On being hyper-focused

17 Nov

I have enjoyed photography for many years. In college, as an art major, it was my best class and probably the one in which I learned the most. After college, I even bought darkroom equipment and would set it up from time to time to develop photos in my closet (because, that was the darkest room in the apartment where I lived.) Working and developing photos in a darkroom (back in the old days, when we used film) was the ultimate in control of how my photos turned out. I liked being able to control the outcome to the “nth” degree. Today, we have post-processing programs like Lightroom (which I use) and Photoshop to control the “development” of our digital photos in areas like white balance, color, contrast, and even sharpening the focus.

And I like that control, especially when it comes to focusing. I want my photos to be crispy and so sharp they will cut you like a knife.  When I view super-sharp photos on photography websites I think, “How did that photographer DO that???” I wonder what lens he/she used, what post-processing program he/she used and how in the WORLD they got their photo(s) so sharp. Then there are other times I look at photos that others have uploaded to their sites and think, “Why in the world would you ever post such an out-of-focus photo?” or, even worse, “Why in the world would you ever post 5 out-of-focus photos of the exact same subject, barely changing your view of the subject???” Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time taking many photos of the same subject and cannot find even one that is perfectly focused to my satisfaction. It makes me crazy. I know that glass lenses are going to produce sharper images and I know that prime lenses (rather than zoom lenses) are going to produce sharper images, and I also know that a tripod and remote shutter release will reduce camera shake, that the size of the  aperture makes a difference, etc. I know all that. I can be a little obsessive about a thing.

And then there are the Impressionists. Those painters seemed to be quite successful at creating beautiful art without worrying about being hyper-focused on their subjects. I try to remember this. I have even tried to reproduce this in my photography. Below is a photo of some mountain apples that I took recently. Taken with a glass prime lens and manually focused to be a sharp as possible.

Focused Apple

This is as good as it gets with eyes that are 53 years old.

I had taken several shots of these apples. The above image is the only one I liked. Another similar shot was out-of-focus, so I decided to take the approach of the Impressionists—emphasize the out-of-focus quality of the photo to make it more painterly. Here’s what I got:

Unfoccused Apple

What the apples look like without my glasses. Monet surely had vision problems, too! I’m in good company.

I had figured out how to do this to my photos when I had a bird photo awhile back that was not as sharply focused as I wanted it. OH, I was SO disappointed! I really wanted the bird to be sharply focused, revealing every feather in fine detail, but alas, he was not. So, I played around in Lightroom, moved the clarity button all the way to the left, and pushed the out-of-focus quality of the photo to the extreme and ended up with a photo that is more painterly and, I think, pretty. Here it is:

Sparrow on the line

This bird photo may even be better because it was out-of-focus. I’ll never know, though!

This whole obsession I have with sharp focus has reminded me of one thing. Sometimes I am too hyper-focused on myself. When you have some health issue, which for me is XLH, it’s easy to focus too much on yourself. I have seen elderly people do this. They sit around and discuss their medical issues as if nothing else matters. And maybe nothing else DOES matter to them. We do have to take care of ourselves, after all. But wow, I sure don’t want to be one of those people who talks about herself constantly. I know some people who are like that—they’re a little annoying. They think they’re the only ones who suffer. “Nobody knows what it’s like…” That’s true—I don’t know what it’s like to live in your body and you don’t know what it’s like to live in mine. I try to keep the issues I have around XLH to myself as much as possible, though, because there are people around who have things a whole lot worse than I do or than I ever will. I am not suffering. There are many people who do suffer with medical ailments, and mental and emotional ones, too.

In fact, I mostly feel blessed. I am thankful for each day that I can walk, see beauty in the world, hear birds singing, taste an autumn apple and smell garlic cooking on the stove. I would like to feel blessed and fortunate 100% of the time, but alas, occasionally I fall into thinking about myself too much, and hyper-focused on me. If only I could step back, move the clarity button over to become less focused on myself, and enjoy the impressionistic view of myself, that view being that overall, I am fortunate, blessed, lucky, and happy.

But as for being hyper-focused in my photography—well, that’s not going to change!

Rooster on the Left

Love those fine feathers!

Copyright Banjogrrldiaries and S.G. Hunter, 2013-2018.


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