Bowing to the Bokeh gods

When you shoot location in daylight, like I do, one of the consequences is f/16. The “sunny 16” rule states that on a bright clear day, your aperture is f/16, and your shutter speed the reciprocal of the medium’s light sensitivity (ISO). My camera’s “native” ISO is 200, so on a bright sunny day my exposure is 1/200 @ f/16, ISO 200. If I drop the ISO to 100, I can shoot f/11.

So what’s the problem?

Europe is in focus at f/16.

f/11 fares slightly better.

Up your shutter speed? Yup. Except I shoot people with flash. I like to key shift. I like to bring my own light. And with a focal plance shutter that means sync at 1/250 max. Oh, and I add at least a stop of light cause, you know, that sky has to be blue. f/22 anyone?

I could shoot with speedlights and use high speed sync, but I generally don’t use speedlights except as accent lights. There are a variety of reasons for this, the principle ones being HSS robs the flash of power, so to get anywhere near correct exposure the flash has to be close and unmodified or multiple ones have to be used, and I can’t see the LCD panel with my deteriorating eyes and start to get ugly with my speech. I am much more comfortable working with studio strobes and their modifiers.

I have gorgeous lenses. Lenses I paid a lot of money and sacrificed much for. Zoom lenses that are fast. f/2.8 fast. I have the legendary Sony 70-200 SSM G with bokeh that will make you weep. At f/2.8.

At f/16 it looks like any other lens.

And if I want the ultimate in bokeh – the Zeiss 135 f/1.8 or the 135 STF, what would I gain in broad daylight? After all, I would have to shoot f/16.

Except, that is, if I had a ND filter that would go at least 4 stops. 5 and I can key shift by 1 stop. 8 and I can go midnight at noon. And have bokeh.

I could shoot f/4 @ 1/200. f/2.8. Heck, I could shoot f/2!

That, I feel, is what I have been missing in my pictures. I have always used light to center attention in my location images, but unless it is dusk more is often needed. Bokeh is needed.

I have always considered myself a small aperture shooter. I was concerned with front-to-back sharpness. But I feel I’m moving past that now. I want selective focus. I want bokeh. I need bokeh. Come on brother, just this once, I swear.

Hello Singh-ray Vari-ND.

Yes, grasshopper, you will choke at the price. But I have done much research. And do not want to pay the porr man’s tax. What is the point in using lustful glass if you make your images look like crap because you cheaped out? And it’s only 40 peanut-butter-and-jelly lunches. A small price to pay for the next frontier.

May the force be with me.

Have I mixed enough movie metaphors?

This entry was posted in Technique.