This week, on her site PHOTOGRAPHIAS, Sofia focuses on the unfocused or, more formally termed, bokeh.
Bokeh is a Japanese word that refers to blur which serves to enhance the subject of a photo (as opposed to motion blur as one might see in a photo of a race car in action).
Photo Techniques magazine introduced the word in 1997 and since then blurry backgrounds have been all the rage. As you’ll see below, I like to use bokeh as a background, a frame and a subject.
It’s a cool aesthetic that I just discovered a few years ago. I always wanted every millimeter of my photos to be crystal clear (with the exception of portraits).
One day I was out taking photos in the garden and I thought it might be interesting to take some pictures of our big cactus and took some shots of thorns, through a hole in one of the cactus pads. Below, the blurred pad provides a frame for the thorns.
It was by taking photos in our garden, and later at the San Francisco Botanical Garden that I realized that a photo with just a small portion in focus can be pleasing. Below are some photos that were taken at the S.F. Botanical Garden.
In the photos immediately above and below (a stamen), the subject is just a small segment of the whole. The photo above was shot through a hole in a leaf.
The following two photos were also taken at the S.F. Botanical Garden.
In the photo below of holiday lights at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, bokeh is the subject of the photo.
I find bokeh can be pleasing in wildlife photography. I usually shoot wildlife with a 600mm lens and since bokeh is enhanced by a longer focal length, the blurred background is usually a fait accompli.
Both I and the gray wolf below agreed that distance would be a good thing.
In the two photos below the blurred waters make pleasing backgrounds to the alligator and the duck.
Below, foliage and water provide a perfect background for an angry looking egret.
Bokeh can produce a soft background for a portrait, a much better background, I believe, than a plain screen. In the photo below, the blurred crowd provides a fitting background for Angel Pagan waiting on deck for his chance to bat.
The photo below was taken at Portsmouth Square in San Francisco.
I’ve been using this bokeh deal and I didn’t even know there’s for a word for it. Sometimes you can learn useful things on the internet that aren’t bogus. Who figured?
Visit Sofia’s site for her take on bokeh and then check out the comments for links to other examples of bokeh.
B&H Photo is one of my go to sources for gear and info. Click on the link for their excellent article about bokeh.