Monday, August 21, 2006

Using Foreground Bokeh as a Compositional Element

In a post at FujiFilm SLR Talk forum member Wolf Cry asked for more information on foreground bokeh. Having a few weeks ago listened to a good podcast which had four very fine foreground bokeh samples accompanying it, I whipped together a few URL's for those interested in using foreground bokeh as a compositional building block. I prefer the Americanized English spelling bokeh,and so I spell it bokeh,not boke; both spellings are acceptable I feel,and I don't harbor pretensions about the spelling of this word either,unlike some people who pointedly and repeatedly make it obvious that 'boke' is the only spelling they feel is acceptable. Whatever floats yer boat,I guess.

Photographer Martin Bailey has a quite a number of good podcasts available on-line. Check out the folowing URL's to navigate to Bailey's podcast on foreground bokeh and practical photography tips for it. Bailey prefers the spelling boke,BTW,hence my summary Podcast notes from Derrel (below) uses his spelling.
boke podcast #6 on foreground boke

Quick notes on Martin Bailey's podcast, from Derrel:
Using boke in the foreground for effect. Choose your subject,like flowers and leaves for example.
1-Put main subject off-center in one of 4 points where the 1/3 points, or along one of the imainary lines itself.
2)Select a wide aperture, such as say f/2.8
3) Have a number of objects closer to the lens than the main subject. We're after a dreamy effect here. 4 attached shots #559 japanese red maple leaves,day's end,low sky,warmth of shot, patch of light behind a leaf in top left which is almost like a halo throwing the leaf into silhouette"....iTunes,click thumb in bottom left hand corner to see the shot full sized
early-flowering lavender plants in Hokkaido,Japan-END NOTES on Bailey podcast

As part of my testing phase of using Nikkor lenses on a Canon EOS 20D body by means of a $19 lens adapter, I have made a number of photographs designed to help me explore and examine the bokeh characteristics of several lenses. The following two photos demonstrate use of foreground bokeh as a compositional building block,and were made using the 85 1.4 AF-D Nikkor,which is renowned among Nikon shooters for its pleasing bokeh.
One of my all-time favorite photos made using foreground bokeh as a compositional building block is this candid photo of my wife and infant son, made using the 45-P Nikkor as my lens of choice. The caption information under the photo has a few of my thoughts on using focal length and foreground bokeh.
Another sample,shot just a few days ago, uses a long expanse of out of focus masonry as a foreground and a natural leading element to put emphasis on our little son and two of his favorite cats. This photo was made using the 135mm DC Nikkor,which has a high degree of bokeh "impression" in photos made at shortish ranges like this one. The 135 DC lens from Nikon imparts a very strong bokeh impression under most circumstances. Sometimes it's too much.
I went back and found a couple other shots from one gallery,Looking Out My Back Door, which use foreground bokeh as compositional building blocks.
This shot of chives in bloom uses foreground bokeh elements,and was made in May of 2003 using the 80-400 VR lens.
This one is a favorite of mine for its subtle use of out of focus foreground elements which I think, truly ADD depth clues,much more so than the normal use of OOF foreground elements.

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