Sunday, September 18, 2011


A few weeks ago, one of the prompts for Scavenger Hunt Sunday was bokeh and I used a photo similar to this one:
I was very excited for the prompt because I love bokeh, and even though the photo I ended up using was one of the first I took that week, I enjoyed taking pictures of bokeh the whole next week.
Water in the sun makes a particularly easy subject. Though I wanted to get more clear hexagons then I ended up with, I had fun trying with different focal lengths and apertures.
The challenge to me was not to find bokeh, but how to make the picture more intriguing than a photo of glowing circles (though those photos are also gorgeous to me.)
So I tried framing, another prompt from previous weeks and exploring with your camera theme.  Ummm, maybe, but I ended up with a photo of Sunflower because really documenting my children and life is what originally caused me to pick up a camera.
Is it my fault that the lighting and bokeh and not my beautiful daughter is what makes this photo one I want to keep?

But then so many people on the hunt that week admitted they didn't know how to capture bokeh.  Some were limited by their equipment (it is possible to capture bokeh with automatic point and shoots--I believe--but I never have.)  Others had the capability of setting manual settings, but didn't know what to do.  It made me sad, because I remembered being there only 7 months before.  I loved photos with blurry backgrounds, selective focus, and those beautiful bits of pretty glowing circles...but I had no clue how to get them.
As I started going through My 3 Boybarians 31 Days to a Better Photo Series and started shooting in manual, I started to sometimes capture that blurry or creamy background and sometimes even the more elusive bokeh.  I even blogged about that exciting day when Sunflower was in focus and the background was blurry.
SOOC as I didn't know how to edit at all when I first posted this photo
At that point I understood depth of focus and that at certain distances and wider apertures the background would be blurry, but how light played into bokeh was a whole 'nother ball game.   I did discover it was easier for me to capture bokeh when I was using my longer 55-200mm lens than my 18-55mm kit lens.  One day, I Heart Faces posted an article "Creating Bokeh with a Kit Lens" that explained why and things started to fall into place for me.
Not that I can always get bokeh--using the more exact definition of bokeh being out of focus points of light--but I can usually get a blurry background...usually...and if the background has points of light or light bouncing off objects in such away as to look like little lights, then I can get bokeh.  Which means I can experiment even more.
When one doesn't have something they want in focus, manual un-focus can be used to make bokeh.
And if at times I get a little discouraged because my bokeh looks a little more like really bad focus than intentional art, I try to remember how little I knew 7 months ago, how exciting a blurry and ugly background was.
And I remind myself that a LOT of the fun of photography to me is the journey and the learning.  If every shot was perfect every time, what more would I have to learn?  I don't want to take 500 pictures and dislike them all, but when I take a photo and know...this is it, I don't need to take more, I still do.  Because what is the fun of getting out the camera to take one picture and what will I miss if I stop too soon?
My husband would argue, what is the point of having 50 pictures of the same thing?  And I do delete a lot of my attempts.  But each photo represents the journey, the experiment, the learning that I am doing.  Next year what will my Ferris Wheel photos look like?  I hope better, if I have to go to the fair.
The spider web above was taken a little underexposed and I had to use manual focus to get a lock on the web instead of the trees behind, but I knew there was more to capture.  I could see it with my own eyes.  It took several angles, manual focus, and several attempts before I captured the glorious creation I was beholding--almost.  (Though while I was trying to capture the rainbow shimmer, I actually really like the almost black and white web, also.)
Granted it would probably be a better shot if the details of the spider was more in focus, but I cannot get myself to care about the spider.

So if you are feeling like I did--I love bokeh, but I'll never be able to do it...don't despair.  If I can learn, so can you.  You don't even have to use is probably easier to use manual...but aperture priority would allow you to set your lens to your widest aperture and have the camera do all the work of exposure.  Then, as the I heart faces tutorial says, get close to your subject with the background a ways back and watch the magic happen.  I even have a friend who loves the background blurry and doesn't understand settings at all, but she found if she set her point and shoot to close-up and then got in the face of her child (her words) she got some magical photos, too.

Well, I didn't intend to make this a tutorial because there is probably a lot I still don't understand; I would never want to mislead someone.  Plus the people who expressed interest in learning about bokeh aren't reading my blog on a random Monday.  I just wanted to show the pretty bokeh pictures I took in the last few weeks that didn't make it into Scavenger Hunt Sunday--they would have made my hunt way too long!


No Greater Love said...

I for one am so thankful you explained this, and put that wonderful link in your post. :)

I love all the pic's. But I really like the one looking through the tree...and the spider webs.

em said...

Great post! I've been working on figuring this out recently. I have a point and shoot with some settings, and it is interesting once you start trying how much light impacts the bokeh...never understood that before. I'm still working on it, but at least I have a better understanding of what I am doing...mostly. :)

Anonymous said...

These are beautiful.

Our Typical Life said...

Gorgeous bokeh, Cedar! The spider web is beautiful (and slightly creepy - I don't like spiders!)

missing moments said...

I enjoyed your post and explanation of bokeh today. And I am with you, I like keeping my photos to see my journey! Perhaps it does not make my computer happy but hey, that's what memory is for!

Chic Homeschool Mama said...

Those are so GREAT Cedar!!!!!!! Those sparkles int eh water - that adorable little face- the spider webs- all so stunning- I can't pic a fav.

Anonymous said...

Such pretty Bokeh, Cedar! I can't decide which on I like best as they are all so beautiful! :)

Courtney said...

Wow, these are really good! Beautifully done. The bokeh is just fantastic!

Melanie said...

WOW. These are spectacular! You are a bokeh pro now! You should totally write a how to!

Rosie@leavesnbloom said...

What a great post Cedar - I love that multi coloured bokeh on your spiders web.

Bethany said...

Wow, gorgeous photos! I love bokeh!