I just returned from 10 days in South Texas photographing birds. We ran two bird blind workshops, and we had participants who have been traveling with me for decades. What really caught my attention was a comment coming from almost everyone….”I learned more on this workshop than almost any other trip”. Photographing birds requires a lot of technical skills, and specific editing techniques as well. I was blown away at the quality of images from participants, really impressive. We just posted two new trips in 2022, the first is already sold out and the second is filling quickly. Please join us if you have interest, you might be surprised how much fun it is and what new photo skills you will learn.
One of the many topics that participants really focused on was background bokeh. Bokeh refers to the quality of the background elements. Background distance, aperture setting and perspective all affect bokeh quality. Why do we pay so much for those super prime F4 lenses…fast focusing and creamy bokeh. I shot exclusively for 10 days using a D5 with the Nikon 500mm F5.6 PF. Since the backgrounds at most of the blinds were way in the distance, 5.6 rendered beautiful bokeh (see the image above). And I continue to be amazed at how light and sharp the 500mm 5.6 is…one of my favorite lenses.
One aspect of bokeh that isn’t talked about as much is how your perspective affects bokeh. By definition bokeh refers to the background elements. But I like to also include the foreground elements in this discussion. Look at this image above. I am shooting at ground level (the blinds are dug down so you are actually sitting in a comfortable chair at ground level), and this quail just pops of the frame. Why? Because by shooting across the ground as well as having the background far away, I get this incredible plane of focus…very different from photographing higher off the ground and having only smooth background bokeh. The lesson learned here is try photographing at ground level for wildlife and experiment with this amazing selective focus and bokeh. If you photograph portraits, try leaning your camera against a brick wall or similar and shoot wide open at your subject. The effects will be striking.