We had a good turnout for the official January walk – six of us in total! Let’s hope we can keep up the enthusiasm. We decided on an afternoon out at Tropical Wings where they have a hot house with free-flying butterflies and other animals to photograph outside. There were some great images posted to the group from the afternoon.
Here is my selection from the day:
What The Heck Is Bokeh Anyway?
In the last few years, bokeh has become a popular buzzword amongst photographers. Many folks are not really sure what it means, however. During 2008, I had a go at taking a picture to illustrate the meaning on Day #155. The definition is thus:
Bokeh n. a term for the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photographic image. [Jap. bokeh, blur]
That Still Doesn’t Mean Much!
OK, here’s another way to show it. The image below has a very narrow depth of field. The beads at the bottom are in focus but as you go further towards the top, the image blurs – that’s bokeh.
Alternatively, you could go for a shot where everything is deliberately out of focus:
OK, So Now What?
You’ll see shots exhibiting bokeh all over the place on Flickr. But sometimes, you may notice ones which not only have the round or 5/7-sided blurred shapes, but also other more unexpected variants such as hearts or stars. How to go about getting a shot like this? Well, I did some googling over Christmas and found a handy tutorial, the principles of which I’ll explain here.
I decided to make myself a little gadget which would help me get custom bokeh whenever I wanted it. Enter the Bokeh-O-Matic:
In the centre of the above image is a circle of black cartridge paper, just large enough to fit snugly into the filter threads and cover the front of my 60mm f/2.8 macro lens (and my trusty old 50mm f/1.8 too) – see left. Bokeh works best when you have a lens with a large maximum aperture.
I covered this mask with sellotape, cutting out the central square, and put two “ears” on the sides so I could easily grab it from the front of the lens when finished with.
On it’s own, this won’t give you very much apart from a bad case of vignetting.
However, apply one of the smaller custom masks to the front and stick it on with sellotape or just hold it in place and rotate to see how the bokeh pattern changes your image (see right).
For this lens, a mask hole of no more than about 5mm at the widest point seemed to produce the best results. You could try your own experiments with the size of custom mask.
Applying this combo to the front of your lens will of course reduce the amount of light getting to the sensor quite dramatically, and longer shutter speeds will be required, so beware of camera shake (a different kettle of fish to artistic focus blur).
Show Me Some Pretty Pictures!
Here is a selection of images taken with various masks in front of the lens:
Have A Go
Have a go yourself at creating your own bokeh-o-matic for fun backgrounds. My favourite from today’s shoot was the one with hearts, which I chose for Day #1119.
I’ve been having a tidy up and clear out, and whilst going through some photography-related stuff, I came across this handy little card sent to all RPS members – I think it’s a great idea as you can carry it around in your wallet and read it when you need it.
Thankfully, I’ve never been approached by the Police when out shooting, although I have had some dirty looks from private Security guards, often over zealous in their belief of power. Some of the points below sound equally applicable to them (providing you are not on private property – which is sometimes a little difficult to determine with some places in London!)
The reverse of the card says:
Police Stop And Search Rights Under The Terrorism Act
- Every person has a right to photograph in a public place.
- It is not against the law to photograph a police officer undertaking normal duties.
- The police do have a duty to investigate incidents which may give rise to suspicion.
- If stopped by a police officer, remain calm and polite.
- You are not required to give any personal details unless driving a car or you are arrested.
- Officers may stop and search and view images if they believe they could be used in connection with terrorism.
- Officers have no powers to delete images.
- PCSOs may not search without a police officer present.
- You must be provided with a copy of the Stop & Search slip which will include the officer’s identity.
We all need to be vigilant against terrorism and support the police where possible as well as protect our rights to photograph in a public place.
Some good advice and I have put the card in my wallet for future reference. I hope you may find the info useful too.
What to do on grim grey days, when you know you have to get a picture? I’ve been in that dilemma many a time over the past 3 years, and have accumulated some great bits and pieces for the props box, which is where I turn for inspiration and colour on wet weather days.
It’s full of things from craft shops and stationery outlets. I can’t go past Hobbycraft or Paperchase without having a sneaky look inside. It’s paid off, as many of these items have helped me make great images in my tabletop studio. This is what’s currently inside the box:
And here’s what has come in handy, with some examples (from back to front):
- Coloured paper, felt and plastic for backgrounds – used on Days #88, #89, #741, #742 and #1172
- Red Zip – used on Days #1008 and #1244
- Yellow sponge, large plastic pegs – pegs used on Days #1483 and #1598
- Pipecleaners and corrugated straws – not yet used
- Gerald – used many times for the Educating Gerald series
- Felt-tipped Pens – used on Day #1481
- Spotty straws – used on Day #193
- Red knitted scarf – used on Day #764
- Fold-up plastic ruler – used on Day #693 and Dragon Day #67
- Satin shapes – used on Dragon Day #10
- Assorted coloured feathers – used on Days #274 and #741
- Balloons – used on Day #90
- Party poppsers – used on Day #1097 and Dragon Day #366
- Fluffy balls – used on Dragon Day #372
- Highlighter pens – used on Day #837
- Spangly cardboard box – used on Day #637
- Curly straws – used on Days #68, #412, #1233, #1512 and Dragon Day #243
- Juggling balls – used on Days #599 and #1078
- Cardboard spiral – used on Day #1107
- Pink filigree leaves – used on Day #1011
- Orange spotty box – used on Day #766
- Red heart tea lights – used on Day #776
- Coloured lolly sticks – not yet used
- Spotted feather – used on Day #380
- Crayola Crayons – used on Days #89, #421, #742 and #1514
- Sparkly foil letters – not yet used
- Cocktail Umbrella – used on Dragon Day#318
- Plastic slinky – used on Dragon Day #280
- Paper punches – used on Dragon Day #373
- Sticky numbers – used on Dragon Day #365
- Tiny alphabet blocks – used on Day #1012
- Silver patterned ribbon – not yet used
- Golden Chinese charm – not yet used
- Tiny pegs – not yet used
- Full-sized pegs – used on Day #1103
- Printed numbers – used on Day #1093 and Dragon Day #365
So there you have it! I’m sure you’ll see some more of them in the future.