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Roger Hicks
10-20-2009, 11:19
The quality of the out of focus image is something I didn't even consider until about 15 years ago, when I bought a 150/4.5 Apo Lathar and a friend remarked that it gave particularly attractive results in the out-of-focus areas. A few years afterwards, 'bokeh' became a buzz-word.

Today, I'm still not very sensitive to bokeh UNLESS it's (a) really bad, as with the Leitz Thambar with the centre spot in place and the wrong background or (b) grossly exaggerated so that a huge area of the image is wildly out of focus and obtrusively mottled.

Even in the latter case, I find I don't really care in most cases unless the lens is used at a silly-large aperture in totally inappropriate circumstances, usually in good light with an ND filter or shutter speeds of 1/4000 second or faster. In other words, in low or even mediocre light, shallow d-o-f goes with the territory, while in good light, there have to be quite compelling aesthetic reasons for using it. In particular, in good light, out-of-focus leaves with light peeking through them mostly range from the tedious to the execrable.

Of course compelling aesthetic reasons can exist, and they are sometimes brilliantly exploited. But am I alone in feeling that while out-of-focus backgrounds are one thing, they are very different from pictures where the out-of-focus background is, in effect, the picture, because nothing that is in focus has the slightest hope of drawing the attention?

All too often, it seems to me, the out of focus bokeh tail is wagging the photographic dog. I'm not against razor-thin depth of field -- I've used it myself sometimes, albeit with less success than I had hoped -- but it really does seem to me that all too often, at the moment, this cannot even aspire to the status of a gimmick but is (as Sparrow says) a cliché.

Others' views?

Cheers,

R.

david.elliott
10-20-2009, 11:27
I sometimes take photos wide open and set to minimum focus so that everything is out of focus. I only use these as 'abstract' desktop wallpapers. :D

But as most of my photographs are in poor light, as you said a shallow depth of field goes with the territory. Therefore, I would at least prefer that it not be distracting. The bokeh or out of focus rendering is an important consideration for me. I dont really like hexagons and I dont like ringed donuts. They draw my eye away from my subject.

Thardy
10-20-2009, 11:29
The quality of the out of focus image is something I didn't even consider until about 15 years ago, when I bought a 150/4.5 Apo Lathar and a friend remarked that it gave particularly attractive results in the out-of-focus areas. A few years afterwards, 'bokeh' became a buzz-word.

Today, I'm still not very sensitive to bokeh UNLESS it's (a) really bad, as with the Leitz Thambar with the centre spot in place and the wrong background or (b) grossly exaggerated so that a huge area of the image is wildly out of focus and obtrusively mottled.

Even in the latter case, I find I don't really care in most cases unless the lens is used at a silly-large aperture in totally inappropriate circumstances, usually in good light with an ND filter or shutter speeds of 1/4000 second or faster. In other words, in low or even mediocre light, shallow d-o-f goes with the territory, while in good light, there have to be quite compelling aesthetic reasons for using it. In particular, in good light, out-of-focus leaves with light peeking through them mostly range from the tedious to the execrable.

Of course compelling aesthetic reasons can exist, and they are sometimes brilliantly exploited. But am I alone in feeling that while out-of-focus backgrounds are one thing, they are very different from pictures where the out-of-focus background is, in effect, the picture, because nothing that is in focus has the slightest hope of drawing the attention?



All too often, it seems to me, the out of focus bokeh tail is wagging the photographic dog. I'm not against razor-thin depth of field -- I've used it myself sometimes, albeit with less success than I had hoped -- but it really does seem to me that all too often, at the moment, this cannot even aspire to the status of a gimmick but is (as Sparrow says) a cliché.

Others' views?

Cheers,

R.


You haven't seen the half of it.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/insashi/2749072794/

Roger Hicks
10-20-2009, 11:35
Don't get me wrong. I don't want the out-of-focus area to look nasty. I'm not very sensitive to bokeh, but I can see it. I don't even have a problem with REALLY GOOD pictures that are all out of focus. What I dislike is, as I said, pictures where the o-o-f tail wags the dog: where the subject matter isn't interesting, and the background is queasily out of focus.

Cheers,

R.

david.elliott
10-20-2009, 11:38
Roger,

Can you link us to a sample of what you are referring to?

ferider
10-20-2009, 11:50
What's "interesting subject matter" ?

Mack
10-20-2009, 12:02
I don't even have a problem with REALLY GOOD pictures that are all out of focus.

You should try a Holga.

Nothing in focus, and no bokeh either.:)

Roger Hicks
10-20-2009, 12:13
What's "interesting subject matter" ?

Probably NOT a coffee mug, a camera or a cat. Sure, I take your point that anything can be made interesting through composition and seizing the moment.

But the subject matter doesn't have to be especially interesting. A portrait, a still life, anything. All it needs to be is more interesting than a blurry background.

For David: as an example of the kind of pic I mean, which isn't much with deep focus but is even less with shallow focus, the beaker/tables/chair shot in http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subscription/reviews%20summilux%2024.html is part-way there.

I hesitate to link to others' shots, because of the implied criticism.

Cheers,

R.

ulrikft
10-20-2009, 12:15
It is a matter of taste, I find "everything in focus"-images boring, I value lenses with great bokeh and use them accordingly.

Dave Wilkinson
10-20-2009, 12:19
I'm a simple soul, and try to follow father's often-given advice - 'all things in moderation'
Dave.

Brian Sweeney
10-20-2009, 12:36
I tend to optimize my lenses for close-up and wide-open use. Part of it is the Engineer in me. And working in an Optics lab doesn't help much either.

http://ziforums.com/picture.php?albumid=148&pictureid=1452

and remember, shooting pictures with very shallow DOF means your wife can't accuse you of "getting a picture of that blond in the background". Did not even know she was there. Good thing I shot this one at F2!

John Camp
10-20-2009, 12:57
I don't much care about it, as long as it doesn't look bad -- like somebody said, hexagons and donuts don't do much for the rest of the picture. As for light peeking through leaves, that's about the only kind I really like. Not for itself, because it makes a nice random pleasantly colored backdrop to whatever you're shooting, without being distracting. Like a nice wallpaper...I think Bokeh works best in mood shots, where the OOF parts are readily identifiable, but blurred...like bridge lights fading away into the darkness, while the subject, much closer, is well-lit.

JC

ulrikft
10-20-2009, 13:10
This is the kind of use I prefer for low dof, some might not like it, I do.

(does this image-linking work? )

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2498/4012180521_3be80a8f37_b.jpg

mhv
10-20-2009, 13:11
I think the problem stems from the fact that there is no good taxonomy for bokeh.

The best I can come up with is this list:

* Über-Smooth bokeh: DC lenses for Nikon, or that bokeh-optimized Minolta 135 STL lens, for example:

http://www.the135stf.net/galleries/new/Caught_in_a_net.jpg
http://www.the135stf.net/galleries/new/Caught_in_a_net.jpg

* Normal bokeh: anything made by a planarish or sonnarish lens (90% of available lenses). (cf. from the Ultimate Bokeh Thread)
http://ferider.smugmug.com/photos/225597489-XL.jpg

* Swirlies: barf-inducing circular distorsion of bokeh common to Petzval lenses, certain triplets, and other low-tech lenses

http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/AfterTheSwirlies/PamsGardenS.jpg
http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/AfterTheSwirlies/PamsGardenS.jpg

* Ring bokeh: at various degrees. Worst case being catadioptric lenses:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/Donut_bokeh.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/Donut_bokeh.jpg


Many lenses have it to a certain extent, for example (again from the Bokeh thread):
http://ferider.smugmug.com/photos/175373321-L.jpg

I'd like to conclude with the question of lens/background interaction. The so-called "painterly" bokeh of Sonnar lenses to me is a misnomer, the particular interaction of a lens with Normal Bokeh as shown above with a grassy background. Creates an Impressionist feel, but it's not a species of bokeh. Cf. for example, a picture of mine that I think would qualify under the term "painterly"

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=74191&stc=1&d=1256072950

All in all, I call bull**** on anybody who says that such-and-such lens has "smooth transition from in-focus to out-of-focus" (what? because some lenses don't have a transition between sharp and soft? beats me.), and bull**** on anyone who claims their lens has "creamy" or "painterly" bokeh.

But then, I also call shenanigans on the "Leica Glow" or the "3D Effect". As far as I'm concerned, yes, not all lenses have the same rendition, but some people are wankers and split hair when in fact they have no ability to make real comparisons.

ulrikft
10-20-2009, 13:17
I would have to disagree a bit there, if you compare say a fast zeiss 85 with a fast leica 80, you can see differences in how they transition from sharp to non-sharp. wether or not this is important to you, is another debate wholly.

Dave Wilkinson
10-20-2009, 13:38
I did not read the 'ultimate bokeh' thread, after looking at this one.......I'm glad!....ugh!
(just had a whiskey to settle the stomach!)

ulrikft
10-20-2009, 13:48
I'm tempted to start another thread about the largest fad among the hipsters at flickr: using film and using film and cross processing it..

Mack
10-20-2009, 13:51
I'm tempted to start another thread about the largest fad among the hipsters at flickr: using film and using film and cross processing it..

...or adding faux vignetting in post to make it look like a Holga shot?

Sparrow
10-20-2009, 13:55
It took two thousand years for us to "learn" perspective, it started as a Greek theatrical effect, like Plato's CGI, Nero had it on the walls of his golden villa but it wasn't good enough for his art, his art was cognitive.

By the renaissance perspective was ingrained but we still haven't got the hang of converging verticals although both are the same effect of the Plainer projection .. and we know what we are looking at

Try explaining bokeh to a layman ...

ulrikft
10-20-2009, 14:00
...or adding faux vignetting in post to make it look like a Holga shot?

Indeed! Or taking weirdly exposed pictures of curtains with lightleaks, and putting them online beacause you shot them on expired film.. :/

David William White
10-20-2009, 14:07
A couple of great examples here where the bokah becomes part of the composition (chap in train station is killer, for instance).

For the most part, it is done poorly, and I suggest, as a disservice to the fine optical designers at Zeiss and Leica, etc. I think what really bothers me is how much money people will dump to buy ridiculously expensive precision lenses when they could just as easily stick a LensBaby on the front of some **** lens, or smear vaseline around a UV filter, fix a close-up diopter off kilter, or any other such handy contrivances.

Adding to that is that a rangefinder is one of the most unsuitable instruments for attempting well-considered OOF compositions.

Also, many examples I have seen (even again the chap in the train station) have such good composition and clear attraction points that throwing the background out of focus is hardly necessary. In many cases, the background is not competing at all, or is acting as a delightful and interesting setting that throwing it out of focus is like beating you over the head to look at one and only one thing. If you look at HCB's photographs (or anyone else doing 'street'), or anyone doing 'environmental' portraiture, there are many stories in one photograph, not just one. They survive because they are rich and withstand repeated viewings, wherein you discover little side-stories on successive viewings.

There is a case to be made where the background has no story whatsoever, or worse, where there are trashcans and garbage in the scene, where the shot should have been taken with white seamless in a studio, but rather than throw it out of focus, the adept photographer would have twirled the subject around or taken it from another angle.

So even most portraits can withstand in-focus backgrounds, when arranged with a 'photographers eye'. Portraits don't generally need help.

Some of this is an attempted throwback to pictorialism and to painting, and an attempt to get that 'comfy' feel. However, selective focus was never used in painting, because such a concept could only be introduced by lenses. Most landscape 'pictorial' photographs (which I love and make) do not employ selective focus either -- they are often soft but have infinite depth of field.

Many early photographic portraits have very limited depth of field, but the lenses were generally awful.

It's funny, but rangefinders are ideal instruments for normal to wide lenses (and we have truly enviable wide-angle choices), steadiness at slow shutter speeds, and this makes them best suited to rich, infinite depth of field photographs, yet many seem to go all out to make them perform like long-lens SLR's or view cameras. Go figure.

And for those that want just non-representational modern art, precision photographic equipment, expensive ones at that, seems complete overkill.

A bit of a rant, I know, but I'll just end with a somewhat facetious comment for the bokah diehards: Instead of using your lens 'wide-open', dismount it altogether!

Dave Wilkinson
10-20-2009, 14:09
Try explaining bokeh to a layman ... go on then! - we are 'all ears'! ;)

Silva Lining
10-20-2009, 14:19
As Roger said I think that the bokeh tail wagging the photographic dog is a recipe for dull and insipid photographs - however I do notice and like to explore playing with bokeh in my photography. I have only ever conceived of it as part of the overall photo itself, that is an enhancement to the overall shot of which the subject mater is (usually) in sharp focus.

I've never 'got' the Holga fad, but a lot of people are having fun with them so more power to them :)....I never 'got' HDR either but I notice that most of the photographs in the BBC landscape photography competition are (or appear to be ) HDR shots.

In may ways that is one of the great things about photography. For many years, 'intellectuals' have debated this, that and the other, including whether photography truly is 'art' in the way that say, painting or sculpture is. Meanwhile, most of us photographers have scratched our chins (or beards) and said 'See ya later chaps, I'm off out to have fun and take some photos!'

I should add that I love this shot.....



http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2498/4012180521_3be80a8f37_b.jpg

ulrikft
10-20-2009, 14:20
A couple of great examples here where the bokah becomes part of the composition (chap in train station is killer, for instance).

For the most part, it is done poorly, and I suggest, as a disservice to the fine optical designers at Zeiss and Leica, etc. I think what really bothers me is how much money people will dump to buy ridiculously expensive precision lenses when they could just as easily stick a LensBaby on the front of some **** lens, or smear vaseline around a UV filter, fix a close-up diopter off kilter, or any other such handy contrivances.

Adding to that is that a rangefinder is one of the most unsuitable instruments for attempting well-considered OOF compositions.

Also, many examples I have seen (even again the chap in the train station) have such good composition and clear attraction points that throwing the background out of focus is hardly necessary. In many cases, the background is not competing at all, or is acting as a delightful and interesting setting that throwing it out of focus is like beating you over the head to look at one and only one thing. If you look at HCB's photographs (or anyone else doing 'street'), or anyone doing 'environmental' portraiture, there are many stories in one photograph, not just one. They survive because they are rich and withstand repeated viewings, wherein you discover little side-stories on successive viewings.

There is a case to be made where the background has no story whatsoever, or worse, where there are trashcans and garbage in the scene, where the shot should have been taken with white seamless in a studio, but rather than throw it out of focus, the adept photographer would have twirled the subject around or taken it from another angle.

So even most portraits can withstand in-focus backgrounds, when arranged with a 'photographers eye'. Portraits don't generally need help.

Some of this is an attempted throwback to pictorialism and to painting, and an attempt to get that 'comfy' feel. However, selective focus was never used in painting, because such a concept could only be introduced by lenses. Most landscape 'pictorial' photographs (which I love and make) do not employ selective focus either -- they are often soft but have infinite depth of field.

Many early photographic portraits have very limited depth of field, but the lenses were generally awful.

It's funny, but rangefinders are ideal instruments for normal to wide lenses (and we have truly enviable wide-angle choices), steadiness at slow shutter speeds, and this makes them best suited to rich, infinite depth of field photographs, yet many seem to go all out to make them perform like long-lens SLR's or view cameras. Go figure.

And for those that want just non-representational modern art, precision photographic equipment, expensive ones at that, seems complete overkill.

A bit of a rant, I know, but I'll just end with a somewhat facetious comment for the bokah diehards: Instead of using your lens 'wide-open', dismount it altogether!

I agree with lots of this, I just think that there is a time for rich "everything" pictures, a time for surralistic and abstract bokeh-pictures (i have lot of favourites in this bunch) and a time for controlled depth of field to focus the attention towards parts of the image. All three are different tools to communicate different things. To me, the most important part of a picture, if I'm not hired to do a job, is how I feel when I look at it. I have to like the feel. Sometimes i like "most of the shot in focus", sometimes I like "tripod, 21mm @ f/11"-focus, other times, I love what the 58 1.2 can do wide open on my d700. Sometimes the light sets the limit.

I have to admit that most of my street shooting is either 24 or 35mm at f/8 or 50, 58 or 85 at 1.2-2.8. I don't think I've used my 58 1.2 above 1.8 more than like .. three times.. :)

Silva Lining
10-20-2009, 14:26
A bit of a rant, I know, but I'll just end with a somewhat facetious comment for the bokah diehards: Instead of using your lens 'wide-open', dismount it altogether!

Heh, Or you could also fail to extend a collapsible elmar....done that a few times :) (Not on purpose I should add :eek:)

summar
10-20-2009, 14:49
For portraits I like the bokeh from old but good uncoated lenses, especially in medium format.

Rob-F
10-20-2009, 14:51
I first noticed bad bokeh some years ago, in a picture I took of a bush. The OOF branches in the background were doubled. I didn't like that, but we didn't have a word for it back then. The lens was the 55mm Micro-Nikkor f/3.5. For the most part I am not troubled by bokeh, since I tend to stop down as much as I can. I compose pictures in depth, and in most cases like everything to be sharp.

But when bad bokeh strikes, I find it distracting. I feel it ruins the picture. So yes, I do care.

marke
10-20-2009, 14:59
Probably NOT a coffee mug, a camera or a cat.

R.

Roger, is a dog okay? ;)

http://www.pbase.com/marke/image/106897998/original.jpg

Or how about a wife?

http://www.pbase.com/marke/image/103092783/original.jpg

Dave Wilkinson
10-20-2009, 15:04
SH*#!...that does it! - I'm off to bed!:eek:

Silva Lining
10-20-2009, 15:18
SH*#!...that does it! - I'm off to bed!:eek:

No bokeh nightmares I hope ;)

helenhill
10-20-2009, 15:25
I like a creamy overall soft bokeh / not swirly
and YES its a matter of Taste...This shot of my Pug Lulubelle says it all /OM1 zuiko 50 1.4
LOVED your pix :SILVA LINING
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3513/3744179408_c96242f3c6_b.jpg

JoeV
10-20-2009, 15:47
I like to combine bokeh with other off-axis artifacts of severely uncorrected optics, in this example a 150mm binocular lens cell (taken from a 7x50 binocular) and fitted to my 4"X5" Speed Graphic. Stopped down to 20mm aperture (around F/7.5 at infinity, closer to F/8 in this image).

Grade 2 preflashed paper negative.

Mail boxes in Madrid, NM, where my grandson and I were on a photo-expedition 2 days ago.

~Joe

http://i570.photobucket.com/albums/ss141/jvcabacus/MadridMailbox001a.jpg
(http://i570.photobucket.com/albums/ss141/jvcabacus/MadridMailbox001a.jpg)

bmattock
10-20-2009, 16:00
This is the kind of use I prefer for low dof, some might not like it, I do.

(does this image-linking work? )

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2498/4012180521_3be80a8f37_b.jpg

I like this quite a lot, actually. Thanks!

bmattock
10-20-2009, 16:06
I make a distinction between selective focus and bokeh.

I use selective focus regularly to draw attention to something in the photograph.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2361/2539843469_a44909a6ba.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/2539843469/)

The lens itself may offer a pleasing out-of-focus rendition. Like zoom lenses, I find that people often tend to use them all the way out or all the way in. Max bokeh or none at all. There is something in-between, folks!

It's all down to creative choices. I appreciate photographs that are sharp throughout and I also like those with distracting elements smoothed away from conscious attention. Fortunately, no one has to choose only one or the other.

marke
10-20-2009, 16:09
No bokeh nightmares I hope ;)

Oh, but they make the BEST nightmares! :eek:

marke
10-20-2009, 16:14
Helen, Lulubelle is quite a looker. What a sweet face!

I like a creamy overall soft bokeh / not swirly
and YES its a matter of Taste...This shot of my Pug Lulubelle says it all /OM1 zuiko 50 1.4
LOVED your pix :SILVA LINING
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3513/3744179408_c96242f3c6_b.jpg

Sparrow
10-21-2009, 01:19
Originally Posted by Sparrow

Try explaining bokeh to a layman ...

go on then! - we are 'all ears'! ;)




While I don’t pretend to understand it I’ve had an interest in the Japanese aesthetic for many years, I have kept bonsai, collected stones (Suiseki) and woodcuts for years. The Japanese aesthetic is ancient and is not simply visual like our modern one, it also involves belief, religion and life in a way our art did back in the renaissance but much more rooted in everyday life.

However; as I understand it was only in the 19th century that the first attempts were made to codify Japanese art and the odd thing is I don’t recall any mention in of bokeh in anything I’ve read about their art or any other aspect of their aesthetic, bokeh seems exclusively photographic and the only attempt to define it is by photographers to other photographers not something for the plebs bother with.

So, as I cannot define it I cannot learn it or teach it,

Sparrow
10-21-2009, 01:22
I make a distinction between selective focus and bokeh.

I use selective focus regularly to draw attention to something in the photograph.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2361/2539843469_a44909a6ba.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/2539843469/)

The lens itself may offer a pleasing out-of-focus rendition. Like zoom lenses, I find that people often tend to use them all the way out or all the way in. Max bokeh or none at all. There is something in-between, folks!

It's all down to creative choices. I appreciate photographs that are sharp throughout and I also like those with distracting elements smoothed away from conscious attention. Fortunately, no one has to choose only one or the other.

Ya’see that conveys depth, pictorial recession, and without making my eyes bleed

Ezzie
10-21-2009, 03:00
I use in focus vs oof to draw attention to the main point of interest in the picture. I can't see why bokeh necessarily is such a bad thing. My eyes can't, in real life, focus on everything I see front to back all at the same time, why should pictures captured on film or chip have to?

flip
10-21-2009, 03:40
I think that it is not coincidental that bokeh has become popular in the last 2 decades. I think that it's a reaction, in part, to the sort of pictures produced by compact digitals which often employ flash and small apertures. The ubiquity of such images makes us crave something less documentarian.

Sparrow
10-21-2009, 03:42
I use in focus vs oof to draw attention to the main point of interest in the picture. I can't see why bokeh necessarily is such a bad thing. My eyes can't, in real life, focus on everything I see front to back all at the same time, why should pictures captured on film or chip have to?

I’m not sure “Selective Focus” and “Bokeh” are the same thing.

To me Selective Focus is a device to concentrate attention on and make the subject more pleasing.

Whereas Bokeh is something to find pleasing of itself, regardless of the subject, in effect one can have good and bad bokeh.

it is the latter I don’t understand, I use the former all the time

bmattock
10-21-2009, 03:53
I use in focus vs oof to draw attention to the main point of interest in the picture. I can't see why bokeh necessarily is such a bad thing. My eyes can't, in real life, focus on everything I see front to back all at the same time, why should pictures captured on film or chip have to?

It is true that your eyes cannot focus on everything at once, but one has to concentrate to notice that effect with one's eyes. Typically, the brain compensates, so the average person thinks they have sharp vision all the time, as if their eyes were 'stopped down' and they had maximum 'DoF'.

I have one eye that is still a bit wonky from diabetes and my eyeglasses prescription is not right for it - yet I can't get a new prescription made because it hasn't settled down and keeps changing. If I close my 'good' eye and think about it, I am quite aware of how poor my eyesight is in the other eye. If I leave both open, my mind compensates and I seldom notice that one eye is not anywhere near as sharp as the other. The mind is a fascinating and generally useful liar.

In that manner, I believe that the human eye / mind combination will often 'not notice' or ignore out-of-focus areas on a photograph, just as it does with what it sees in the 'real world'. If it isn't a jarring juxtaposition, it simply ignores it.

I believe that excessively OoF areas on a photo will cause the mind to stop ignoring OoF and transfer control to the consciousness to deal with. That's when people 'notice' out-of-focus areas and then they have to decide if it helps or hurts the photograph as a photograph. I think it is often done to excess, as I mentioned earlier. However, having said that, there is nothing wrong with excess if that is actually the intent of the photographer. But I think that quite often, intent is absent. Some tend to use the lens wide-open in order to get that '3D' feeling, without thinking about to what extent they could control the effect creatively. Like covering a Christmas tree with decorations - I've seen some that looked like a metalocalypse. There really is such a thing as 'too much', IMHO.

With regard to the word 'bokeh' itself - I sincerely doubt that I understand the word properly in the sense it may have been originally intended in Japanese. When I was learning photography as a youngster, I never heard the word at all. However, it has become useful to refer to 'pleasing rendition of out-of-focus areas' as 'bokeh'. I at least know what that means, and understand that concept, even if that is not properly 'bokeh'.

marke
10-21-2009, 04:06
I always thought that bokeh was a term to describe the way OOF highlights were rendered in an image, not the OOF area as a whole.

Ezzie
10-21-2009, 04:29
I’m not sure “Selective Focus” and “Bokeh” are the same thing.

To me Selective Focus is a device to concentrate attention on and make the subject more pleasing.

Whereas Bokeh is something to find pleasing of itself, regardless of the subject, in effect one can have good and bad bokeh.

it is the latter I don’t understand, I use the former all the time
Well put .

Juan Valdenebro
10-21-2009, 04:38
This is the kind of use I prefer for low dof, some might not like it, I do.

(does this image-linking work? )

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2498/4012180521_3be80a8f37_b.jpg

Well done! A whole movie in this shoot!

About bokeh, I think it's secondary when a photograph is great... For example here, you got many things together, that's "why", and in my opinion your shot would be wonderful if you used a busy bokeh lens, or even with a lot more depth of field... This composition is romantic and yes, the bokeh helps the mood, but it doesn't depend on it at all... Totally focused images can be as romantic and moody, to me... Impressive portrait!

Cheers,

Juan

StaaleS
10-21-2009, 04:40
The 'bokeh' concept was introduced by Mike Johnston, of the Online Photographer fame. It simply refers to the rendition (ie of the blur) of the out-of-focus areas, as opposed to blur caused by camera shake or subject movement for instance; you can have good bokeh or you can have bad bokeh, the term itself is value-neutral. The word is stolen from the Japanese 'boke' fairly recently, the final 'h' is just tacked on to give an idea of the pronounciation. It is of course rather practical to have a single word to describe 'rendition of out-of-focus areas' without having to type 'rendition of out-of-focus areas' :)

bmattock
10-21-2009, 05:02
As I mentioned, the term 'bokeh' simply was not part of the American photographer's lexicon when I was learning photography. I only heard about it much later.

Interestingly, I found a Google News archive description of 'helwa bokeh' from 1990, in which the Japanese PM used the term to describe removing Japanese troops from peacekeeping duties. It was translated as 'peace senility'. I do not know if 'helwa' was 'peace' or 'senility' in that context.

Looking next at Google books, I found only archaic references to the "Dakota" native American language, which described 'bokeh' as 'hanging fire' (referencing a gun).

More recently, I found Roger's description in his book, "Hollywood Portraits" from 2000. He described bokeh as "the quality of the out-of-focus image."

Gerry Kopelow was more descriptive in "How to Photograph Buildings and Interiors" in 1998 with "''Bokeh'' is a Japanese word that refers to the surprisingly wide range of aesthetic properties associated with out-of-focus images. For example, small out-of-focus highlights are rendered by some lenses, such as the famous Leitz Summicron series, as soft-edged circles, by others, such as the older Schneider Xenotars, as asymmetrical teardrops, and by others, such as the otherwise exquisite Zeiss Planars, as multi-sided geometric forms."

In 2000, Tom Ang described bokeh in "Silver Pixels" as "Subjective quality of the out-of-focus image projected by an optical system, usually a photographic lens."

In 2005, 'bokeh' was entered into the book "New Words," by Orin Hargraves, as "one of the hundreds of words that enter the American lexicon each year."

Since the early 2000's, the list of descriptions of the word 'bokeh' has increased exponentially. There are even engineering papers that attempt to describe how 'bokeh' may best be produced by a given lens design.

Whatever 'bokeh' is, it clearly has arrived.

bmattock
10-21-2009, 05:07
The 'bokeh' concept was introduced by Mike Johnston, of the Online Photographer fame. It simply refers to the rendition (ie of the blur) of the out-of-focus areas, as opposed to blur caused by camera shake or subject movement for instance; you can have good bokeh or you can have bad bokeh, the term itself is value-neutral. The word is stolen from the Japanese 'boke' fairly recently, the final 'h' is just tacked on to give an idea of the pronounciation. It is of course rather practical to have a single word to describe 'rendition of out-of-focus areas' without having to type 'rendition of out-of-focus areas' :)

Actually, that was a rather late entry into the field.

Earlier (1997 in Photo Techniques magazine) was apparently this:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/bokeh.shtml

That is the earliest entry I have found online. Of course, with web pages, once does not know conclusively when it was first published.

Chris101
10-21-2009, 05:55
While the quasi-Japanese term seems to have originated toward the end of the last century, the concept of a blurred background used to isolate an in-focus subject is as old as photography. In his book Looking at Photographs, Szarkowski shows us some early bokey in this portrait by Hill and Johnstone, made in 1845:

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=74210&stc=1&d=1256133231

jonmanjiro
10-21-2009, 06:12
Interestingly, I found a Google News archive description of 'helwa bokeh' from 1990, in which the Japanese PM used the term to describe removing Japanese troops from peacekeeping duties. It was translated as 'peace senility'. I do not know if 'helwa' was 'peace' or 'senility' in that context.

really bad translation but ...

heiwa (not helwa) = peace
bokeh = senility

Sparrow
10-21-2009, 06:14
While the quasi-Japanese term seems to have originated toward the end of the last century, the concept of a blurred background used to isolate an in-focus subject is as old as photography. In his book Looking at Photographs, Szarkowski shows us some early bokey in this portrait by Hill and Johnstone, made in 1845:


Does he conclude that to be intentional? for artistic effect that is, I’ve not read the book

bmattock
10-21-2009, 06:18
really bad translation but ...

heiwa (not helwa) = peace
bokeh = senility

Domo arigato. My Japanese is rather limited to terms for 'bring me more beer' and 'yes, more of that please' picked up in disreputable parts of Naha, learnt some 25+ years ago.

lorriman
10-21-2009, 06:21
To my mind bokeh of some kind is essential for a whole class of semi-formal, contextual portraiture, and of such a quality that it doesn't distract from the subject. My brother strongly disagrees and prefers to have everything in focus which I think verges on the immoral, but then he always was the black sheep (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbiancon/3939751717/) of the family.

jonmanjiro
10-21-2009, 06:26
Domo arigato. My Japanese is rather limited to terms for 'bring me more beer' and 'yes, more of that please' picked up in disreputable parts of Naha, learnt some 25+ years ago.

sounds like a pretty good way to spend some time in okinawa ;)

btw probably more accurate to translate heiwa bokeh as "peace induced stupor".

tritiated
10-21-2009, 06:27
The abundance of small sensor point and shoots and cropped dslr creates scarcity in the possibility of using of the most shallow depth of field, so it's percieved value is higher. And hence there is saturation of the market!

Rob-F
10-21-2009, 07:19
The abundance of small sensor point and shoots and cropped dslr creates scarcity in the possibility of using of the most shallow depth of field, so it's percieved value is higher. And hence there is saturation of the market!

Not sure I follow that. I think you are suggesting that there is a high demand for equipment that can be used for shallow DOF, since most of what is in use now is incapable of shallow DOF, increasing the value of such gear. But then the market would not be saturated; instead, the gear would be hard to get. I must be reading you wrong.

Chris101
10-21-2009, 07:57
Does he conclude that to be intentional? for artistic effect that is, I’ve not read the book

Szarkowski didn't comment on the bokey per se. He wasn't usually concerned with technical aspects of photographs. But he did mention that Hill and Johnstone often used softness in their work. In fact pictorial and portrait photos of 19th century photography often exhibits bokey (or off-subject blur that may pass as bokey. ;) )

My point is, that the name may be new, but the effect has been a part of photography from the beginning. I agree though, that now that it does have a name (however you spell - or pronounce - it) the use of background blur has become much more common. No doubt due to the proliferation of fast lenses, which make it easy to produce.

MikeL
10-21-2009, 07:57
OOF stuff can't make a photo, but to me, it can break a photo if it is too noticeable and distracting. Shouldn't be too noticeable. One thing I like about medium and larger formats is that the OOF stuff is soft but things are still recognizable- a chair in the background is still a chair (unless wide open, long focal length)- and not too abstract.

It has been interesting watching the photographs in the local paper change over the years. Way more images with a thin depth of field, and ultra-wide angle. I guess that will become the norm eventually, and then things will shift back.

maddoc
10-21-2009, 08:02
Part of the concept of boke (blurred) in photography comes from the "are, bure, boke" (rough, blurred, out of focus) era of the Provoke editors, founded in 1968 by Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi, Koji Taki, and later Daido Moriyama. "boke" means in it's original form simply "out of focus" and there is no "good" or "bad" boke...

It was an expression to describe their style, an internal subversion against the optical clarity that had always passed as visual clarity in the photographic image.

For those interested:

Photography that Provokes (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-10-15/photography-that-provokes/?cid=tag:all1)

Sparrow
10-21-2009, 08:27
Szarkowski didn't comment on the bokey per se. He wasn't usually concerned with technical aspects of photographs. But he did mention that Hill and Johnstone often used softness in their work. In fact pictorial and portrait photos of 19th century photography often exhibits bokey (or off-subject blur that may pass as bokey. ;) )

My point is, that the name may be new, but the effect has been a part of photography from the beginning. I agree though, that now that it does have a name (however you spell - or pronounce - it) the use of background blur has become much more common. No doubt due to the proliferation of fast lenses, which make it easy to produce.

Before the fast 35mm lenses started appearing in the 1930s I had assumed OOF areas were due to technical limitations rather than a deliberate artistic statement, well apart from the Pictorialists that is but then they blured everything

Dave Wilkinson
10-21-2009, 09:27
Just logged-on and found this thread flourishing in it's second day! - I find it quite amazing how so many can find so much time to discuss trivia!:rolleyes:....whatever happened to all the meaningful stuff -- e.g. 'what shall I take on vacation?'.....'what shall I buy next-to impress you all with?'. I'm afraid some of the 'deep' stuff - of late surpasses my intellectual standing!:D
Dave

Roger Hicks
10-22-2009, 01:20
OOF stuff can't make a photo, but to me, it can break a photo if it is too noticeable and distracting. Shouldn't be too noticeable. One thing I like about medium and larger formats is that the OOF stuff is soft but things are still recognizable- a chair in the background is still a chair (unless wide open, long focal length)- and not too abstract.

Dear Mike,

Yes, that's pretty much the way I feel.

Cheers,

R.

Silva Lining
10-22-2009, 06:15
Just logged-on and found this thread flourishing in it's second day! - I find it quite amazing how so many can find so much time to discuss trivia!:rolleyes:....whatever happened to all the meaningful stuff -- e.g. 'what shall I take on vacation?'.....'what shall I buy next-to impress you all with?'. I'm afraid some of the 'deep' stuff - of late surpasses my intellectual standing!:D
Dave


Yes, a "what bag for my best bokeh lens" thread is overdue...;) Truthfully though if anything this thread just goes to show that there are as many opinions as there are eyeballs....

atestriwri
10-22-2009, 17:56
It is true that your eyes cannot focus on everything at once, but one has to concentrate to notice that effect with one's eyes. Typically, the brain compensates, so the average person thinks they have sharp vision all the time, as if their eyes were 'stopped down' and they had maximum 'DoF'.

I have one eye that is still a bit wonky from diabetes and my eyeglasses prescription is not right for it - yet I can't get a new prescription made because it hasn't settled down and keeps changing. If I close my 'good' eye and think about it, I am quite aware of how poor my eyesight is in the other eye. If I leave both open, my mind compensates and I seldom notice that one eye is not anywhere near as sharp as the other. The mind is a fascinating and generally useful liar.

In that manner, I believe that the human eye / mind combination will often 'not notice' or ignore out-of-focus areas on a photograph, just as it does with what it sees in the 'real world'. If it isn't a jarring juxtaposition, it simply ignores it.

I believe that excessively OoF areas on a photo will cause the mind to stop ignoring OoF and transfer control to the consciousness to deal with. That's when people 'notice' out-of-focus areas and then they have to decide if it helps or hurts the photograph as a photograph. I think it is often done to excess, as I mentioned earlier. However, having said that, there is nothing wrong with excess if that is actually the intent of the photographer. But I think that quite often, intent is absent. Some tend to use the lens wide-open in order to get that '3D' feeling, without thinking about to what extent they could control the effect creatively. Like covering a Christmas tree with decorations - I've seen some that looked like a metalocalypse. There really is such a thing as 'too much', IMHO.

With regard to the word 'bokeh' itself - I sincerely doubt that I understand the word properly in the sense it may have been originally intended in Japanese. When I was learning photography as a youngster, I never heard the word at all. However, it has become useful to refer to 'pleasing rendition of out-of-focus areas' as 'bokeh'. I at least know what that means, and understand that concept, even if that is not properly 'bokeh'.


wonderful! thanks for the info..
However I think you should vary more examples to your writing much more interesting !

nome_alice
10-22-2009, 18:04
i've done the super bokeh, only got one hair in focus thing and moved on as most of us have but i do still hold out of focus rendering high on my list of priorities when choosing a lens.

i like lenses that give a nice smoothness when slightly out of focus - when it's more about a selective zone of focus rather than a heart melting background.

lenses that produce double lines to edges or doughnut highlights to me ruin what would have been a good shot if that rendering was more neutral.

click through to link to bigger view

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2463/4011167223_9c42e7deee.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nome_alice/4011167223/)

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3081/4009460249_f591459e6d.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nome_alice/4009460249/)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2508/3708915491_f736263395.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nome_alice/3708915491/)

PS. I read a blog rant somewhere that talked about the new "f8 and be there" has become "f1.2 and be lazy" :)

Roger Hicks
10-23-2009, 00:44
i've done the super bokeh, only got one hair in focus thing and moved on as most of us have but i do still hold out of focus rendering high on my list of priorities when choosing a lens.

i like lenses that give a nice smoothness when slightly out of focus - when it's more about a selective zone of focus rather than a heart melting background.

lenses that produce double lines to edges or doughnut highlights to me ruin what would have been a good shot if that rendering was more neutral.


PS. I read a blog rant somewhere that talked about the new "f8 and be there" has become "f1.2 and be lazy" :)

Yes, I think that 'more neutral' is exactly it.

In other words, there's 'bad bokeh' (doubling, etc.) and there's neutral bokeh. The bokeh is best which is least obvious.

The quality of the out of focus image is NOT the same as ultra-shallow depth of field with stomach-churning blur forming most of the image.

And I love 'f/1.2 and be lazy'.

Cheers,

R.

cam
10-23-2009, 00:51
coming from a small sensor camera where everything was in focus, i was delighted when i started with rangefinders and found i could make that selective... my eye started to become critical when i noticed even at f/8, i could tell where i had focused -- it was most definitely not the same as shooting a small sensor camera.

so i started to shoot everything i could wide open to hone my skills and instincts and along the way i fell in love with the look.

ulrikft's example is exactly why i love it.

is this wrong?

am i wrong in simply shooting to please myself, not giving a toss what any of you think?

lorriman
10-23-2009, 02:38
am i wrong in simply shooting to please myself, not giving a toss what any of you think?

No, you are quite right in dismissing their opinions. However it would be quite immoral of you to contradict my opinon.

bmattock
10-23-2009, 04:05
is this wrong?

am i wrong in simply shooting to please myself, not giving a toss what any of you think?

If you like it and it is what you intend, then keep doing it and enjoy yourself. Just be aware that there are people for whom the joy of max bokeh all the time has worn off, and they may not enjoy your photos. If you don't mind that, no problem. You're not the first I've heard say that, BTW. Some people apparently shoot wide open all the time, and that's their preference. It's all up to you to decide what you like.

Bob Ross
10-25-2009, 12:30
Yes, I think that 'more neutral' is exactly it.

In other words, there's 'bad bokeh' (doubling, etc.) and there's neutral bokeh. The bokeh is best which is least obvious.

The quality of the out of focus image is NOT the same as ultra-shallow depth of field with stomach-churning blur forming most of the image.

And I love 'f/1.2 and be lazy'.

Cheers,

R.

Hi Roger,
I have been following this thread to see if any ideas followed mine and I think that you and Nome Alice have arrived.
My def of Bokeh is "the subjective quality of the out of focus gradient". I think that this avoids the limitation to spectral highlights and includes all the tonal gradients. Granted the spectral highlights are where you are going to see the nasties, but to me it is the drift of the out of focus, from the focus plane to the background or foreground that will seem natural or not.
What seems natural to us may have to do with the slope of the gradient and whether the slope is smooth or jaggy. I think it also has to do with the size of the print and probably viewing distance, because COC and enlargement factor are involved.
BTW, I have some lenses where the foreground Bokeh is better than background Bokeh.
Bob

Bob Ross
10-26-2009, 08:56
This morning I noticed something about the way that I see. I was reding while having my coffee and chanced to glance at the rest of the room behind what I was reading and because of this thread, started to look at the bokeh. First of all, I wear reading glasses, so this isn't the naked eye focusing where I look. I have worn glasses 27 years and never thought to notice the Bokeh for what is beyond the corrected range. That means that I have been conditioned, molded and brainwashed into expecting reality to look the way that I see it. This I suppose, is what I would call natural and it is pleasing.....probably what I'd like to see in my photos.
The question it poses is, for those of you that wear corrective lenses, do you think it has an influence on the Bokeh you want to see in your images?
Bob

Roger Hicks
10-26-2009, 09:08
This morning I noticed something about the way that I see. I was reding while having my coffee and chanced to glance at the rest of the room behind what I was reading and because of this thread, started to look at the bokeh. First of all, I wear reading glasses, so this isn't the naked eye focusing where I look. I have worn glasses 27 years and never thought to notice the Bokeh for what is beyond the corrected range. That means that I have been conditioned, molded and brainwashed into expecting reality to look the way that I see it. This I suppose, is what I would call natural and it is pleasing.....probably what I'd like to see in my photos.
The question it poses is, for those of you that wear corrective lenses, do you think it has an influence on the Bokeh you want to see in your images?
Bob

Dear Bob,

This is a fascinating question, and probably of fundamental importance. The only trouble is, I fear it almost falls into the old philosophical realm of "Is the way I see red the same way as you see red?"

You'd need a huge sample of people with different eyesight faults, and scores of pics to see what bokeh they liked. There has to be a Ph.D. in this one!

Cheers,

R.

Gabriel M.A.
10-26-2009, 09:10
Bokeh is like custard: people often confuse it with ice-cream, and the lactose-intolerant will demonize it to the death.

Chocolate, vanilla, plain...I love it. Just as long as some nut doesn't come up with wasabi custard, all's well in the Universe :)

Roger Hicks
10-26-2009, 09:20
Bokeh is like custard: people often confuse it with ice-cream, and the lactose-intolerant will demonize it to the death.

Chocolate, vanilla, plain...I love it. Just as long as some nut doesn't come up with wasabi custard, all's well in the Universe :)

Have you ever had chawan mushi? Now THERE'S a savoury custard.

Cheers,

R.

degruyl
10-26-2009, 09:26
Chocolate, vanilla, plain...I love it. Just as long as some nut doesn't come up with wasabi custard, all's well in the Universe :)

catadioptric lenses... (mirror telephoto)

Bob Ross
10-26-2009, 14:00
Dear Bob,

This is a fascinating question, and probably of fundamental importance. The only trouble is, I fear it almost falls into the old philosophical realm of "Is the way I see red the same way as you see red?"

You'd need a huge sample of people with different eyesight faults, and scores of pics to see what bokeh they liked. There has to be a Ph.D. in this one!

Cheers,

R.

It certainly supports the idea that all live in a separate reality:) I do think that over the five decades that I have enjoyed the craft, I have changed in what I like in a photo. Some of that is learning to be aware of the various qualities (Bokeh or highlight detail fall off gradients, etc.), but some is the way my vision has changed and I have accomodated to it.
In the old previsualization school we imagined what the finished print would look like, when we took the time. That involved our inner vision-meta vision-mind's eye. I wonder to what extent our outer vision accomodations imapact our imagination's image generator, that we use for previsualizing. Today it is easier for me to chimp than previsualize:o
Bob

Bob Ross
10-26-2009, 14:03
Bokeh is like custard: people often confuse it with ice-cream, and the lactose-intolerant will demonize it to the death.

Chocolate, vanilla, plain...I love it. Just as long as some nut doesn't come up with wasabi custard, all's well in the Universe :)

Then there is the subjective quality of the melt gradient of pizza cheese:D
Bob

Roger Hicks
10-30-2009, 13:44
Following a couple of bokeh tests on the forum (very interesting -- thanks guys), I can't help feeling that bokeh has been 'ghetto-ized' into 'extreme out of focus'. For me, this is the least important (although most easily illustrated) aspect of bokeh. What matters to me is that the o-o-f areas do not obtrude at more reasonable apertures: a smooth transition at f/2.8 to f/8 matters a lot more than a more or less uniform (and usually nauseating) wall of blur behind the principal subject at f/2, f/1.4 or faster.

Cheers,

R.