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In Bokeh We Trust

The blurry background. These days we can get it in post production, but to me, and to any true photographer (you know who you are... kind of grumpy.. not a huge fan of photoshop... pissed that 'guys with cameras' have jaded otherwise fun models.. prone to get hard when we see great glass .. I'm one of you, we're us. I know us.).. Anyway, to me and to any true photographer, there is nothing like capturing perfect bokeh encamera.

Britta. Canon 5DIII, Canon 200 F1.8L ISO 640, 200mm, F2.2

The image above has the kind of bokeh that makes my knees go all weak and silly. It was shot with a lens I dream of, and I'm not a hardware geek... A friend owns an older Canon 200 F1.8. You read that right, 200, 1.8. One of those old white lenses with BIG face glass. It weighs about ten pounds, comes in a metal case and when he bought it new cost over five grand.

Britta, Canon 5DIII, Canon 200m, 1.8L At ISO 640, 1/500, F2.0

Britta is gorgeous and fun. Given a choice, I'd make love to the lens.. (Thought I'd hate to have to choose).

In this shoot it was fun to shoot outside in the sunlight. The lens and space and Britta were all the inspiration I needed. Note that while I could shoot at 1.8 (and that's what makes this lens so rare) I shot at 2.2. The reason is because I wanted all of Britta to be in focus and I knew that all of the background would be out, given the relative distance from me to Britta (about 10 feet) and the relative distance to the background, between 15 and 50 feet. The farther from me, the bigger the bokeh in the unfocused, or blurry background.

You don't need a $10,000 lens (about the approximate value of the current version of this lens) to get great bokeh. You also don't need photoshop. The image below, of Seline, in Phoenix, is a great example. Shot with a $600 Canon 85 1.8 at 3.5, the image does everything we really want a telephoto to do. It blurs and pulls the background toward the subject, creating story, and it clearly defines the outline of the subject in the image.

Sharlit, Canon 5DIII, Canon 85mm 1.8, ISO 3200, 1/250, F2.5

The key is to know your ratios. How far are you to the subject and how far is the subject from the background you want to blur. In the case above I wanted to preserve some detail in the building to preserve the voyeur story and I wanted to create the appearance that the building is actually closer than it is. Moving away from the model (I'm about 20ft from Seline) and shooting with the lens stopped down just a bit accomplished exactly what I was looking for.

Post production in the images above is merely crop, noise removal, and in the case of the black and white of Britta flipping the image to B&W and applying an infrared overlay.

Fun stuff. Happy Shooting.

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