It's no secret that I am extremely enthusiastic for the camera's ability to describe subjects in nearly infinite detail. It gives me a real thrill to capture images such as "Air Show" and "Aqua" that offer ever more information to lingering and repeating viewers.
But I am equally enthusiastic for photographs that are more impressionistic than descriptive. These are images that immediately and lastingly resonate with personal memories, rather like familiar scents. They grab you by the eyes and then whisper into your mind's ear. Strong impressionistic images are harder to create than strong descriptive images, at least for me. They require plenty of imagination, plenty of introspection, and composition that organizes all the requisite elements into a precise instrument targeted to flip a particular switch in a viewer's mind. Lots of soft-tech design planning makes this a difficult task.
Sometimes my camera is much smarter and more skillful than its owner. While beach-walking one summer afternoon I spotted a small scene that immediately struck me as a lovely image. There was no time for great care. I had only a fraction of a second to raise the camera, frame the scene and push the button. In the next fraction of a second the scene was gone. Upon later review I was disappointed that I had missed focus and I nearly deleted the image because of this "flaw". But something grabbed me about the image and stopped me from sending it to oblivion.
Ten days later I revisited the image. It grabbed me again, harder this time. Everything about the image -- the girl's stance, her slight Mona Lisa-like smile, her hat and glasses, that she's holding a camera, the rolling scruffy sand dunes, the late afternoon light -- everything made this seem a perfect "summer" image to me. The icing on the image was the lens being just slightly out of focus, making the subject impersonal but leaving enough detail to make her familiar.
When I finally made a print I was completely hooked. "Summer Girl", as I informally call her, would likely be my top image for the summer of 2014. I realize that some people find unfocused images hard to love. But blur can be a terrifically powerful and useful technique when applied thoughtfully and carefully. Or with just plain good luck. (Don't tell anyone, ok?)