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22nd November 2017 – Bokeh Evening – Was it all a bit of a blur?

We enjoyed another excellent evening on 22nd November 2017, courtesy of our esteemed Chairman, Aodan.

He provided us all with a most interesting and informative talk on the subject of Bokeh. So, to start us off on the right foot, Aodan talked us through the variations of how to pronounce the word and via a quick trip to Paree and a glance at Japan, we ended at Bo Ke (Bow Kay). Thank you Wikipedia!

What is it? That was the very simple question posed. There were some excellent choices made in how to demonstrate the look of Bokeh and it became clear that it is not simply taking the photo with the background out of focus. If one were to get very particular, it could even be argued that true Bokeh only occurs when lights are out of focus and create a regular shape in the background of the picture.  The actual shape is caused by the blades of the shutter and size of aperture. Aodan also provided us with examples of other shapes that can be bought as pre-cut or simply cut your own out of card and hold it in front of the lens when taking the photograph – remembering that you need to get the exposure right if you’re cutting down the amount of light reaching the sensor or film.

Aodan took advantage of David P’s excellent exposure talk a couple weeks ago – see the blog below – to say that many of the same principles apply, i.e. depth of field and choice of f-stop, light and exposure. Colour is also a critical part of making the effect really work, especially if the lights or background involved are complimentary to the foreground.

The simplest way to start was explained as follows:

· Set focus to manual

· Point the camera at some lights – outdoors with car lights, street lights, etc. is a good place.

· Focus until the lights are out of focus

· Press the shutter!

You can experiment all you want and perhaps see the differences in the shapes you can get and the effect the colours have. The more out of focus the background is, the better the effect. This can be enhanced by using a telephoto lens as there are more choices for a narrow depth of field with the main foreground subject.

Sensor size is another component that plays a part and simply put, the bigger the better! This will allow you to get close to the main foreground subject which you then focus on and that throws the background out of focus. Here, the best results will be found by having good separation between foreground and background.

Separation of at least 3:1 – 5:1 is best. E.g. lens to subject 6ft, to background 30ft.

So far, we have been discussing what Aodan named “Back Bokeh”. He then made us appreciate that you can create a “front Bokeh” effect as well. This can be done by getting close up to the lghts in the foreground but focussing on infinity with your main subject a suitable distance away, e.g. main subject at 6ft, foreground light at 1ft.

In such cases, it is important to balance the overall lighting in order that your main subject standing furthest away is suitably lit for the photograph and the foreground lights are not going to overpower the background.

As ever, in this fast paced world, software can offer a solution if all else is failing you. Alien Skin Software Exposure X3 has a Bokeh effect plug-in – https://www.alienskin.com/exposure/

But be warned, it is not cheap and now has so much more than a few simple enhancement options so it may be a bit overwhelming.

Perhaps a more cost effective starting point will be to watch the experts on youtube and Aodan recommended Mark Wallace – https://www.youtube.com/user/snapfactory– as one to view to see the best examples.

Gavin Hoey is another excellent photographer and his Bokeh demo can found here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mXg7-Juvrc

Don’t forget you can make your own shapes for effect by simply cutting a card to suit. If that proves too much, many pre-set shapes can be found for sale online.

And so to end with some of our own work from the evening – which saw a quite magnificent array of cameras and tripods on display! We have a great and growing membership and it is really encouraging to see so many take the chance to try out these effects on the night. After some shuffling of tables, etc. we had a few lights on show plus toys, water droplets and leaves. Some of us ventured out into the night air and whilst we have a few pictures here to start with, I hope more will be added in the coming days.

Well done to all for making the most of a great evening and a huge thanks to Aodan for his preparation and presentation that whetted our appetite to take these fine examples of front and back Bokeh…more to follow!