I’ve just got to get out and try this bokehrama thing (see my first post on it here if you have no idea what I’m talking about) in a better setting but I’m posting this quick experiment for my friend Pete Talke (check him out here, here, and here). At lunch today Pete was asking how this compared to just a straight shot with f/1.4 for example so I grabbed a couple of shots out in the yard to experiment. For starters, you’ll just have to trust that my subjects were standing in the same place for each photo. That’s not obvious given my differing position in the shots. The top image is a bokehrama created from a stitch of almost 20 frames. The second image is from a single frame. Both were shot in manual mode with the same exposure @ f/1.4. I bumped the exposure of all frames up equally but they are otherwise straight out of the camera. I’ve made them a bit smaller in this post in hopes of allowing them to be viewed together on most screens.
I really don’t intend to scientifically analyze the shots. I design microprocessors for a living and I get enough technical stuff at work and am not interested getting too deep into the techie stuff with photography. Some random qualitative observations: You’ll notice that the bokehrama (top) has a wide-angle look and that’s simply because my panning around from a position close to the subject mimics what a wide-angle lens would do. I cropped both shots to get make the subjects roughly the same size and you’ll note that the subjects in the single frame are super soft — the 50mm isn’t known for being all that sharp at f/1.4 and being cropped from a single frame it’s not a big surprise to see this. The subject in the top image is very sharp (at least when viewed outside this post — hopefully you can see that on WordPress too). Even if I zoom in quite a bit he’s still sharp because his image comes from a single frame where he filled much of the sensor. Finally, with respect to the depth of field you’d be hard-pressed to get this bokeh out of many wide-angle lenses. Note how the tree trunks have completely lost their detail in the bokehrama at the top image compared to the bottom one (which was also shot at f/1.4).
As I said, I want to try this in a different setting. I also want to experiment with longer lenses (toward the longer end of my 70-200 f/2.8) to see what this does to the perspective and DOF. There are probably different looks that can be achieved and your mileage may vary on how much you like it (both the bokeh effect and the wider perspective), which is of course one of the cool things about any art — it’s all subjective and personal.
This evening I photographed my youngest boys in the backyard with the goal of trying out something called the Brenizer Method, or bokeh panorama. I first heard of it in a post by Brandon Brasseaux. The goal of the Brenizer Method is to create an image with extremely shallow depth of field. If I were to take the shot above using a single frame I would either (1) use a very wide-angle lens or (2) use a “normal” lens and stand far back from the scene. In either case it would be difficult to get much bokeh in the image. I’ll let you consult a depth-of-field calculator for the exact details but suffice it to say that the wide-angle lens — even at an aperture of f/1.8 — doesn’t result in much bokeh when focused at any reasonable distance. A lens like I was using in this shot — a 50mm f/1.4 — would require such a long focus distance (i.e. I’d have to stand so far back) that the depth of field would large enough to eliminate a lot of bokeh. The Brenizer Method uses multiple frames to form the image — using a much shorter focus distance resulting in much shallower depth of field than if you shot one frame standing further from the subject.
The process goes as follows: Instead of standing far away, stand close (I roughly filled the frame with the two boys). I used an aperture of f/1.4 to get the shallowest depth of field and set a shutter speed in manual mode to keep the exposure consistent in all the frames (I also set the camera to daylight white balance). I prefocused on the boys and switched the lens to manual focus. The first frame I took was the one with the boys in it (took many tries to get something decent). I then let them run off and proceeded to shoot overlapping frames (with the camera in the same location) of the rest of the scene you see above. I used 14 straight-out-of-the-camera frames to stitch the panorama in Photoshop but in the end I cropped the image quite a bit. It took all of two minutes to shoot the frames, even with the boys’ goofing off. Since my goal was to try out the method itself, I didn’t stress about background, lens flare, etc.
After stitching I warmed the image a bit, added vignette, tweaked the exposure/clarity on the boys, and removed some of the color fringing on the branches so it wasn’t *so* prominent. Pretty simple stuff. I want to try more of these but next time I’ll find a prettier background. I believe I’ve given enough info for one to start playing with it but if not, an internet search will turn up a lot more information in a hurry.
Here’s a link to posts by the man behind it all: http://www.ryanbrenizer.com/category/brenizer-method/