It’s celebratory, I suppose. Bokeh. And beets, if you look to the left.
Just a bit of nostalgia…
Well, OK: just an image of a bottle of wine. New Year’s Eve for a few families was hosted at our place, with a well-laid out table, including bokeh tree at the end.
All of my big-camera shots were done on the D200 with the 50mm (f/1.4) lens, to avoid needing a flash. Interestingly, the shots that didn’t involve people all came out well.
Yesterday I posted the spiderweb in the image to the right to Flickr. This particular photo is, perhaps, my favorite (self-made) spiderweb shot to date. I said that at the time, now I’ll give a bit of an explanation.
Typically I tend to *not* like spiderweb photos: they’re all the same. Particularly the ones that I take – I see something & try to bring out that detail. But I never quite… catch the beauty of what I see.
A week or so before going on this vacation, however, I re-read the first couple of chapters from Photography and the Art of Seeing. The author (Freeman Patterson) devotes one of the first chapters to “thinking sideways,” and specifically uses the example of a spiderweb:
Webs are so beautiful in their own right that they had kept me from examining them carefully, and especially from photographing them in a personal way…
…When you think sideways you will find new ways to see your subject matter, and you will stumble upon discoveries and happy accidents. Abandon your normal premises , and go on a search for new ones.
This was in my mind when I first saw the spiderweb. But it was just a web at mid-day. Nothing special, kinda dingy. Later that afternoon, the light began to yellow, and the dinginess turned golden. At this point I noticed it again, pulled out my camera, and started to circle the web. Looking up, down, climbing on a chair, squatting under it. On a monopod, off the monopod, against the light, with the light…
… at some point, I found that there was an entire side that brought out the gold in the light. It wasn’t the typical angle I’d normally look for, but I found the view more pleasing. I kept working up & down, within the same basic area of light (and quickly, the light fades fast), playing with different depths of field. I was finding the background to be better than the web.
The end result is what you see; the focus on this one wasn’t the spiderweb itself. Rather, it was creating an abstract in the background, and then using the spiderweb to break up that pattern.
The last post in this series gave you visual examples of making bokeh. What was the key concept?
The more out-of-focus the target, the larger and dimmer the bokeh.
Now here’s the thing: focus on the background is relative. Let’s say you’re photographing something that’s in front of a Christmas tree. By focusing on the object, the tree becomes a background of bokeh. A perfect example: the monkey bread to the right.
So here’s the thing: if the bread is closer to the tree than it is to the camera, the smaller and brighter the bokeh. Closer to the camera and it’s larger and dimmer.
This is also effected by the overall distances: for this shot, I was maybe two feet from the bread and three feet from the tree. Larger bokeh. Step back two feet, and the bokeh grows smaller. Increase the distances with the same ratio (say, 4 feet from the bread, six feet from the tree): bokeh grows larger still (it’s further out of focus). Tighten your f-stop from f/1.4 to f/2 and the bokeh shrinks again.
Getting the feel? It’s kinda like a dance. Mentally, I tend to associate it with hyperfocal distance, but instead of maximizing sharpness, it’s maximizing the bokeh.
Ok, so last time I wrote about getting traffic for images with the word “bokeh” in them, and I promised a how-to.
After thinking about it, I realized that I don’t really have a strong enough grasp of either optics or physics to pull off an in-depth, highly knowledgeable article on this. For me, doing anything with bokeh is a bit of a crap shoot. Intellectually, I get it – but I can only visualize it by feel, and I only know what works for me.
So, that being said, I’m slightly changing the subject: this is still a how-to, but it’s a “how to get a general feel” for bokeh. Think of this as a training exercise, not a definitive lecture.
So, let’s start. Click to continue »
When I take the time to review hits for this site, I find it interesting to me that I get so many visitors who are searching for bokeh. I mean, there’s really only a couple of pics, and they’re fairly poor at best. Yet over the last three months it has been my main reason for getting traffic from image searches. Click to continue »
To get the photo to the right, I had to get up early. Which is to say, before the sun rose. Dew is ephemeral, disappearing shortly after the sun touches it, so you really need to be ready.
Look at the photo closely. See the lighting patter in the dewdrops themselves? This is because the dewdrops are backlit. The sun is behind them and slightly to the left (from the camera’s perspective).
So if you’re up early enough, and the light is right, you’re left with only needing to find the correct angle for the background. This shot was aimed deliberately to blur out all of the greenery behind the subject, with the intent of hopefully creating bokeh.
To the right you’ll see another example of the concept I mentioned yesterday. I was trying to do three things, which I acheived with moderate success: capture complex flowers from a different angle, throw something of interest into the background, and give an impression of the flowers reaching up to the sun.
I partially succeeded – the angle is somewhat unusual, and I did get a nice light-to-dark effect going with the falling of light on the grass. I only came close to the concept of “reaching to the sun.”
To do this, I took a look at the background, and worked around the sides until I found an angle that interested me. If I were to do this again, I’d probably go further away, zoom a little more, and angle the flowers to be in the lighter part of the background. Or maybe the opposite – who knows?
Yesterday I posted about bokeh. This is actually a rare post for me, in that it was taken on an SLR.
So I was later asked: how to take that photo? Well, on an SLR it’s fairly easy: turn focus to manual (on my SLR, I just move a switch), and make sure the background is nice and blurry. Tot the right: an exact example.
If you’re focusing on something, then the background needs to be a suitable distance away, and the f/stop needs to be as large (low number) as possible.
On a point & shoot? It can be done, but it’s trickier. That may come in a later post, someday.