Bokeh @ the Vitra

I have a love-hate relationship with my 50mm prime lens. Love, as it is small, light and incredibly fast to focus, hate because it means I need to use my feet to compose an image instead of zooming in and out with a telephoto lens as I am used to. I suppose it comes down to what one is used to and feels comfortable with. My 50mm has definitely been out of my comfort zone until today.

As it is a public holiday here, and having a guest visiting from the US, it was a perfect time to spend the day with friends @ the Vitra Design Museum (…/the-vitra-design-museum) in near-by Weil am Rhien, Germany. Even though it is found amongst farmers’ fields and country villages, the Vitra is one of the leading design museums in the world. Wandering amongst  buildings (and furniture!) designed by the likes of Buckminster Fuller, Frank Gehry and Ray & Charles Eames, the air was simply fizzing with creative energy and inspiration (by the way, check out the amazing slide by Carsten Hoeller (…nformation/vitra-campus but probably a good idea before lunch). It was also a relaxed opportunity to talk “shop”  with some very avid photographers. As four Nikons ‘hit’ the table in the cafe (gently, don’t worry!) and coffees were ordered, the conversation turned technical and along came the topic of bokeh. I have to admit that I love the effect that bokeh has, especially when I see it used for capturing images of hand-made Kinfolk-type objects (pottery and the like) and in portaits, but other than a general theoretical knowledge of what it was, I had no clue on how to use it myself, unless it happened in a photo as a “lucky mistake”.

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (暈け or ボケ), meaning “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji (ボケ味),”blur quality“. Bokeh is the artisitically blurry or glittery background you find in many commercial photographs used in lifestyle blogs, macro shots of flowers, insects or anything small, landscapes, portraits and the like. It’s effect helps to focus the viewer’s gaze on the main subject of the photo, while adding a textured background that won’t compete or clutter the impact of the image.  

But how to do this? No clue…. Well, bokeh turns out to be not so complicated, I just needed a better, yet simple understanding of how my lens worked  and a gentle nudge forward to try something new.

Looking for something to experiment with, a chair outside on the sunny patio…

and the cheerful table decoration became willing subjects for a bokeh effect.

There are many good resources on the web for learning how to bokeh your way into lovely captures. Here is one that I found to be easy to understand, just to get you started (your gentle nudge forward in trying something new)….

Digital Photography School:



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