The Soundtrack of a Photo

caterpillar hanging in front of white white bokeh circles

More and more, I find my favorite music is the soundtracks of films, usually my favorite films. This correlation is no coincidence: the soundtrack deepens the emotional and sensuous aspects of a film; it emphasizes and articulates the philosophical and thematic elements. Apart from the artistry of the music, what endears it to me most I think, is its connection to a narrative that already has inspired a set of emotions within me. I hear it more brightly, I feel it more clearly.

If the subject of a photograph is the dialogue and actors, the background is a good candidate for the soundtrack. It is perhaps not the smoothest analogy, but it quite literally is a pronouncement of depth (of field). The background can make the subject standout, it can create a distinct mood or tone. Unlike a soundtrack isolating a photo’s background is more difficult (photoshopping notwithstanding), but like the music underscoring a movie, the background keeps the photo fresh and vibrant; it gives the photo beauty that something less perfectly matched would not.

I am not sure if these photos have the perfect “music” accompanying them. The wriggling inchworm was a very tricky subject to catch in focus, and I think the bokeh actually dominates the shots, but I like the sense of motion the blurry caterpillar evokes. In my journey in macro photography, I have found getting a complementary background one of the primary challenges. The occasionally inevitable black background works sometimes, and other times it flattens the photograph’s impact. The background can also consume a photograph (somewhat as in these shots) if the subject does not fall sufficiently within the plane of focus. Sometimes I just have to sacrifice the background to get my bug.

blurred form of wriggling geometrid caterpillar


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