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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Old 12-06-2011   #81
Pablito
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OK, there seem to be two things going on here that people call "bokeh."
okeh?

One is like blurry fuzzy smeary stuff. I'd call this normal out of focus mush. Inevitable when you need to shoot wide open, or the result of shooting wide open to isolate the subject. I take it creamy is generally thought to be better than harsh.

The other thing is what I'd call some sort of special effect - something you might have bought a specialized Spiratone filter to accomplish in the old days (like a starburst filter) or something a Photoshop filter might create. This sort of "bokeh" looks like a bunch of silver coins reflecting light. It's not very blurry, in fact sometimes it's quite clear. This sort of bokeh is extraordinarily distracting unless it is, in fact the subject of the photo.

So, whereas some of Brian's photos seem to use this effect well, and present us with a dreamy, ethereal sort of space, the floating silver coins in some of the portraits, for example, are really disconcerting (to some folks). You'd think lens makers would try to prevent this sort of effect at all costs in lenses made for general use photography. I suppose that's one reason why some of us prefer "modern" lenses. (I'm assuming modern lenses are more likely to keep the floating doubloons in control...)

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Old 12-06-2011   #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pablito View Post
OK, there seem to be two things going on here that people call "bokeh."
okeh?

One is like blurry fuzzy smeary stuff. I'd call this normal out of focus mush. Inevitable when you need to shoot wide open, or the result of shooting wide open to isolate the subject. I take it creamy is generally thought to be better than harsh.

The other thing is what I'd call some sort of special effect - something you might have bought a specialized Spiratone filter to accomplish in the old days (like a starburst filter) or something a Photoshop filter might create. This sort of "bokeh" looks like a bunch of silver coins reflecting light. It's not very blurry, in fact sometimes it's quite clear. This sort of bokeh is extraordinarily distracting unless it is, in fact the subject of the photo.

So, whereas some of Brian's photos seem to use this effect well, and present us with a dreamy, ethereal sort of space, the floating silver coins in some of the portraits, for example, are really disconcerting (to some folks). You'd think lens makers would try to prevent this sort of effect at all costs in lenses made for general use photography. I suppose that's one reason why some of us prefer "modern" lenses. (I'm assuming modern lenses are more likely to keep the floating doubloons in control...)

And no one's mother wears combat boots.
My opinion on the subject is that the lens manufacturers are after the brightest lens they can economically (that is relative of course) produce. The reason for this is of course low light use, not to produce bubble or swirly bokeh. (Recent repackaging of cheap CCTV lenses like the "Noktor" not withstanding).

The wild bokeh on the super fast lenses (yes, even most modern ones) is largely the result of various lens imperfections that can't be practically removed. But the lenses I have used show a much different character based on the situation - using NDs in daylight for closeup shots with complicated back-lit backgrounds will usually show the most extreme results. But use the same lens in a night shot at a reasonable distance will result in more "normal" bokeh and a more natural shot.

Here are some with a "doubloon" producing Canon lens in what I feel are the conditions the makers had in mind, keeping reasonable shutter speeds at fairly low light levels (recycled seasonal photos from a couple of years ago)...





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Old 12-06-2011   #83
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Wartime 5cm F1.5 Sonnar "T", stopped down a little on the Canon P.



Backed off a bit from minimum focus, probably ~f2 or so. Sonnars calm down very quickly.

Same lens, same roll, minimum focus and wide-open.



Modern lenses- Late, Fast Nikkors have some of the harshest Bokeh going. I have not shot with an AF-S Nikkor 50/1.4. The AF-Nikkor 50/1.4 that i have is sharp, but harsh.
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Old 12-06-2011   #84
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And now for a completely meaningless comparison between two lenses made 70 years apart. Both on the Leica M8.

1937 Uncoated Sonnar 5cm f1.5 at F2.




and a C-Sonnar 50mm F1.5, wide-open.



just to show I have a modern lens.
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Old 12-06-2011   #85
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Confessions of a secret bokeholic.
My name is Jack, and I'm a bokeholic.

Quote:
(I'm assuming modern lenses are more likely to keep the floating doubloons in control...)
Funny you should mention the floating silver dollars. I used to think they were good bokeh.

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Old 12-06-2011   #86
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The bottom line is if you ever shoot your lenses fast or close, you will have bokeh. How can you be against it? It's just a fact---I guess you can go f64 or something.

The only real important bokeh, as said, is bad bokeh--and it can be awfull. I'm not talking about bubbles, but wirery objects that jump at you in 3d and were never there.

Wild bokeh and bad bokeh are not the same thing.

Bad bokeh has nothing to do with swirls--that's just a form of wild bokeh (usually).

Just like any shot, you like the wild stuff, usually on a case by case basis.

Some of the sharpest lenses, zeiss contax G and m especially, but many others can make horrendous bokeh. But not always--in fact it's often the exception. You see people like sebboh at FM shooting these lenses and producing perfectly fine bokeh--but he knows how.

Here's the pen 42/1.2

note wirey colors behind dog--moving towards bad bokeh here
again, but not so many colors


OK same place same time nikkor 5cm 1.4

wild bokeh. You might like it or not, but it's not "bad bokeh"

mR swirly pants--canon LTM 50/1.2

Wild bokeh, not bad bokeh.

Less controversial: smooth bokeh

CV 35/1.2


pre-war sonnar 50/1.5


Anyway this is the way I've come to look at bokeh. There are as many types of bokeh as red wine--but some of it has definitely gone off

The vinegar aside, it's interesting to see the wide range of OOF which can be had from a given lens--which is why sweeping statements about any lens' bokeh are usually silly

Pen 42/1.2 again


even where it does wire a bit, lower right, its fine, I like the shot---even she does!

all this is obvious to most here, but as i get to use more and more lenses---even I start to get a grip.

Shots with no bokeh, but some degree of abstract comp, are some other form of intoxicant. Usually that's what the bokeh haters are into--and I love the good examples. Brian's buddy Tightsqueeze has some fantastic no-bokeh stuff

wait here is where he goes off on bokeh--I love this
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7035573...7622522732159/

we need to get him in here to straighten us out

Last edited by uhoh7 : 12-06-2011 at 18:01.
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Old 12-06-2011   #87
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nice bokeh.


bad bokeh, bad...
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Old 12-07-2011   #88
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Conrad View Post
Confessions of a secret bokeholic.
My name is Jack, and I'm a bokeholic.
My name is Brian, and I shoot wide-open am proud of it.

On the 1955 Jupiter-3- I swapped out optics until I got the look that i wanted.
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Old 12-07-2011   #89
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Old 12-07-2011   #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gilpen123 View Post
Is a high end P&S more suited for this
Exactly the point why I think Bokeh is getting more and more popular today. Digital P&S technology have advanced so much these days that the image quality is almost par to that of a DSLR/DRF..... except in this 'Bokeh' department. Therefore a DSLR user armed with a fast lens who would definitely want to distance himself from a casual shooter with a Canon S95 will trumpet this 'Bokeh' word around. So next time he shows the image on Flickr he would say "you can't possibly do this with an LX5"
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Old 12-07-2011   #91
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Here is a very nice photo with a big area out of focus (Vivian Maier)

http://www.vivianmaier.com/portfolio...ork-2/?pid=238
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Old 12-07-2011   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Dark View Post
"you can't possibly do this with an LX5"
I use my LX5 because even at f2 I get reasonably good DOF and certainly none of that floating coinage! (I use DSLR plenty too, at around f11 when possible)


OK< so this thread exceptional because it's about bokeh and it's civil, yes?
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Old 12-07-2011   #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pablito View Post
Here is a very nice photo with a big area out of focus (Vivian Maier)

http://www.vivianmaier.com/portfolio...ork-2/?pid=238
See my post above. Not a 1cm DOF picture, bokeh is used for foreground emphasis only.
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Old 12-07-2011   #94
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Alas this is what happens when the west gets a whiff of the asian way of hobbying.

The essence is lost.

Yes we know we are often weirdly obsessive.
We enjoy it.

We saw it happen with hifi (tubes anyone), car tuning and of course bokeh.

Now everyman and his dog has an idea about "bokeh" without understanding the basic thing about why.

Just leave it.
Those that get it, get it.
Those that don't don't.

And no it has hardly anything to do with photography.
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Old 12-07-2011   #95
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This common house fly is about to plunge head first into a vast
pool of mysterious bokeh.

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Old 12-07-2011   #96
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Quote:
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Alas this is what happens when the west gets a whiff of the asian way of hobbying.

The essence is lost.

Yes we know we are often weirdly obsessive.
We enjoy it.

We saw it happen with hifi (tubes anyone), car tuning and of course bokeh.

Now everyman and his dog has an idea about "bokeh" without understanding the basic thing about why.

Just leave it.
Those that get it, get it.
Those that don't don't.

And no it has hardly anything to do with photography.

Well said. But, alas, once an old tart don't like sumthin', you ain't gonna be changin' their mind no matter what. Just review the Andy Rooney archives.


Just change bokeh for "gadget" (that's what the naysayers think of it anyway), and lens for "car":
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7374356n
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Old 12-07-2011   #97
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Conrad View Post
This common house fly is about to plunge head first into a vast
pool of mysterious bokeh.
And the last thing that goes through his head will be out of focus.
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Old 12-07-2011   #98
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I hate bokeh. It makes images look all 3d and the subject in focus just kind of stands out way too much.
jk.
To each his own.
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Old 12-07-2011   #99
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who was it that said, "f64 and be there!"
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Old 12-07-2011   #100
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Bokeh has it's place and enjoy it . . . . .

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Old 12-07-2011   #101
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Bokeh is only noticed... with regard to "bad" and "good" ... by pixel peeping lens nerds. Non-photographers most likely never say... "oh, man, that blurry background ruins the photo!"

I've come to hate hearing about bokeh and sharpness. It gets boring and what matters more in a photo is the content and overall photo...not a blurry background or razor sharp image. We've all seen great photos that are technically bad.
As usual, John is spot on here. I've honestly never seen a truly great photo that I felt was ruined by bokeh. Conversely, I've never seen an truly great photo that I felt was great due to or in part because of the quality of the out of focus areas.

Generally, when examples of "bad" bokeh are posted for reference... they aren't that interesting in and of themselves. And examples of good bokeh usually have some other aesthetically pleasing qualities.

This is just my honest opinion, and I have no problem with discussions or the pursuit of bokeh. If we all dug the same stuff the world would be boring, no?
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Old 12-07-2011   #102
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.

Just leave it.
Those that get it, get it.
Those that don't don't.
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Old 12-08-2011   #103
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