CLASSICAL PHOTOGRAPHY by Jess Isaiah Levin, Raleigh, NC


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September 15 , 2009

Isolating a flower among many

One of the buzzwords in photography (probably overused) for quite a few years now is "bokeh", a Japanese term that refers to the quality of out of focus areas of an image. To me, one of the attractive characteristics of optical blur is the gradual transition from sharp to soft as we move away from the plane of perfect focus. This is an effect that is difficult to duplicate through computer manipulation of an all-over-sharp photo, and satisfying to see in the viewfinder as one composes or designs an image. In some cases I try to get as completely smeared a background as I can, when that is the best way to complement the foreground. Other times I want to have a certain amount of clarity of shape, so that we can guess what is in the area without being distracted by it.

In this image, which I've named "Seeking the Limelight", it looks to me as if one flower blossom wants to grab the spotlight and outshine her neighbors. To emphasize the light falling on that region and striking the flower at a nice angle, I opened a 50 mm lens to an aperture of f/2, wide enough to blur the background blooms to softness, but not wide open because I wanted a region of clarity sufficient to include the whole central ball of my star subject. It also kept some petal shapes in the distance, where f/1.2 would not.

wild daisies

It's hard to show in a web image, but in a fair sized print (which won 2nd place in this year's PST competition), the bokeh is "right", in my opinion. That is, everything surrounding the one sharp, clear flower is delicately softened, without harshness, but there is a sense of three dimensions rather than a flat blur.

next: Bee on a Carnival Ride




All images on this site © Jess Isaiah Levin