Hermanus Photographic Society
Club News

Set subject for October is Bokeh

5 Minute Photo Scope

Bokeh (pronounced boh-kay or incorrectly bok-uh) comes from the Japanese word boke (暈けor ボケ), which means blur or haze, or blur quality.

The English spelling bokeh was popularised in 1997 in Photo Techniques magazine, when Mike Johnston, the editor at the time, commissioned three papers on the topic for the May/June 1997 issue; he altered the spelling to suggest the correct pronunciation to English speakers, saying “it is properly pronounced with bo as in bone and ke as in Kenneth, with equal stress on either syllable”. But the spellings bokeh and boke have both been in use since at least 1996.

Essentially Bokeh is created by using a wide aperture to render a busy background into a soft expanse of colour, turning small points of light into soft circles, this establishes a shallow depth of field which causes the background to blur.

But not all Bokeh is pleasing: Good Bokeh means a background without any hard edges or sharpness. Nothing in the background should distract the audience or viewer. The blurry area should have circles of light that are round and smooth as circles with harder edges tend to be less visually appealing, since they distract more from the subject.

Bokeh can even be awkwardly shaped — the number of aperture blades the lens has determines the shape of the bokeh, if there’s only a few, that circle will actually look more like a hexagon.

Most newer lenses create a circular bokeh with a higher number of aperture blades — but even with new lenses, all bokeh is not created equal. Prime lenses tend to have better bokeh than zoom lenses because they typically have wider apertures. Even within prime lenses though, some options are better than others.

Capturing bokeh is simple — and fun, but first, pay attention to your background as you shoot. Look for small light sources. Shooting directly into an unobstructed sun will not create bokeh, but the sun filtering through or even reflecting off the leaves of trees will create bokeh. Water droplets also tend to grab some of that light to create bokeh when out of focus.

Man-made light sources can also be perfect bokeh material. A city skyline in the distance, traffic and street lights will all work as well. Bokeh can even be added to studio set ups using string lights or even by lighting up a crumpled piece of tinfoil. Anything that makes a small pin point of light, with the right lens, will work to make bokeh.

Once you’ve found your small light sources for bokeh, turn your camera to aperture priority mode (or full manual mode if you prefer). To get the most bokeh from the shot, use the widest aperture you have available. Then, just put your focal point on your subject, focus, and shoot.

If you take a look and the background bokeh just isn’t there, what then? First, if you’re not already on the widest aperture setting, go as wide as you can (or use a different lens with a wider aperture). In bright sunshine, you may need a neutral density filter in order to shoot that wide and still get a proper exposure. Neutral density filters will block out some of that bright light so you can use a wide aperture and still get a proper exposure. Or, if you don’t have a filter, you could try waiting until towards the end of the day, when the light isn’t so bright.

If aperture isn’t the issue, you can also move closer to the subject or move the subject farther from the background. Sometimes, finding brighter pinpoints of light helps too. For example, it’s easier to get bokeh with Christmas lights than it is to get it from light reflecting off tree leaves.


Club outing to Vermont Salt Pan

Location: Vermont Salt Pan, Rockhopper Street, Vermont

Date and Time: 5.30 pm Wednesday 15 September 2021

Meet at Parking Lot at end of Rockhopper

Guides: Daniel Reddie and David Wilson

The Vermont Salt Pan offers some great sunset opportunities (weather permitting of course) but the birdlife is truly awesome with at times hundreds of flamingos but also a multitude of other birds including three species of herons, waders, cormorants, ducks and geese. And even oneBlue Crane earlier this year!


Rejuvenating our Rules and Regulations

The club has revised its Rules and Regulations. They are now more succinct and address concerns that members share regarding the slow rate of advancement progress. The system is now easier to understand and implement on the Photo Vault Online portal. It is also better aligned with the guidelines provided by the Photographic Society of South Africa.

Some of the key changes are:

  • From October the deadline for submitting images to Photo Vault will be the Wednesday prior to the club meeting and no longer the Saturday.
  • The threshold for 4-Star workers is lowered by one point. This change will be retroactive from January 2020 and advancement will be recomputed from this date.
  • It is now possible to advance to higher levels without achieving salon acceptances, albeit at a slower pace.
  • ‘Magister’ is renamed ‘Master’ and there are multiple levels ranging from Master Bronze to Master Diamond.

“It will unfortunately take some weeks to fully implement the changes which seem to be a truly massive undertaking but the result will be a system that is up to date, transparent and eventually allow all members to get a real-time summary of their own progress through the advancement system,” says Club President David Wilson.


Going for your honours

Western Cape honours group starts in September

The Western Cape Photographic Forum will resume its honours group discussions in September 2021. The group is aimed to assist photographers who are planning to enter honours panels in the PSSA’s February 2022 judging session.

Kim Stevens has agreed to lead such a group for us. We are planning to start on Monday 20 September with further meetings planned for Thursdays 20 October and 18 November. Arrangements will only be finalised at our first meeting. Meetings will take place via Zoom in the evenings.

Members who are interested to take part should contact Nicol du Toit at nicol@sportstrader.co.za before 1 September 2021.