Bokeh

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Timo Hartikainen, Dec 24, 2017.

  1. Reading all of the responses to this post made me get up early the other morning (2 below zero F mind you) and shoot with my Rokinon 85mm 1.4 to capture some elusive bokeh that I knew was out there if I only made an effort to find it. Shooting wide open (what the manuals say to do) I did get some circles of light in the back ground but they were quite obnoxious being of many different colors. I decided to convert the image to black and white to get some uniformity to the blobs, I mean circles, I mean bokeh. I think it's bokeh anyway but wouldn't stake my life on it. It may appear to some sensitive souls that I am making fun of bokeh enthusiasts (and there are many of them) but I definitely am not. I love how the word rolls off the tongue, its Japanese origin, how it elevates the mystique of old lenses and most importantly of all, how it makes us photographers appear to be on the same philosophical level as writers, painters and sculptors by having are own enigmatic language. If we as photographers can't really nail down the definition of "bokeh", no one else can and that makes us special.
     
    Moving On and Norman 202 like this.
  2. Bill Snell

    Bill Snell Bill Snell

  3. I am just a hobbyist but I read somewhere, think it was on the internet, that the Art of Bokemy was the condensation of scattered microplasma originating from the fires of mount doom, from the elusive ether, through specially coated lenses......but I can' find the Bokeh Button on either of my newest cameras.
     
    tholte likes this.
  4. Well, every pastime has its jargon and expressions. Photography is no different. f-stop?, stopping down?, focal plane?, depth of field?, circles of confusion?, fast lenses? Is there some point where adding new jargon shouldn't be allowed? The term "bokeh" started showing up in photography publications about 20 years ago. Is that "new"? Depends on your perspective I guess. It's new to me because photography is something that's become more of a hobby in the past year than it was prior to that, but then again, so is the expression "depth of field". Maybe I heard that in my 9th grade photography class 30 years ago, but I don't remember.
     
  5. The Beatles and their Sherpa guides traveled to the foothils of the Kashmiri Himalayas to seek Truth and Beuty. Paul said all they got was a couple Chines made T shirts with the kanji script letters on it. Translated as " Bokeh." Camera companies quickly saw its significance. And the faithful followed. It exists. It lives. It came from the mountain sages--
    It read 暈け. ...mysterious Orient.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  6. According to Wikipedia, "bokeh" is a Japanese word meaning blur or haze, but is used most often in conjunction with the out-of-focus quality of lenses. It's hard to say what the Beatles found in Nepal (I suspect it was drug related), but unrelated to "bokeh" as it is now used.

    Bokeh is at once so desirable and contentious because you can't put numbers on it. Whether objective data translates to photographic value is another matter, as we see with resolution via test charts. Describing bokeh as "creamy" is about as accurate as describing a camera or lens on an auction site as "mint."

    Semi-objectively, we can test the out-of-focus appearance of a point source of light as circular (e.g., not an image of diaphragm blades, nor cat's eyes) and uniform throughout (no soap bubble or bright center). In general, objects beyond the plane of focus will look more uniform than those closer, which may be a design intent. Zeiss Otus lenses are generally considered nearly perfect in regard to uniformity. Zeiss Batis and Milvus lenses come close to Otus performance, often at the expense of linear distortion (and price)..

    "Perfection" by a certain standard may not translate to a desirable appearance in all circumstances. Every process distorts, so you choose a distortion that suits you. An extremely shallow depth of field allows you to isolate a subject against an OOF background. It may not matter wow "creamy" those OOF areas appear. Lenses like a Leitz Summitar behave badly by Otus standards, yet are popular for their rather unique rendering. Some people like fried liver, others grimace at the thought.
     
  7. I posted this earlier in Nature of Walter and his new girl friend but no one caught what I like about the 400mm 2.8 at f/8, the heart shaped bokeh. I always love heart shaped bokeh on a romantic shot. Ever hear of heart shaped bokeh before? It's pretty new with the 400 2.8

    Walter has a girl friend (1 of 1).jpg
     
    Wilmarco Imaging likes this.
  8. Nice bird bonding image Bill. Now that you mention it the backlight has a hearty shape...it is OK. I think I have to restrain scorn for the really serious devotees of the bokeh grail, Creamy, lens based with round apertures, Zeiss glass from the Rhine, the over the top part like any obsession. The ineffible quality of certain Zeiss lenses for example.. Here I am today reading a recent article on the latest hot audio goods to blow you away. Concert hall and studio and to die for sound to make us all drool.. That 400 is a nice lens I hear, kind of pricey but less than a new car...

    Following adjectives appy from the Economist1843 pub on latest audio speakers and phones: 'honeyed tones'. 'character,' 'full bodied, ''airy feel. ' ( If my wife can not hear the difference between AAC and MP3, who cares not she -no class I guess :). Is a honeyed tone a different frequency than a sour tone. don't bother answering...music used be pretty circumscribed in the 1800s and before we could make it a college course and define the beat and chords and orchestration et al. With a touch of individual honey of course.

    How to deconstruct and ruin the ineffible part ot the thingt--Sound engineers now find that the ear and brain fills in the spaces. So I am thinking to photograph is to deliver a visual illusion- as audio is an inner ear and brain illusion, nay? . So they say from the empirical jokers in sound labs. And yet, and yet, I sort of know what they mean about analog sound and digital sound. I think I hear something but just what? And yet, like sound, visual effects ( bokeh and OOF are kindred) are the artifacts that our brain says are important. Or are they important because others say they are important. A conundrum...If latter, then it is pure fashion and a will o the wisp. But men live long and well by such illusions, so not to snort... Fashion not quite as short as Mini Skirts were. I do not defame minis let the word go out, They beat torn jeans. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
  9. What others say matters to the extent they supply facts and perspective that can support something and enlighten me. I would sooner be influenced by an architect and sound engineer talking about the way acoustics work in a symphony hall. And I would be influenced by an engineer who knows about or works on lenses. As far as my aesthetic appreciation of either sounds in a symphony hall or visuals in a photo, I make that determination. Occasionally, another voice will supply a different perspective that will make me hear or see something a different way. I like when that happens and it doesn't undercut my ego or confidence. As a matter of fact, learning from others bolsters my self confidence. And I'm well aware that there are many, many subtle things going on in sound architecture and engineering and photo viewing that I'm not conscious of but are still having a profound effect on my experience. Again, no one is going to be as intimate or familiar with Van Gogh's brushstrokes as he was himself. But I believe I'm affected by every pain he took to get the strokes just as he wanted them, whether or not I can point to each. I'm not a pixel peeper, which is every bit as ridiculous a phrase as bokeh may be a word, but I have no interest in minimizing the effect the look of bokeh will have on a viewer, whether they realize it or not, just because there are some people who have turned it into a fetish.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
    GerrySiegel likes this.
  10. Reasonable comment which is my conclusion on those who insist on the term. I am not what some call a word policeman. i have not of course changed my opinion about Timi the OP post about his infatuation ( my interpretation) with this one feature. Noone else has exhibited that. So is good. I know that backgrounds need not be sharp but I think they should enhance the subject or define it. So it is indeed a matter of taste. Jan Van Eyck leads off in the book Environmental (photographic) Portraiture. And its use of color adds so much that it is hard to see great environmental portraits without color. But since I see them, that is something I may learn to appreciate..
    Eyck's Arnoflni portrait for instance has a story to tell in the in focus bgrnd. Our benefit today for the setting even as the faces were not revealing, Stern and posed for hours no doubt. Must have been a bitch. Van Gogh would have thrown his pallet on the floor and gone ape. But he did what he did for his pleasure and not his patrons like we all. We can still apply some of his vision for sure. And play with a Joe Karsh crisp view of the subject which is more revealing by his rapport and manner. He was a good kibbitzer and that counts. Digress I know... Given the short time he had with most I think background flitted only in his subconscious. Do we think so maybe,
    Google Image Result for https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
    Norma Desmond likes this.
  11. I tend to keep the backgrounds in my portraits in focus because I like photographing people in their own environments, often their homes, and like showing the things they surround themselves with, hopefully adding to their character and story in doing so. Having said that, I have portraits that are more simply photos of someone's face, which I think can also provide for a lot of character, and in those cases I may very well blur the background. So, basically, I'm of the mind that a background needn't do this or that, though I have my preferences and choose more often to have an in focus background.

    As far as color, I switch back and forth depending on the shot, my mood, and sometimes the context. Some months I find myself preferring color, some months black and white, some months I surprise myself each day with where I will go.

    Rapport with subjects is always an interesting thing. I recognize its importance but will say that I've come up with some of my favorite portraits of people who I've been very uncomfortable with. Sometimes, discomfort can really motivate me and I think it's a state worth exploring and being with when shooting some people and for making some photos. For me, sometimes, trying to make the subject of a portrait feel comfortable actually can make for a very uninteresting and generic-looking portrait, whereas a little tension can read as much more real and authentic. Again, subject to each individual photo and the particular chemistry involved and how that can be worked with.
     
  12. One thing to keep in mind, which seems harder and harder in these days of what always seem to be put forth as binary choices and as extreme this-side or that-sidedness, is that there's a lot of ground between bokeh fetishists on the one hand and really serious devotees of the bokeh grail on the other. One can simply be a photographer who notices and cares about the quality of the blur in proportionate degrees as he or she cares about everything else in a photo. I don't know Bill well enough to hazard a guess, but judging strictly by what he's said in this thread, I sense he may be more of the latter than either of the former.
     
  13. Fred, thanks for the benefit of the doubt but admitting my addiction is the first step.
    My name is Bob and I am a bokeholic. It is a disease so it's not my fault so no on has a right to criticize my behavior. I once woke up after an all night bokeh bender in a run down hotel smoking cheap cigarettes and drinking aqua velva. It was a cold and rainy night. I had hit bokeh bottom. Bokeh will do that to you. It can be a monkey on your back. Walk down many streets in Manhattan, especially around B&H and and you will hear, psst buddy, I 've got some killer creamy bokeh. Want some? A grand for a hit. I am also bokehphobic, terrified of bad bokeh. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming, bad bokeh, bad bokeh. It really upsets my dog, bokeh who thinks he is being chastised when he hasn't done anything wrong. Well, got to pick up some bokeh crap, or is it crappy bokeh? Absurd enough? To me, all the bokehphobia, hatred of bokeh, is amusing bordering on the absurd. It is merely one element in an image. I don't hear anyone railing against the mirrorless worshipers-except me mocking them saying I have gone sensorless, ie to film. It's no holy grail, it is a valuable tool. It can be over emphasized, like tilting, blurring, fading, saturating. Remember HDR? My eyes are still bleeding. For those that shoot stopped down, I understand them not appreciating it's value. But for those that strive for perfection in their images, it is just another element to maximize. If it seems unimportant to some folks, that's fine. I strive to create the best image possible. I don't spend money on gear to collect it, I make a purchase on the results it will produce. I don't think anyone demanding a high standard including bokeh is any different than someone wanting sharpness, high resolution or accurate color. I have yet to meet someone that worships bokeh like some camera or lens brand. . You know, pray in the direction of Germany. Ernst Hass didn't say bokeh smokeh, he said Leika smeika, the camera doesn't matter. As for the revulsion to a word, what really grates on me is folks who condescendingly correct me for pronouncing ISO not spelling it. Same folks who pronounce RAW, TIFF and JPEG. I just find the whole debate amusing since it appears a group apparently really likes a lens quality and another group is put off by it so they ridicule it. Fortunately, I am down with the flu so have time to waste on such a silly debate. Always looking for the silver lining.
     
    Dieter Schaefer, AJG and Vincent Peri like this.
  14. 1.2 and 1.4 lenses could be easily stepped down to 4.5 or 5.6, doesn't work opposite way.
     
  15. IMGP6590pancolar50_1.8crop.jpg

    Pancolar 50mm f1.8, @f1.8. A dead plant in our backyard. I know I could make the background really smooth with other lenses but I like this kind of background rendering.
     
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  16. A large aperture allows a smaller depth of field, but this has little to do with the quality of out-of-focus areas, and often the contrary.

    Photozone traditionally included examples of OOF performance. While other sites have examples too, Photozone has been consistent in this regard, making A/B comparisons easier, even if on the subjective side. Hopefully they will continue after their reorganization.
     
  17. Here's an example with soft bokeh. Compare it with the trees in Timo's shot. Neither right, but different. 135 2.0 shot at 2.0 with no CA correction. Those are trees down both sides of the pond and behind him. It's what I saw as potential shots the first time I saw the backyard. I still intend to keep my resolution to hand paint a canvas background. Julius soft bokeh (1 of 1).jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
    Mark Keefer likes this.
  18. Absolutely. The point being, IMO, that for me to ignore the quality of blur would be to ignore the extreme difference in how each of these photos works. I would be choosing to willfully not see. To choose not to see seems counter to how I think about photography. To see we’ll and in detail doesn’t seem obsessive to me. It seems photographic.
     
  19. Fred, when I saw Timos image, I thought I couldn't have had a more different oof quality. I see it as painterly but in a more geometric manner. Totally different feel. Each appropriate for certain images. However, my subjects and style of shooting lean to the softer oof. For a baby or woman, in most cases, i would lean towards a softer oof. For harder light, more contrasty and perhaps a face with character, the harsher oof. Neither is perfect for all. As I mention, the oof occupies more than half of my image and is certainly an important part of the image. Now, If I desired to show the double arched bridge at the end of the pond, I could have stopped down a bit and pulled in more detail in trees and bridge. But this was a test shot to see how much I could throw the bg oof. I matched the aperture with the dc ring at 2.0. It's an extra ring on this lens that you will only see on one other lens I know of, the 105 2.0 dc.
     
  20. When I was a kid in Hopkins, MN, USA, there was a hardware store named Bokeh. No, wait, it was Kokesh. Or was it? That was a long time ago.
     

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