As much as we have enjoyed sharing photos of the great outdoors, we thought you might all be looking for a pull back to a more urban style of photography. On a recent trip to visit the Leica team in London, Elle was stunned at some beautiful photos of the Gearing tripod that were captured with bokeh balls in the background. This technique, named after the Japanese word meaning blur or haze, refers to the effect of a soft and out of focus background that you are delivered when shooting a subject using a wide aperture and a narrow depth of field. It is also defined as the way in which out of focus light is rendered. Bokeh balls are a specific phenomenon of bokeh - bokeh itself is an aesthetically pleasing blurred background. Bokeh balls come from light being blurred, which create a beautiful ethereal effect.
Bokeh can be achieved naturally, with the camera's settings and your chosen set up for your photography, or it can be added in editing after shooting. For the natural route, a few things need to align and you need to have certain things in place. First and foremost, a fast lens is key. Most lenses that come with cameras won’t have a long enough focal length, so it is a good idea to invest in one. You need a lens of f/1.4 or f1.8 to achieve bokeh, and these are excellent lenses for beginners. As the focal length gets bigger, the angle of view reduces and less of the area is in focus. A 50mm lens works well for this. You also want to ensure that your subject is close to the camera, with a large distance from the lights that will create the bokeh balls. There are different shapes of lens blades, and it is preferential to have a circular lens to a hexagonal lens. This will produce a hexagonal shaped ball, which in my opinion detracts from the celestial effect of a circular ball, though many still enjoy this effect. For your camera settings, you will want to be shooting on Aperture Priority, with the widest aperture you can set. You will also want to have your ISO (camera’s sensitivity to light) on auto. Finally, you need to zoom in as much as you can on your chosen foreground to increase the blur on the background.
Bokeh can also be achieved artificially, by adding the light effects in editing afterwards, or by using a bokeh lens modifier. You can purchase these, or make your own at home. This will give you flexibility in the shape you go for - you could add a star or a heart pattern to your images instead of the classic bokeh ball shape. It can also be a fun way to add a different vibe to your photos. They are really simple to make - all you need along with your 50mm lens is a step up ring (used to fit oversized filters), some black craft foam, a craft knife, some scissors and a pen. Cut a circle of black foam to fit inside the step up ring. Draw the shape of your bokeh in the centre, it should be about 1cm in diameter, and cut it out. Put the foam circle onto the step up ring, and screw this onto the lens. After this, you are good to go! This looks especially great with multicoloured lights as it adds a great playful dimension to your photos.
Though we are heading for a more urban style of photography this week, natural light works really well with bokeh - you can go for this look in nature by using the sun behind trees, flowers, plants or anything else you can think of. It is best to not shoot directly into the sun, you want it to be peeking through whatever you are shooting. With artificial lights, bokeh looks amazing with urban photography. You can get the light orbs from passing transport, fairy lights, or lights on in buildings in the distance. I would give both styles a go, you might prefer one to the other and you’ll be learning something new!
As with most styles of photography, a stable platform will provide you with the best images, and you'll be hard pressed to find a tripod system as stable as the Gearing tripod. With a payload of 20kg, its natural stability will increase even further by adding weights to its centre column. Happy shooting, and as always, please send us your bokeh images! We love seeing what our Gearing customers are up to.