

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Kate – Thanks! I was tickled when I saw the opportunity, and wondered whether those doing the plantings were doing it on purpose. I expect so – it sorta makes me wonder how much intentional action like that is invisible to me.

  3. Judith says:

    Even the best of photographers struggle with this. You seem to have a good grasp of what you want and how to get it. Infallibility is too much to ask.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – I found it helpful to try some options, using different depths of field, to see what I liked – when completely blurred was nice, and when just a little fuzzy was better for my eye. Something about enhancing the subject rather than distracting from it, perhaps! Getting the result reliably is a tad trickier . . .

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