Day 18 – Bokeh

In photography there’s this thing called bokeh with about 50 million different pronunciations, so I’ll let you pick your own. I pronounce it bokeh. I comes from the Japanese word “boke” which means blur or haze. Which is exactly what photographers use it for.

We photographers sometimes like to make things blurry. I’ve felt this way since the 60s but I didn’t realize then that being a hippie was so damn bokeh. I’m not a hippie anymore but bokeh is still a hell of a lot of fun.

The idea is to focus on a subject that you want to capture in correctly/creatively exposed, correctly metered, perfectly white balanced, sublimely composed and infinitely interesting, and say to hell with the background.

Like, what’s all this background behind my pretty piece of wood? Go away background and stop competing for attention with my pretty piece of wood!

That’s essentially what it boils down to. You want the viewer’s eye to dwell on the subject and you don’t want the background to draw the eye away. If you’re taking a picture of a pretty piece of wood and there’re trees and water and dancing naked ladies (naked men for the ladies) in the background…well…what are you going to look at?

The water of course. Not the pretty piece of wood. So, here’s what you do: You use a shallow depth of field, which means you focus sharply on the subject and not so sharply on the background. In fact, you focus so un-sharply on the background that it’s almost entirely out of focus. It turns into shapes…sometimes circles, sometimes diamonds, sometimes just blurry shapes that may or may not look like anything but shapes.

And how do you achieve a shallow depth of field? For an in-depth explanation, go to Cambridge in Colour. If you really don’t give a shit, then the short answer is…magic.


I love bokeh shots. They have this steamy cool quality that grabs me by the ass and shakes my world. So, today I went down to the river and got out my 70-200 lens and tripoded it (after kissing it and caressing it, of course).

And took a picture of a pretty piece of wood.

Bokeh 2