In my endeavor to become a better photographer, I've consumed a large amount of material on the basic rules or tips of photography. I've read articles on general photography composition techniques, tips for shooting in black and white; and Lessons from the Masters of Street Photography and many many more. There's a ton of material out there and many of guidelines to follow. All these articles have been phenomenal resources for me to think on and improve my craft. Erik Kim's blog in particular has been inspirational and his post "What I Learned Shooting 100 Rolls of Black and White Tri-X Film Pushed to 1600," is easily one of the main reasons I started shooting black and white film. However, with all the rules and guidance, I began to notice how distracted I was with my eye to the lens, focused more on remembering everything I had read and not on capturing those precious milliseconds. Telling myself that I just needed to commit to the rules and they'd become habit, I kept shooting away, mind scrabbling to remember 1 of those 101 rules to take the perfect shot. Then I shot the picture above.
At just about 4,000 pictures imported into my Lightroom library since I started my journey in earnest at the beginning of this year, I am by no means an authority on the subject of photography. The shot above breaks the number one rule on portrait photography: keep the eyes in focus. When taking the shot, I did not intentionally mean to have her eyes out of focus. It was a mistake. In fact, while taking the shot the only thing on my mind at that moment was capturing the emotion I felt through the lens. I could care less about all of the rules and quickly snapped the shot for fear I'd miss the moment.
After developing the roll, I thought I had a couple really nice shots and the one above was not one of them. I looked at this picture as a thumbnail and was intrigued but I blew it up, all I could see was an out of focus picture. Damn! I thought, so close but a throw away shot. I one starred it and moved on.
For the next month, every time I opened Lightroom I was continually drawn back to it. What was it about this out of focus, grainy, black and white picture that kept grabbing my eye? Sure, it's my daughter, but she's one of, if not, my favorite subject so it couldn't be just that. Why did I think there was more there beyond the blurriness of the picture? Why did I start to feel like the blur belonged?
Then it hit me. I love this picture because although it broke a 'rule' of photography, it perfectly captured the emotion of my daughter deep in thought about something. The vertical lines of the bookshelf and molding of the window provide a subtle frame for her. Her face and right eye are almost dead center with the shadows providing a vignetting effect to the shot. The blur is perfect here because it acts as the subtle fog of thought. That blurriness that comes with visualizing something in your mind's eye compared to seeing it with your physical eyes. While the missed focus was a mistake, it was a beautiful mistake because it added to the emotion of the shot and what my daughter was doing in the frozen milliseconds.