Friday, January 22, 2010

selective focus

Confession: I have no idea what I'm doing, at this precise moment or in general, but I read this/that term selective focus yesterday, and it made sense — big-time — as if someone had hit me over the head with a diagnosis of sorts, for all sorts of things. And a diagnosis is a beginning, somewhere to start ...

The phrase applies to photography (not to be confused with picture-taking), although it could apply to so many things. It's that effect, but I never knew what to call it (being a picture-taker), whereby the background is all fuzzy yet recognizable, while the foreground or some single element in the foreground is captured in crisp detail. I read it — selective focus, my latest mantra — in the winter issue of Newport Life Magazine, wherein lie the twenty-one winning entries to the annual Readers' Photo Challenge.

A photo by one of my neighbors appeared with this caption: "A slow match smolders while the Newport Artillery Company prepares their Fourth of July gun salute."

This comment by the judge followed: "Nice use of selective focus. You've got the active part of firing the cannon, but enough background to set the scene without distracting from this fun subject."

Now despite the fact that I spy two tiny grammatical errors (that make no difference whatsoever to the meaning, and how obnoxious of me to point them out, as if I don't make make mistakes or break rules myself on occasion, inadvertently or otherwise), I was very glad to learn the term. And I really like the photograph, to which I have no access, therefore you have no access — sorry — but if/when I see my neighbor, I'll ask him if perhaps I could add it right here:

Meanwhile, I'll plow on with no particular focus, or with trying to keep too much in focus, which is just plain exhausting and overwhelming, if satisfying in a haphazard kind of way, because — really — selective focus may be beyond my (and my camera's) capability. Besides, there's something comforting about clarity of the background, however distracting — isn't there?? And trying to keep the whole huge picture of competing elements all in focus and more-or-less aligned at the same time is the way life really is anyway. Either way ...

But what about that pesky issue of backlighting (if that's the word for it)??