The ‘pedia says that bokeh “…is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.” I have a 50mm Canon 1:1.8 lens that gives okay bokeh, I guess. The background blur isn’t as important to me as the sharp focus I get on the subject in the very flat focal plane when the lens is opened wide. There are folks who will suggest that the points of light blurred in the background are five sided, not the smooth bubble effect you might get with a Leica 50mm f/0.95 lens. This is the kind of criticism that might make an artist weep. But a hobbyist like me will take comfort in the fact that the Leica lens costs about $11,000, at least a couple of orders of magnitude more than my Canon.
When I bought that lens I went to the kitchen and arranged a bowl of fruit and snapped lots of pictures with the fruit in focus and the background nicely blurred. Voila! Bokeh! Those five sided blurs around background highlights reflect the inexpensive nature of the lens design. The Canon lens has five blades that form the aperture. The Leica has perhaps a zillion, or at least 10 or 12. This is too technical for me. I’ll settle for a sharp image in a shallow depth of field with a blurry background, and I won’t complain too much about the cheap qualities of the blurriness. Hang onto this explanation of bokeh. Not everybody knows what it is, but it makes a dandy metaphor when one is trying to focus attention on something important and control the background noise. Think, for example, of a portrait of your favorite politician with something symbolic burning in the background.
The above picture of Skippy exploring my Eb tuba was taken with an Android smart phone in available light on a nice day when he should have been in the yard playing. No bokehs were harmed in the making of that picture.
I’m looking forward to writing a post in the near future that will comprise more than a banana, some grapes, and a couple of peaches in a bowl with a blurry background. Meanwhile, wasn’t this better than “Testing, testing, can you hear me in the back of the room?”