Monday, January 17, 2011

Earrings and bokeh

click photo to enlarge
My first SLR, bought around 1972 was a 35mm Zenith E with a 58mm f2 lens, a Russian-made camera, all an impecunious student could afford. But, compared with the pocket camera that I had been using up to that point, it offered me so much more. The low-light abilities were streets ahead of cheaper cameras, and the shallow depth of field that the lens allowed opened up greater creative possibilities.When I bought a 135mm lens I felt that most of the subjects I wanted to photograph were within my grasp.

In those days I favoured black and white, and in time did quite a bit of my own printing. When it came to portraits I really made use to the out-of-focus capabilities of the camera and its lenses. At that time the word "bokeh" to describe this blur wasn't used in English-speaking photographic circles. In fact, I didn't hear it until about ten years ago, though I read that it was first used outside Japan several years earlier. This ability to blur the background is one of the things that anyone transferring from a digital compact camera with a small sensor to a DSLR with a larger sensor notices and appreciates. Some people make the transition simply to achieve this quality that they have seen and want to emulate. But the fact is many small sensor cameras are capable of producing out-of-focus blur (or bokeh). Models with wide or normal focal length lenses can often do it when set to macro, and so-called "bridge" cameras with their very long telephotos can do it at longer focal lengths  as well as in macro mode.

Today's photograph is a case in point. It was taken using my LX3 in macro mode with the lens at its widest (24mm/35mm equiv.) very close to the subject. The f2 lens and the 43 sensor produce an extremely shallow depth of field in these circumstances, which for some subjects produces interesting and pleasing effects. My image shows a pair of my wife's earrings. They are made from the "eyes" of a couple of moulted peacock tail  feathers with beads fixed to the barbs. I placed them on a sheet of black vinyl for the photograph, and was pleased by the detail the lens revealed and the pleasant bokeh, particularly in the curves of beads of the more distant of the two earrings.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On