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Photo a la {M}ode {17} :: Bokeh

First, my deepest apologies for not being consistent last week… We’ve had some serious weather moving through these parts and my internet connection was sketchy at best, and was out for over 30 hours last Tuesday through Wednesday. Please, link last weeks’ post below, if you were ready and want to… Or link both last week’s and this week’s!


picked off at first base+ ISO 640, f/5.0, 1/1000, 200mm, Aperture priority

So, this is the perfect time to NOT use manual mode… fast action, unpredictable movement. {Wish I’d captured the next moment: my son with a big fat smile for picking off the runner at first-says the proud mama!} Some of the things I learned about shooting my kids in sports…

1. Use an ISO of 400 or higher to capture the action.

2. Set your program to Aperture priority, and use an aperture setting of around f/5.6. This is wide enough aperture to have a bit of blurry background, which will emphasize your subject, but also small/narrow? enough to ensure that your subject will be fully in focus. However, I will say that chances are that you will be far enough away from your subject during a sports event that you can capture your subject with good focus at an even smaller setting (larger aperture) with your lens fully zoomed. f/5.6 is safe, though.

3. I like my white balance* {we have yet to discuss this} set on “cloudy” or “auto”. We’ll discuss this more at a later date.

4. Try to have the sun behind you so that it will light up your subject.

5. Try to move around to eliminate distracting backgrounds.

6. Another sports’ photography tip that I did NOT use here is to get low. This makes your subject appear larger and in sports, we like big players!

Do you have any tips to add? If you do, please add them in the comments!


Now about BOKEH…

“BOKEH is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in the out of focus areas of an image, or “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.”” This is the definition of BOKEH as stated at, and pretty much all over the internet. I’m pretty comfortable with this definition, though I know that some people have other opinions about what bokeh is and is not. For the purposes of this post, this is what I mean when I refer to Bokeh:

dew drop and bokeh+ ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/3200, 80mm, Aperture priority

Those really pretty circles of light? That’s bokeh.

fireworks bokeh+ ISO 1000, f/4.0, 1/80, 45mm, Aperture priority

And this… the blurry spots of pink light. That’s fireworks bokeh. I manually forced this picture out of focus.

raindrops on japanese maple {2}+ ISO 125, f/2.2, 1/200, 60mm Manual Priority

Those beautiful little orbs of light? Raindrops outside of the field of focus, reflecting light. Bokeh love.

bokeh/wakeboard+ ISO 800, f/3.2, 1/8000, 120mm, Aperture priority

And here, water droplets reflecting sunlight outside the field of focus (real close to me on the boat, or behind him from spraying water with his wakeboard). I can get this bokeh in my images a lot when we are out on the boat in the evening. The sun is low enough, and kind-of behind HIM, so shining through those water droplets.

bokeh beads+ ISO 400, f/2.2, 1/320, 60mm, Aperture priority

One more time, this photo illustrates that the bokeh is the blurry part of the image outside the area of focus.

So how do you shoot bokeh?

1. Aperture priority with wide open aperture.

2. Shutter speed should set on it’s own in Aperture priority, but it needs to be faster than 1/50. If that leaves your image too dark, increase your ISO to allow more light. Slower shutter speeds tend to blur the background together, rather than forming those nice circles of bokeh.

3. The closer you are to your subject, and the farther from your background, the better.

4. Extend out your zoom.

5. Lights from businesses, cars, streetlights, and my favorite, water droplets (think dew, rain, splashes) provide beautiful bokeh. And we don’t need to talk about Christmas lights or fireworks, do we? 🙂

6. If you don’t have a subject in your frame besides the lights, switch to manual focus and manually blur your image with your lens.

{Tips taken from}

{Also, there are some good articles out there on shooting fireworks… If I had planned ahead better, I would have studied that this week. Google it, use a tripod and go for it!}

Now, show me your shots from last week (or the week before-or both!) and this week, practice capturing bokeh. That will be the theme for next week, but remember that the theme is never mandatory…. the only requirement for Photo a la {M}ode is that you include your settings and refer back to Finding Serendipity. Thanks for your patience last week and Happy 4th!

  • June 29, 2011 - 11:53 am

    Southern Gal - Looks sort of like a Carolina/Clemson match up. I will say your son is wearing the right color. 😉
    Aperture is the only thing I fully understand on my camera right now. The other stuff is coming into focus slowly, but surely. My main problem right now is getting the time to go shoot photos!
    Thanks for continuing this series.

  • June 29, 2011 - 12:59 pm

    Cathy - Patty, that first photo is incredible. Look at the dirt behind the runner’s shoe and under his elbow! You rock the camera, my dear.

  • June 29, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    Ruth - Patty, this was so incredibly helpful!! Thanks so much for the step-by-step. It was really a great explanation & I learned so much. Can’t wait to try it! xoxo

  • June 29, 2011 - 1:11 pm

    Becky @ Farmgirl Paints - i love that effect. so pretty. my favorite was the waterskiing shot.

  • June 29, 2011 - 8:22 pm

    lisa - Great post Patty, and some truly gorgeous examples of bokeh!!

  • June 29, 2011 - 10:09 pm

    Jessica Washburn - Love all your pics especially the baseball and waterskiing one…however, I’m a girly girl and love sparkles so love the bokeh too. xoxo, Jess

  • June 30, 2011 - 3:25 am

    Suzanne - I’ve mainly had
    this happen by
    accident {bokeh},
    so it’s cool to
    read the how-tos.
    Loved the baseball
    shot. I’ve got a
    boy who I try to
    capture on the diamond,
    xx Suzanne

  • June 30, 2011 - 3:25 pm

    Susan - What a fun challenge! Count me in! (I found you through Cedar’s blog.) How do I find out what next week’s assignment will be?

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