I started out, as most of us do, being overly preoccupied with sharpness and focus. Of course, there’s a place for sharpness and focus and some compositions require them more than others. But there is also lots of scope for playing with them and sometimes leaving them behind. This is true even for documentary photography, where selective focus and graininess can produce amazing results.
For this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, Sofia dares us to show how we play with exposure in order to create mood, movement, and emotion. I have selected a few photos shot a few days back, in Brussels, at a procession organized for Dia de Muertos. I remember following the same procession three years ago, before the Covid pandemic.
Photographing at night presents the obvious challenge of having to use very little light, or struggling with bright lights in an ocean of darkness. I find it interesting because it can teach you a lot about the possibilities of your camera but, most importantly, about creative expression. I like the constraints it imposes and the fact that you need to find solutions that are neither pre-defined nor obvious.
Here I focused on the dancer’s face as she was moving through the crowd. She was dancing in a circular motion and I used a slower shutter speed to capture the movement. Everything else is blurred and this is how I intended it to be. Anyway, in the context it would have been impossible to take a photo that was sharp throughout the focal range.
Here, on the other hand, I needed more focus in order to capture this detail. I needed to find the right shutter speed to freeze the action while still giving me a decent ISO to work with.
Same here. It’s difficult because there’s constant movement in the crowd, but it’s not the kind of movement that you could easily convert into something interesting such as motion blur.
But then I allowed myself to go crazy on the motion blur as I was following the procession. I am standing still as you can see from the relative sharpness of the buildings. Everything else is in motion. I bring the shutter speed even lower. It feels like being in the river and holding on to something in order not to be carried away by water.
And then I let go of any attempt to represent something, anything at all, other than light, color, and movement.
I’m back to the dancing lady, here in a broader composition in order to capture the other dancers with their red and blue dresses.
Working with little light and lots of movement is challenging but there’s also something strangely satisfying about the constraints it imposes. There’s a space of creative possibilities that is more readily available when working with scarce resources. I guess this also applies beyond photography.