Pixlromatic's Bokeh overlay on a Freesia flower using 'Lighter Color' Blend mode in Photoshop'

Bokeh, Dancing Circles of Light

This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Bokeh, is run by Sofia Alves of PHOTOGRAPHIAS.

To quote Sofia:

The term Bokeh was first used to distinguish normal motion blur from the blur obtained when things are out of focus. It literally means blur in Japanese. The Nikon website, after a more complex and technical explanation, reduces it to simply this: “bokeh is the pleasing or aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph”.

In many cases this Bokeh blur is achieved with a camera that has aperture priority.

  • The camera aperture is set to a low number for a shallow depth of field
  • The camera is focussed on the object in the foreground
  • The background is out-of-focus and often dissolves into circles of lighter and darker areas. The ‘circles’ are a classic ‘Bokeh’ but you need areas of light in the background to achieve this. As Nikon says, any ‘aesthetic blur’ counts as Bokeh.

This Forsythia blooming in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden in downtown Vancouver shows a classic Bokeh blur in the background. But I had to borrow a decent camera to get this effect, and even then it was somewhat elusive. Forsythia Blooming in Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden, Vancouver

Since I mostly use a little point and shoot without any aperture control, I can’t blur the background this way. Once in awhile I get the Bokeh circles by accident, maybe… This orange reflection in a parking garage could be a Bokeh abstract but I suspect it’s actually dappled light coming through some nearby trees. An orange reflection with bokeh abstract in a Granville Island parking garage, Vancouver, Canada

Something I discovered awhile ago is that I could create Bokeh overlays by deliberately tricking my little camera into shooting out-of-focus images such as these lights at a music festival. Note that the entire image is out-of-focus; I had no way of focussing on an object in the foreground.
Bokeh blur of the lights at a music festival

Later I overlaid the music festival lights over an image of a Dogwood flower, which gives a different feel to the Bokeh, with the circles of dancing light in the foreground.Dogwood flower using one of my own overlays

Riding the chairlift up at Blackcomb one day the air was full of sparkles, making me feel like I was gliding through a glittered-covered Christmas card. My camera captured the scene differently, showing brilliant rainbow Bokeh bouncing off the falling snow. Using Bokeh in the foreground this way is even more elusive and unpredictable.skiing up at Blackcomb

The other night we got caught in a sudden hailstorm. Later I showed the image to my friend. She saw the large Bokeh circle near the middle and commented, “Too bad there’s that circle on it…” I thought I would put it into the photo app Pixlromatic and add one of its bokeh overlays, basically adding a pile more circles of light. I think it did a good job of capturing that strange lighting that evening. Now if only I could find a way to capture the thunder that was rolling through the storm, hmmm, can you get Bokeh in videos, and do they dance around???hailstorm on Granville Island using one of Pixlromatic's bokeh overlays

I tried a different Pixlromatic bokeh filter on another sudden storm a month earlier where the rain was coming down in sheets. This is the view of that rainstorm outside my studio window on Parker St., and only the largest circle in the top left is original.
Rainstorm outside my studio window on Parker St. using one of Pixlromatic's bokeh overlays

Another way to create a Bokeh overlay is by running Pixlromatic over a coloured background. Here is a Pixlromatic rose-coloured bokeh made by laying the one of its Bokeh overlays onto a black background. dark rose coloured Bokeh

Here the Pixlromatic Bokeh above has been overlaid onto Freesia flowers using the ‘Lighter Color’ Blend mode from Photoshop.

Here’s one with the ‘Darker Color’ Blend mode; kind of weird but I like it.

And here’s another way to play with Bokeh. I made two shots of the same Echinacea flower, one of them blurred with Bokeh at the edges.

Here’s how the two look overlaid.
pink Echinacea flower with blurred overlay
I took this other Echinacea shot (vertical) and overlaid it with the same horizontal blurred image as above. pink Echinacea flower (Coneflower) catching a few rays

I had to crop the shot to compensate for the horizontal/vertical difference, but the Bokeh certainly adds a strong feeling of sunlight streaming into the picture.
More of Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Bokeh.

A late addition, some special bokeh (courtesy of Pixlromatic) for Easter… Sunny daffodils with faux bokeh courtesy of the photo app PixlromaticSunny daffodils with faux bokeh in the background courtesy of the photo app Pixlromatic


9 thoughts on “Bokeh, Dancing Circles of Light

    1. Exploring the Bokeh was fun. But as soon as I published the post, Al saw it and asked what the hell I was talking about, “Bokeh? What’s that?” So I had to go back and explain what it was and how to achieve it. The second version of the post was twice as long but Al tells me he now knows what I was talking about.

  1. Remarkable post. A point and shoot didn’t stop you from achieving some great photos with an effect that depends lens quality. The rain shot is wonderful.

    1. That storm was crazy – one minute it was sunny and then suddenly half the sky had turned black. Al commented, “it’s going to let loose any second now” but we only got about half a block before it started coming down heavy. We arrived home very wet and giggling…

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