Blurry Photos

What’s wrong with this photo?

Let me explain. First it is not sideways if you drop your left ear to your shoulder, which is the way I was seeing things for a while.   All  a matter of perspective; and I am dealing with a lot of perception issues these days because I am undergoing treatment for a detached retina.  I am in the hands of some great doctors and surgeons.  Prognosis is good and I don’t need to go into all the details.

The day I shot this photo of my deck, to interest an editor in some potential shooting, I went to the eye doctor to check on some persistent blurriness in one part of one of my eyes.  Next thing I know I am under treatment and have to hold my head sideways so as to keep a gas bubble (black shapes) in place against my retina.

While I am still undergoing treatment, no longer needing to hold my head sideways, I am beginning to wonder about the artistic merit of blurry photos.  It is hard to take an out of focus photo anymore, since almost all photographers use auto focus camera and lenses.  Sure, sometime there are special situations that demand manual focus, but in these modern times, blurry photos are more likely the result of shaky camera movement than bad focus.

But sometimes blurriness can lead to artistic insight.  I am quite nearsighted and sometimes find inspiration walking gardens without my glasses.  Blocks of shape, color, and texture can be reduced to their most basic compositional elements in this way.  Pure impressionism that I seldom share.  This is about to change.

I expect full recovery; but even so, we only use one eye when we take a picture. It is one of my lessons in the workshops, to squint at a scene with one eye to approximate what a camera sees.  But I am coming to realize perception is a relative term.  For the sake of a common visual language we have made everything sharp and detail oriented, but there are other ways to express ideas. Other ways long neglected along my professional path.

So, to my editors: fear not that I will forget how to focus, but to my muse, let’s see where this takes us.  Might be wild.

About Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic, a garden picture resource for photographs, workshops, and garden photography stories. A landscape photographer and award winning photojournalist with more than 20 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California.

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14 Responses to Blurry Photos

  1. Darla November 9, 2010 at 6:02 am #

    Here’s to a 100% recovery. Very interesting insight. (no pun intended)

    puns appreciated, intended or not – Saxon

  2. Debi November 9, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Be wild and allow your creative genius to fly. Well wishes sent for your upcoming challenge as well.

    Thanks Debi, am hoping to figure some way to illustrate what I see – Saxon

  3. Elephant's Eye November 9, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    You surely will illustrate what you see, having hooked us with this post. Wishing you a quick and complete recovery – I so much enjoy the insight you share with us on photography.

    will “see” what becomes of this …. – Saxon

  4. Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    Your experience reminds me of that of Gertrude Jekyll, and her development of drifts of color because she couldn’t see the details anymore. I’ve started playing with the Gaussian blur on Photoshop to soften an image, which is sort of like shooting out of focus to achieve an artistic effect.

    I can slowly walk my garden and have a head full of ideas. Don’t need a blur filter (g) – Saxon

  5. Melody November 9, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    I anxiously await the Impressionistic photos. :)

    or surrealistic …. – Saxon

  6. Donna November 9, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    I wish you well and a speedy recovery. I am sure what ever you imagine that will come of the blur will be great. Will be waiting.

    I confess I am looking forward to getting a camera in hand and the doctor’s OK to use the computer, and not just sneaking in a few e-mails. – Saxon

  7. allanbecker-gardenguru November 10, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery.

    Thanks; the vitrectomy went well but will be 6-8 week recovery. – Saxon

  8. Chookie November 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    I cannot imagine how infuriating it must be for a photographer to have vision problems! Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    The most infuriating part is not knowing the recovery time and not being able to get my daffodils planted. All clients are quite understanding of my limited computer, editing, and communication time these days. That is frustrating not infuriating. – Saxon

  9. Town Mouse November 10, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    Saxon, I’m glad to hear you’re in good hands and wish you patience and the joy of a full recovery. Mr. Mouse just went through a period of rather rapidly loosing his eyesight in one eye, and the doctors couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Finally, they decided a cataract had to be removed, and we’re very happy that the operation went well and he’s recovered. Still, it was very scary…. Best wishes!

    The docs tell me that I will under watch for all sorts of potentially ongoing vision issues as I get older. Get older ? I guess there is no denying this fact of life that I have long pretended to be ignorant of; and long been blessed with such good health that I could put off worrying about. In truth, this is a worrisome thing but I feel great and not dealing with much bigger health issues like many I know. – Saxon

  10. Urban Gardens November 11, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    A curse and a gift at the same time? Creative people benefit from a change in perspective, which this certainly has offered you. As long as you will recover from it, all is good, if not temporarily frustrating. I love your photos and your succulents site! Speedy recovery.

    Thanks for the encouragement. suspect the succulent site you love must be Debra Lee’s who was kind enough to alert her readers to this posting. – Saxon

  11. lancashire rose November 12, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    I hope your vision will soon be back to 20/20. The prognosis sounds good. It’s mighty scary when things go wrong with the eyes. It is probably a good job that my camera has automatic focus. I have a hard time understanding all the other options. What an opportunity to learn a new skill!

    The prognosis is 6-8 weeks until blurriness finally goes away. I hope to use that “opportunity” to explore the bounds of auto focus…. – Saxon

  12. Ellen K. November 18, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    This is nosey, but you wouldn’t be a fellow Marfan, would you?

    No, my problems seem only related to the retina. – Saxon

  13. Kari November 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    My Dad had a detached retina several years ago. Don’t worry, the blurriness WILL go away, and if you get the occasional bleeding into the vitreous or retina, just call the dr. and they’ll fix you up. Dad’s only advice is stay off any meds that will thin your blood. His eyes are normally fine now, but he’s noticed that certain meds will cause floaters. Best of luck!!!

    Thanks for encouragement. Fortunately, I am in good health othewise and take no meds for any problems. Still a couple weeks away from when the docs expect real improvement. The gas bubble needs to dissipate. – Saxon

  14. forest November 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Way to go…looking at the glass half full! I admire that you can do that, being a pessimist myself. Best wishes on your recovery.

    Keep looking at my latest posts…. – Saxon