Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soft Focus

An iris bloom with an odd choice of focus

Let me tell you about the most amazing photograph- the one I almost took!

The subject of this "almost" photograph was one of those unique moments in time when nature suddenly reveals herself in the most dramatic colors imaginable. 

Here is how the photo almost came to be.

Last weekend, we went to a wedding in the nearby city of Hamilton. We were heading home in the car on Sunday afternoon, when suddenly the late day sun broke through the heavy purply-grey cloud cover illuminating the golden colored fall landscape and bathing the sandstone exterior of Dundurn Castle, which we just happened to be passing, in the most amazing light. The scene was simply magical!

By the time I turned to my husband to remark on this apparition, the moment had passed. The cloud cover swallowed up the sunlight in one rude gulp and left the landscape with an empty, grey November wrapper.

The image is fixed in my imagination, but sadly I can not share its magnificence- I find I stumble and trip over my words- I best describe the world visually. That is why I like photography and painting.

These slightly blurry Astrantia flowers look as if they are floating on water.

While I am happiest working with visual images, this is not to say that creating them is not without challenges.

What is the hardiest thing for me when it comes to taking a good picture? Focus! Focus & Focus! 

I can't tell you how may times I have reviewed a batch of photographs only to be deeply disappointed to find perfectly lovely shots ruined by soft or misdirected focus. 

Sometimes, okay hubby would say a lot of times, I am way to impatient. As I said at the top of the post, moments pass and I get too wrapped up in getting it all on "film" before it disappears. 

And cameras can be uncooperative, mechanical things. I feel about cameras like I do about cars- as long as they run, I really don't care to look under the hood. While negotiating the buttons and knobs on our camera seem to be second nature for my husband, I struggle to learn how to use them to my advantage.

This a Yucca against a pale blue sky of a summer day- if only it were in better focus!

The blurry water bubbles at the bottom of the frame tell the tale- not quite in sharp focus- but I have to say that water always looks fresh, no matter how badly you mess up the shot!

This a shot that hubby took. (Yes, bad focus is catching!) 

Can you guess what it is? It is a glass of beer! 

It kind of looks like an abstract painting doesn't it? 

It was a super hot day and were sitting having a drink on a patio at the Royal Botanical Gardens. The image is the surrounding garden seen through the frost covered surface of the ice cold beer.

Some of my favorite soft focus images are of daylilies. I find when shooting daylilies it is hard to determine where I want to set the focus- the flowers petals?- the stamens?- the pollen covered anthers?

When a flower is delicate it seems less important that the focus is dead-on. This is borage (herb).

I have no idea what happened here. Camera shakes maybe? Can you guess what this surreal looking image is? 

It is a goldfish and the weird white blobs are air bubbles in the tank.

These fireworks are cilantro flowers. The focus was mistakenly set to the back of the flower.

Red and deep orange flowers can be tricky to photograph unless you have a good camera. 

This is me trying to shoot a nasturtium in bright sunlight with our older, not so great, Kodak camera. It is almost...maybe if you squint your eyes and move away from the screen in focus. The detail is lost on the flower petals...

but the intensity of the orange is kind of neat, don't you think?

This is dill-again a shot that hubby took. I am not sure if the dill moved in the wind or he moved the camera, but the result is this double looking image.

What do I like best about photography? Forcing myself to really see- to look closer, harder- not to overlook anything. Of course when you are that dedicated, you can get strange looks!

I was in a, dare I admit it publicly, Tim Horton's parking lot waiting for hubby to return with our morning coffee, when I saw this ornamental grass swaying in the wind. It was soft and feathery and so very pretty that I got out the camera to take a few shots. ( Hey, beauty lurks in even the most unexpected places!)

Didn't I get some oddest looks and prolonged stairs!! I am sure they either thought that I was certifiably crazy or maybe that I must be doing some weird surveillance work. (It was after all one of the more iffy Tim's, where they lock the bathrooms in the evening and make you ask for a key if you need to use it.)

I wish I could say that I was rewarded with perfect images.

It was the wind that did me in this time!

I found that I had only just brought the lens into focus when the wind whipped in and swirled the downy tendrils of the grass into a soft, blurry mass. I did get a few good shots, but most, like the ones above, were way too soft.

I never tire of looking at images and I have to say that there are some amazing garden photographs out there in the blogosphere. It is both a humbling and inspiring experience to read your garden blogs.

Now that its fall, what's was your favorite photograph you took this spring or summer?

Or maybe there is an awesome photograph that you almost took?


  1. I think what has really attracted me to your blog (besides the really cool history of your home and the stories surrounding when you purchased it and the fact that you're practically a neighbour) is your photography! Although I am a very visual person, I have NEVER been interested in photography. When I decided to start a blog I had to go out and purchase a camera but didn't have a clue what I was getting. I now know that I didn't choose very well but it's going to have to do for now. I have always LOVED gardening books, magazines & blogs because of the beautiful photography! Visits here NEVER disappointment my desire to look at beauty!

  2. Great post on the joys of photography! I'm still moaning the loss of a rainbow/autumn sky. By the time I stopped the car, grabbed battery/dead camera, fished in back for the other camera, a stunning missed moment!

  3. Actually,Jennifer, before I forget, my favorite photo that I took was of my Astrantia last summer. It looked like an alien plant.

    You are too hard on yourself - your photos are great!


  4. Hi Jennifer. Your pictures are fabulous. I love playing with the camera to catch background colors from objects behind the pictures like your Yucca image. The macros are so good.

  5. Interesting post - I'm just a point and shooter with an ok camera, but it's nice to try for something interesting. That astrantia shot is my favorite - doesn't look at all blurry to me!

  6. Your photos are lovely. We will see beauty in the oddest of places and that includes artistic blurry photos. An example: I like the fish photo. The colour of the fish underwater balance the bubbles in the opposite corner. The colour is great too. As you know it is all in the eye of the beholder.

  7. Oh, how I long for a BIG DEAL digital camera. But the fun I have is trying to take good shots with the camera I do have. It is frustrating - I love to get up close and my camera has pretty limited abilities. Also, yes - orange (and red) is extremely difficult to capture! I enjoyed this post a great deal. If I do get that fancy camera, it'll be a whole new learning experience. I love to view your photos. You shouldn't feel humble! And enjoyed the "abstract beer." Hey, I'm thirsty ...

  8. Lovely photographs! I think they are extremely artistic and I love how abstract the shots are that are not all in focus. I chuckled reading about you taking a photograph whilst in the parking lot. I too find myself taking photos in the oddest places and getting stared at. Oh well, it is worth it for a great shot!

  9. ALL these are gorgeous!
    I love the goldfish one and the water shot is lovely...
    the beer looks to me like a lake!
    they are all focus or not:)

  10. Jennifer, It's funny but I love so many of the photos you deem out of focus! Focus to me is one of the most frustrating aspects of photography but also incredibly rewarding when things don't turn out as you want. Often the picture becomes a work of art in the way they distort reality. This summer my flash went off when I didn't want it to resulting in one of my most interesting photos to date. I love such happy accidents.

  11. Dear Jennifer, As I do not have a camera, I am in awe of your ability to take these most atmospheric pictures. They look absolutely wonderful to me.
    I read with interest your account of the trials and tribulations of getting that magical once in a lifetime photograph - the one that captures the essential spirit of the subject, the one that says more than words, the one that takes one's breath away......well, I always believe the fun is in the journey, not the destination!!!

  12. You have a great eye for photography. These macro shots are incredible. Well done!

  13. Very beautiful photos!
    I love how that astrantia looks like little snowflakes, and also the cilantro fireworks.

  14. The picture of the Astrantia (I have never seen one before) is just beautiful, by far my favourite.

  15. Too many "almost-there"s to count! lol All of these photos are exquisite; sometimes the soft focus works out perfectly, even for perfectionist photographers. :)


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