Life’s a Blur

planter, blur

Summer Planter

I have a dilemma. My camera is not working properly and a new one is not yet in the budget. I don’t know what to do – try to get it repaired, start setting aside money for the newer version or even more for a better version. When I’m in this liminal space, I need to let things sit for awhile and wait for the right answer to come. I don’t have any big trips coming up and I still have my iPhone. Life is good.

My camera still operates, but I can’t change the aperture. Having limitations is a great way to spark creativity, so I planned a photo walk with my camera and a 50 mm lens. With the camera on automatic, the aperture was stuck at f/1.4, wide open, so very shallow depth of field. I turned on manual focus and dialled it all the way in for extreme closeups. When the lens was pointed towards the big picture landscape, scenes appeared in the viewfinder as a total blur.

I was seeing impressions of spring.


blur, queen street

Queen Street Corner

Abstract impressions can be created by going in close or through intentional camera movement or blur. With these impressions, details are lost and the focus becomes colour and texture, shapes and lines. It’s a different way of seeing. It’s a way to play and break the “rule” of having everything in sharp focus. Life is a blur, after all.
lake, impressions

Lake Ontario Impression

This is one of the many exercises we do in the Going Abstract workshop, which will be offered again this November. See more impressionistic images using blur and intentional camera movement on Flickr.

Peony Love – Let Me Count the Ways

peony bud

Here I Come

An important exercise on perspective that I often give in my workshops is to spend time observing a subject and then take a minimum of 24 frames, the idea being that there are an infinite number of ways of seeing something.

Some possibilities we can’t see until we start, but if we stick with it, moving past the point of boredom, we will find something new.

At this time of year in my part of the world, there are many pictures online of flowers blooming. How many ways can there be to photograph a flower? This post was inspired by Anne McKinnell (How to Photograph Flowers), who was in turn inspired by Alex Wild (One Flower 16 Ways)

I decided to photograph a single peony flower in at least 16 ways. I started last week when I photographed the bud that you see above. It was the one in my peony bushes that I knew would bloom first. Then, I was out of town for four days and came back to find the bushes in full bloom. That first peony bloom was already past its peak.
peony lit up

peony perspectives
I’ve been having some trouble with my camera recently, and when I went out to photograph the flower, I couldn’t change the aperture. This limitation forced me to move around more. Finally, I gave up on my camera and got my iPhone. At one point, I used the slow shutter app on the phone.
peony wind-blown
The photographs, when seen together, do show the many different ways we can show a single subject.
peony partial

peony from above

I hope you’ll try this with your favourite flower.

Stephen Wilkes, A Relentless Collector of Magical Moments

Stephen Wilkes is a self-described “relentless collector of magical moments.” In the 12 minute video below, Wilkes tells the story of how he came to do his project, Day to Night, where he compresses a day’s worth of images into one.

Photography can be described as the recording of a single moment, frozen within a fraction of time. Each moment, or photograph, represents a tangible piece of our memories as time passes. But what if you could capture more than one moment in a photograph? What if a photograph could actually collapse time, compressing the best moments of the day and the night, seamlessly into one image?

This is one of the most incredible and powerful videos I’ve seen in a long, long time. Besides being interesting, inspiring, and entertaining, there are many lessons shared about photography and life. My video notes are below.


Video Notes


I’m driven by pure passion to create photographs that tell stories.

Einstein described time as a fabric. Think of the surface of a trampoline. It warps and stretches with gravity. I take that fabric and flatten it, compress it into a single plane. I am exploring the space-time continuum within a two-dimensional still photograph.

The fun thing about this work is that I have absolutely zero control when I get up there on any given day and capture photographs.

Day to night is like a compilation of all the things I love about photography. It’s about landscape. It’s about street photography. It’s about colour. It’s about architecture, perspective, scale, and especially, history.

I’ve learned so many extraordinary things doing this work. I think the two most important are: patience and the power of observation.

These photographs begin to put a face on time. They embody a new, metaphysical vision of reality.

When  you spend fifteen hours looking at a place, you’re going to see things a little differently than if you or I walked up with a camera, took a picture, and then walked away.

The act of sharing has suddenly become more important than the experience itself.

As technology evolves, along with photography, photographs will not only communicate a deeper meaning of time and memory, but they will compose a new narrative of untold stories, creating a timeless window into our world.


What stood out to you most from this video?


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