Thursday, May 8, 2014

For The Love of Bokeh

by Judy

I recently went on a nature photo walk with a friend who is a very good photographer. As we were shooting, I took a few minutes to stop and look at some of the photos I had taken. When I commented that several of them had really great bokeh, she said to me, "oh yeah, bokeh, I've heard of that.  What is it again?"  

After my initial staring blankly at her in disbelief look, I had to say, "you don't know what bokeh is?"  I mean, she's a great photographer.  Her photos inspire me.  Her work has hung in several galleries. How could she not remember what bokeh is? Oh how I love bokeh in my photos.  I search for the perfect light to make my bokeh just right.  Bokeh makes me happy. :)   (Cue the Happy song.)

As I reminded her about bokeh, and showed her my photos, I realized why bokeh was a term she had only heard about and never captured.  She is predominately a landscape photographer.  Landscape photographers generally want sharp focus both in front of and behind their main subject.

"Bokeh makes photographs visually appealing, forcing us to focus our attention on a particular area of the image. The word comes from the Japanese language, which literally translates as "blur." Blur is usually a bad thing in landscape photography. Landscape photographers want their photos to be tack sharp, not blurry.  

According to 'the experts' there is both good and bad bokeh.  Good bokeh - the background blur - should appear soft and creamy, with smooth, round circles of light and no hard edges.  Since bokeh is created by the lens that you use, not your camera, I do see how there could be bad bokeh.  Some lenses just won't be able to create those soft circles of light.  If you want great bokeh, try using a fast prime lens, or their somewhat less expensive versions, and use a shallow depth of field.

I know that many of you have the same love of bokeh as I do. I see evidence of that in your flickr streams and personal blogs.  Bokeh makes many of you happy too!  Our theme for the month of May is 'bokeh.'  Don't forget to share your lovely 'bokeh photos' with us in the Focusing on Life flickr stream, or on Instagram.  


Dotti said...

Oh, yes! Count me among the bokeh lovers! I guess that's one of the joys of not limiting yourself to one genre of photography. Of course, that makes people like me 'jacks of all trades, master of none'. Great post for our wonderful 'Bokeh' theme this month ... and beautiful bokeh photos right here on this post. Thanks, Judy!

Barb Brookbank said...

Oh, I do love bokeh! wonderful examples! I love that it is the theme this month!

kelly said...

beautiful judy! totally a bokeh junkie here too. :) this is going to be an awesome month!

Kim Stevens said...

Yes, as someone who loves, loves shallow depth of field, bokeh is my friend! And that last shot, just awesome Judy!

Linda/patchwork said...

Such beautiful shots!
I love bokeh, too. It seems to enhance some photos.
You have certainly nailed it in these shots.

terriporter said...

Such perfect examples of bokeh and a great explanation for the uninitiated! Everyone loves tack sharp focus but once you discover the joys of bokeh, it's hard not to fall in love. I remember getting my first prime lens, a 50mm f/1.4, and the first time I accidentally got some bokeh -- I jumped for joy! At that time, it was just the blurred background I was after but then I discovered how you could achieve the round circles of light. I spent many days during the Christmas holidays capturing the lights on my Christmas tree! Love the bokeh theme this month and can't wait to see what everyone captures!

Barb said...

I'm bokeh-happy just looking at these photos!

Cathy H. said...

Wow! Some truly beautiful bokeh images to inspire us! Count me in as a bokeh fan!

Anonymous said...

Great explanation and some wonderful examples here Judy! I love the look of good bokeh and have missed it in my photography for the last while. In some settings I just naturally focus on more landscape type shots and in others more intimate shots which lend themselves more to this style. But I spent one day recently on my sailboat trying to create some nautical

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