Bokehlicious! It’s a term blatantly stolen from DigitalRev TV presenter Kai. Bokeh, that lovely Japanese word for “the stuff not in focus in the image” is awesome. Normally we think of big apertures like f/1.4 or f/2 to get amazing bokeh in an image, but you can squish a background with a long telephoto lens and get a similar result. I shot this self portrait (mainly because it’s infested with wood ticks back there and nobody else would go as my subject) 😉 tonight as the sun was beginning to get low and directional. It was super cloudy so it was diffused nicely. I put a speed light on a stand camera left and shot it through a Lumiquest Softbox III light mod. It’s a sweet little modifier. I mainly wanted that new growth poplar behind me to go into bokehlicious heaven. And I think it did nicely for being shot at f/5.6 @ 270mm (which on my DX Nikon actually is like 405mm)! 😎 All you get is a background that goes smooshy and gooshy, like a painter’s canvas. Certainly, this would have been even more pleasing had I shot the photo at f/2.8 or f/4. But even at 5.6 I like it! I just love that green bokehlicious background!
Last night after another magical slow cooked dinner we decided to have a fire. After we got the s’more pit going, I looked up and noticed a
gaggle pride flock band murder of crows. I know why they call them a murder.They make so much obscene noise you want to murder them all! It was a toss up between the camera and a gun on this “shoot”. 😉 My theory is that there was something dead nearby because they and two hawks kept swooping in and out of the trees behind our house. Anyways, it was golden light and everything was rich in colour. Love it! Can’t beat it ever! I grabbed the 70-300 and nabbed a few shots before the light slinked away behind the horizon. It’s gyp that the sunsets aren’t lasting as long as they did even a few weeks ago. All of these shots (except the fire pit) are with the 70-300. You can see how longer glass gives you added compression and photo num nums. The power/telephone poles show this in the pics of the family. Even at f/5.6 0r f/8, they look compressed and bokehlicious. 8) And the shots of the lone yellow clover blossoms have sweet sweet bokeh at 300mm. That’s the added benefits of compression in images. If you’ve ever wondered why the vast majority of portrait photographers use that magical 70-200 lens, this is why.
Another beautiful evening in Southern Saskatchewan last night. The wind got up nice, nice enough to fly a kite. So we grabbed our trusty wind walker and away we went. I also grabbed the camera and my 105mm macro lens. Why? Usually this kind of shoot lends itself to wide angle. Well, I had an alterior motive – that being compression & bokeh. [Photo geek alert! Just look at the pictures if you don’t know what either compression 0r bokeh are. ;)] Compression is the photography effect created when you use a long telephoto lens to make a photo. The background gets smooshed together, compressed as it were, making for portraits that are pure awesomeness. Add that to f/2.8 and you’ve got sheer awesomeness, photographically speaking. And, top it all off with golden light and 100% unadulterated awesomeness. I just watched Cliff Mautner’s latest Kelby Training webinar called searching for the light and he made this comment again and again about compression. He said that if your images are lacking something, it’s compression. And he’s right. I tend to be a wide angle kind of shooter. But you just don’t get the added loveliness of compression with a wide angle that you get with long glass. So I grabbed my 105mm lens and dialled it in to f/2.8 and went to town. All the images here are shot with the 105mm at f/2.8 (except the obviously wide angle landscape shots near the end). I was super pleased with the shots, technically speaking. I’m always happy with pics of my own kids though (who isn’t, right?! ;)) Try some telephoto in your life. It makes a big, awesome difference! 8)
Recently on an episode of Fro Knows Photo, I watched the Fro & Greg edit a RAW file of some girl posed in a sitting position on a concrete ledge with a forest type background. At the end of the show, they were critiquing the shot such that it had been taken with a 50mm f/1.8 Canon. The general gist of what was said was that the bokeh on the 50mm 1.8 was not as pleasing as it could have been had the portrait been taken with a 70-200mm f/2.8.
Now, I happen to love 50mm primes. They are almost the perfect portrait lens on crop censor cameras, producing a sweet 75mm on my D300s. In fact, my new 50mm f/1.4 G lens should be arriving any day now. So while I wait, I decided to borrow a 70-200 f/2.8 lens from Jocelyn, setup my own miniature wedding photo shoot for John & Marsha and do a “which has better bokeh” test. 😉
There are two main things going on that we need to be aware of: Bokeh & Compression. Bokeh is the Japanese word for “stuff that is out of focus in a photo.” Compression is described as an effect produced by a long lens (longer than 35mm) that smooshes and flattens backgrounds. It gives the effect of even more buttery bokeh. There are some people who contest this as a myth though.
For simplicity’s sake, longer telephoto lenses *should* produce more pleasing bokeh because it is “compressed” in addition to being out of focus. This is where Greg was coming from on the Fro episode. So, let’s check the results of my mini-field test and you can make up your own conclusions.
The situation was that John and Marsha surrounded by background and foreground elements (pineapple, spiderplant, gerbs and a happy face flower resting on two toddler chairs and a brick wall). This simulates a wedding couple in a park area with some trees & shrubs and thick forest behind them. The lenses used were Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 105mm f/2.8 VR macro, and a 50mm f/1.8. All the lenses were mounted on a D300s on a tripod using mirror lock up and a cable release with VR off. Light levels and ISO remained constant. Distance was slightly changed to try and maintain similar perspective.
Here is a gallery of the results:
What do you think? Which lens has the most pleasing Bokeh? Which lens produces the most pleasing portrait? 🙂