I took this photograph on 37th street near the University of Texas campus. It was during the Drink and Click photowalk that I talked about last week. The theme and contest challenge during the photowalk was “Bokeh”. This photo was going to be my entry — except I got a bit lazy and ran out of time so I’m posting it here.
Bokeh is a word frequently used by photographers, usually mispronounced and the meaning if often misunderstood. First of all, it is pronounced like Bo, sorta like Bo Jackson or Bo Derek, if you prefer. The second part is pronounced like Ke in the name Ken. It’s not Boka or Bokee. This Japanese world, in the context of photography means, the quality of the out of focus area. How good do the circle of lights look? Is the background harsh or smooth? It has nothing to do with depth of field (DOF) where some people call a photograph with a shallow DOF as having good bokeh.
I’m not a bokeh expert per say but from what I know this lens have very nice bokeh. I used the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 (which is a 50mm equivalent) on my Olympus E-PM2. Notice that the out of focus lights are nearly, perfectly circular with a consistent fill. You don’t see a doughnut effect. There is also a smoothness to the light.
You may be interested to know that the worked bokeh, which should be properly spelled boke, is used frequently in Japan but not necessarily in the photographic context. It is used to mean fuzziness or forgetfulness. If one forgets something, they may say they are starting to Boke. Also if you say Boke Boke, that is a code word for senility or Alzheimer’s.
On that note, I like to wish my readers a very Happy Holiday. Thank you for coming back time and time again to read my blog — it means a lot. I have some ideas of where I’m taking this thing next year — some of which you are starting to see. I’m going on a family vacation to the East Coast so I probably won’t be posting here until next year. I will be posting photographs to mostlyfotos, my one photo per day site. Perhaps I may even post some photos from the road so that you can see where I’m visiting.
Have a Happy New Year!
I think a photographic journey to Disneyland will not be complete without a great shot of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. Though much smaller than the Disney World’s Cinderella Castle, this is the original and it’s still an icon. I took these images on the same night as the photographs of the Abstract Astro Orbitor and my previous post of New Orleans Square. Since my kids were tucked safely in bed, I had freedom to go around the park at night by myself. I started around 10pm, but was busy taking photographs of other attractions (such as the Astro Orbitor) and killing time until the park had fewer people — I wanted to get a clear photograph of the castle without a lot of people standing around. I did find out that late at night, the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion have basically no wait, though the ever popular Space Mountain and Indiana Jones still had considerable lines.
At around 11:30 I headed over to Sleeping Beauty Castle to attempt my long exposure, HDR photographs. Even at this time, there was a steady trickle of people, but it was manageable. Since I was setting up a tripod in the middle of a walkway, I was also conscious of not creating a traffic jam. I ended up taking about 5 sets (3 photographs per set) of photographs of the castle at various distances. Since these were long exposures that lasted anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds each, just taking these 5 sets of photographs took about 10 – 15 minutes. The two images of the castle were the best out of the sets. As I stood further back from the castle, it was harder to take a clean shot without people since many visitors were congregating and taking their own photographs of the Disneyland landmark. Of course the other people had the same privilege as me to take photographs so I feel really lucky that I manage to get the two clean images. I also did end up taking several snapshots of families in front of the castle since a guy with a big camera and tripod is automatically the “expert” photographer. I was happy to oblige, though keeping those point and shoots steady without a tripod is always a challenge, at least for me.
I hauled my big Canon 7D and tripod all the way to California to get several photographs that I imagined in my head — a nice HDR of the castle was one of them. The HDRs were created in the same way as described in my pervious blog post called, The Rich Details of New Orleans Square in HDR. In that post, I explained how and why I take HDR photographs. It’s not possible to capture the level of detail and color in the Holiday lights and get the overall light level of the surrounding walkway with a single photograph. The HDR technique balances the light levels and details more effectively. The 3rd image with the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse with the castle in the background is a perfect example. A regular exposure will not record that rich golden glow of the foreground statue while capturing the colorful detail of the background castle. A nicely done HDR will seamlessly blend these elements. To keep these images looking natural, I use a “light-touch” in my HDR process. Make sure to click on the image to see a larger version. About the only images I wanted to get but could not because of time and scheduling constraints were the Disneyland fireworks. Capturing the castle in HDR with explosion of fireworks in the background would have been spectacular. Alas, even with time, I suspect the park was way too crowded for me to get a clean shot. Someday, I will return to Disneyland off-peak to photograph that scene.
My Thought Process
I wanted to capture the castle from a few different view points. My largest challenge was to get clean photographs without a lot of people in the frame. Luckily with long exposures, a person can walk though a frame and as long as they don’t stop, they tend to disappear from the final image. The HDRs effectively brought out the fine details of the holiday lights while still preserving the color. It also enabled me to nicely expose the walkways and the statue.
Image 1: This is one of the first photographs I took and luckily I didn’t get people in the frame. I wanted the walkway to act as leading lines to the castle. Even though this was taken with a super wide-angle, there is little wide-angle distortion in the castle since I’m relatively far away from the building.
Image 2: I used the same wide-angle setting, 10mm, as the previous photograph but this time, since I’m so close, the castle shows a lot of distortion. This distortion is magnified when the camera is not parallel with the ground. In this case, my camera and lens are tilted up to frame the castle which makes the castle look tilted back. If the lens was angled low, then the subject will appear to tilt forward.
Image 3: As I mentioned above, I had a hard time getting a wide shot of the castle since more people were getting in the photograph. I decided to go across the street and capture the statue while using the castle as a backdrop. The HDR processing has really brought out the glow of the statue. This is by design. The HDR process tends to make shiny things shinier and makes old things with texture look even older. In this case, I wanted to bring out the golden glow of the statue while still preserving the color and detail of the castle lights. The HDR worked great in this case.
[Note: Click on the images for a larger version]
The photographs were taken in RAW with the Canon 7D with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. The HDR was created using my standard processing using Photomatix, Pixelmator and Aperture 3.
Image 1: f13, 3 exposures, -2, 0, +2 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 10mm
Image 2: f10, 3 exposures, -2 2/3, -3/2, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 10mm
Image 3: f10, 3 exposures, -3, -1, +1 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 20mm